I love books. No, seriously, you don’t understand. I. Love. Books.
Sometimes I think the only reason I became an English teacher was so that I would have an excuse to further my book hoarding habit There are stacks of books stashed all over my old room (or more accurately, every room I ever inhabited in Mom & Dad’s house) as well as the boxes in the garage. I know I will go back for them one day. I miss them almost as much as my family (good books are like family).
My book hoarding got so bad, that about 4 years ago I banned myself from buying books unless they fell into one of the following categories:
1. teaching books that could live in my classroom
2. books for my classroom library, also to live in my classroom
(both of these categories are now in boxes not in a classroom)
3. books that were a gift for someone, therefore I wouldn’t keep it
4. books I wanted so badly I would give away two books to make room on my self for the new book…this never actually happened
Sometimes I have to avoid bookstores because I fear it would be akin to falling off the wagon. But one day, I will have all my books that I currently own in one place and I will have space for more books. (Yes this flies in the face of my desire to have less stuff.)
In the mean time I try to pick the books I “need” with me the most and leave the rest in storage.
I doubt I could ever really pick ONE favorite book. I can pick favorite people, movies, places, and colors (purple, olive green, brown, orange, in that order). But never a book.
If I was forced to though…like I could save humanity by picking one book…maybe, just maybe I could.
Wouldn’t it be nice if I picked some great, life enhancing, deep, intellectual book? Some book that crosses age, gender, and cultural lines? Wouldn’t that make me seem impressive? Wouldn’t it make family proud? I would like to think that I would do that. But that is way too much pressure, and just not realistic. I wouldn’t even pick based on the idea that it would be the only book I could read for the rest of my life. If I did that I would try to pick something I could re-read and gain new meaning from (like the Bible or an anthology or something). No, I am not that noble nor evolved.
I would have to pick a book based on my favorite character. Eloise.
You know, Eloise, of Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups by Kay Thompson.
If you don’t know Eloise, let me introduce you. She is six. She lives in the Plaza Hotel. She lives with Nanny her nanny, Skipperdee her turtle, and Weenie her dog. The original Eloise books were published in the 50s. I once read that it made both the children and adult best seller lists.
I remember Grandma reading me Eloise, I always think of her when I see anything Eloise. Mom read it me doing voices, she does a pretty convincing British accent for Nanny. I remember laying on my floor in the warm afternoon sunlight reading it all by myself. I remember visiting Eloise when I was six (just like her) at the Plaza.
There are plenty of people out there who slam Eloise in reviews. They call her spoiled, appalling, sad, rich, bratty, over indulged, the pity her. I don’t pity Eloise. I don’t care that some people see her as an “abandoned orphan” or “an undisciplined child clearly suffering from ADHD and desperate for attention.” I love her for her innocence. She has no idea her world isn’t all that it could be. She makes the most of what it actually is. She is a great example of kids repeating the things they hear grown ups say and of finding magic and wonder in the world around her. I will admit it, I wouldn’t want my future children to have Eloise’s life. I wouldn’t want them to be raised by a nanny in a hotel, interacting almost exclusively with adults. I wouldn’t want them to run down the halls dragging a stick along the wall. But what I do want for them is exactly what made me fall in love with Eloise in the first place: precociousness, imagination, strength, creativity, and tenacity.
Anyone who knows that “Kleenex makes a very good hat” and that “toe shoes make very good ears” (they do, I tried it the day I got my first pair) is someone I want to hang out with. And after reading her declaration that “an egg cup makes a very good hat,” I wanted to own an egg cup. I still would like to own an egg cup (in case you ever need to get me something unique just because).
She is funny. Bratty at times, but don’t we all have our moments? She has a thirst for adventure I wish I was brave enough to posses. Her sense of self exceeds that of most adults I know. She is a strong female character (not without faults, but that makes her more likable), which only impresses me more considering she was first dreamed up in the late 40’s and then published in the mid 50’s AND she was loved the day she hit the shelves.
The copy I have is well loved now. The page with the elevator ride that I poured over tracing and retracing her route is nearly falling apart. There is water damage from some brief time it spent in storage. The dust jacket has tears. I have thought about replacing it. Well, just buying a new copy, I would struggle to get rid of my first one. But remember that book ban? I do allow myself to buy eBooks sometimes. An eBook just wouldn’t work though. You couldn’t unfold that elevator page…you can’t hug the book against you…it just wouldn’t be the same.
So even though it is a children’s book, arguably for adults, and even though it isn’t life changing, it is the book I am going to choose. If, in order to save humanity I was forced to choose one book, I think I would choose Eloise. I love it. You don’t have to, but I kinda hope you do.