Sunday, 6 February 2011


Isobel is at an exciting stage ~ learning the sounds of each letter and then having the ability to put it all together to sound out words!  I was very surprised she could do this, as she is only five and only halfway through her Kindergarten year.

One Thursday afternoon, on the way home from school, we stopped at the library so Isobel could pick out some books to read.  Usually I just order titles from the inter-library loan catalogue and we go into the local branch each Tuesday to pick up whatever has arrived that week.  That afternoon, Isobel gravitated to the "Easy to Read" books with the Level numbers in the corner.  We picked up a few and went home with them.  Later, when I was in North Battleford, I stopped by the larger library branch and grabbed about a dozen books of this nature from various publishers.

Little did I know, there were some gems in the stack.  I had never heard of "Eloise" - a 6-year old girl from New York City who lives in the Plaza Hotel.  But the books had cute illustrations on the covers and so I picked up about four.  Only later I would learn about the original author - Kay Thompson.

According to the Amazon website that sells her books, "Kay Thompson (1909-1998) was a singer, dancer, vocal arranger, and coach of many MGM musicals in the 1940s."  The article goes on to explain that "the Eloise character grew out of the voice of a precocious six-year-old that Miss Thompson put on to amuse her friends. Collaborating with Hilary Knight on what was an immediate bestseller, Kay Thompson became a literary sensation when Eloise was published in 1955. The book has sold more than two million copies to date. Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight created four more Eloise books, Eloise in Paris, Eloise at Christmas, Eloise in Moscow, and Eloise Takes a Bawth."  I plan to order these original books for Isobel and I to read together as she very much enjoys the "new" Eloise stories.

More interesting information about Thompson and the Plaza Hotel is available at this link.

"Eloise Has a Lesson" is one of the Ready-to-Read series and Isobel practically memorized it.  The Amazon description explains that "it's time for Eloise's lesson. Today her tutor, Philip, wants her to learn math, but Eloise has a better idea!"

The first page of every Eloise book begins "I am Eloise.  I am six.  I live in The Plaza hotel on the tippy-top floor."  As I was reading, one morning, Isobel pointed to the letters "S-I-X" and informed me that said, "Six!"  I was completely dumbfounded.

From theses introductory sentences, each individual story unfolds.  In "Eloise Has a Lesson," the mischievious girl has a tutor, named Philip, come to her penthouse to teach her math.  Eloise teases Philip unmercifully.  When Philip tells her that it is MATH time, Eloise parrots back that it is BATH time.  Only Nanny can make Eloise behave during her lesson.  When poor Philip asks Eloise, "What's five plus six?" she responds cheekily ~ "Don't YOU know?"  The second time her tutor asks, Eloise replies, "Five plus six is the same as six plus five."  Not to be distracted, Philip asks her a third time.  By now Eloise has frittered away most of the lesson and is staring at the clock on the mantelpiece.  The hands on the face of the clock are at exactly 11.  And when Eloise remarks, "It's eleven," Philip takes this as the correct response for his question about what five plus six makes!

And so, the other morning, after we'd already returned the book to the library, I was driving Isobel to school.  "What's five plus six," I queried (just to see what she would say!) ...  From the back seat chirped a little voice - "Don't YOU know?"

I asked again and got the response with the inverted numbers.  Then she told me, that 5 + 6 = 11.

High fives ensued, as I dropped Isobel off at the school. I had to smile as I drove away, wondering if maybe we'd made a mistake when we called our little girl Isobel.  Perhaps she should have been called Eloise!

It will be interesting to see what else else she'll learn from reading the stories in this Ready-to-Read series.

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