Right up there with Madeline and Ramona Quimby, children鈥檚 book star Eloise and her life at the Plaza Hotel is an adorable classic. But if you鈥檙e looking for a modern update to that classic (beyond New York Magazine鈥榮 2013 account of the midtown tot鈥檚 move to Brooklyn) then you have to meet Ella. She also lives in a hotel, but she鈥檚 hip to tech, fashion and even has a manny. No matter what age you are, she鈥檒l quickly become your new role model鈥 and she hasn鈥檛 even cleared elementary school.

Writer Mallory Kasdan and illustrator Marcos Chin made Ella鈥檚 life a sort of hipster tribute to Eloise鈥檚, but make no mistake: Ella is her own (young) woman. When she鈥檚 not performing in a drum circle, doing yoga or DIYing, she鈥檚 figuring out what鈥檚 up with the hotel WiFi and studying to get into an Ivy League school.


You can buy this gorgeous picture book for your kiddos or yourself tomorrow (we鈥檇 totally buy it as a coffee table book, no joke). But you don鈥檛 have to wait a single second to get acquainted with this modern classic. We interviewed Mallory and Marcos about the inspirations behind Ella.

The Author, Mallory Kasden

1. Where did the idea for Ella come from?

It was at my birthday a few summers ago. We were at this groovy hotel in Brooklyn, and I was picturing my daughter, who was six at the time, riding her scooter through the decidedly non-kid-friendly rooftop bar, where everything was just so perfectly Brooklyn-esque, and I realized that if six-year-old Eloise from the Plaza was to show up in 2015 that she would surely be living in this type of super hip spot, bossing people around and having appropriately modern adventures.


2. Other than the hotel setting, are there any other quirks from Eloise that inspired Ella?

Ella hangs out exclusively with adults, so like Eloise, her daily worldview has a sophisticated flavor to it. She repeats things the grownups around her say without knowing quite what they mean and her hobbies and habits reflect her rarified life.

Eloise lives among the hotel archetypes of the 1950s 鈥 the formality of ballroom weddings, afternoon tea, of elevator operators and a grand lobby culture. Instead of professional concierges or bellhops or career waiters, the adults in Ella tend more toward the kinds of young hipster writer, actress, bootlegger, entrepreneur types that Brooklyn has become famous for, which I think makes for a fun and contrasting update on the original.

Beyond that of course, Ella and Eloise share an inherent self-confidence, a taste for the finer things in life and that six-year-old enthusiasm that cannot be squashed.


3. Why do you think the world of children鈥檚 literature needed Ella?

I live in Brooklyn and love it dearly but at times it all becomes a little precious. We have to laugh at ourselves sometimes otherwise we will slowly go insane. For that reason, parody is a great tool to capture a moment in time. I also think Ella lives in this very visually diverse and culturally rich world, and that鈥檚 fun for all kids and adults to see who maybe don鈥檛 live in a place like The Local Hotel.

I love that Ella doesn鈥檛 know how unusual her life is. She doesn鈥檛 know that the wedding she attends between two men is something that wouldn鈥檛 have happened in the 鈥50s. She doesn鈥檛 realize that it鈥檚 not normal to be 鈥渉otel schooled.鈥 It鈥檚 just her daily life, and I think it鈥檚 fun for readers to imagine how unusual that life actually is in comparison with their own.

4. What characters in children鈥檚 books inspired you as a kid?

I still love Max in Where the Wild Things Are. Reading that book with my mom as a little kid remains a visceral experience that I still carry with me.


5. Are any of your own parenting experiences reflected in Ella?

A lot of my daughter鈥檚 intonations and catch phrases made their way into the book and some of her frenetic energy, overall scheming and mad scootering. Also, at the end of the book when Ella is trying to get to bed, she looks in the windows of her neighbors as they all prepare for bed with their variety of rituals. Living in NYC, you often can鈥檛 help but imagine the lives of people who you only see from across the alleyway. My kids and I talk about that sometimes, how we watch and are watched and that is just a part of life here.

ELLA spread_Judith.jpg

6. What do you think grownups can learn from the book?

We should care less about what others think of us, maintain that six-year old openness and know our rights to demand the WiFi password.

7. Do you predict any future adventures for the character?

Well, Manny is working on his yoga teacher training certification so I鈥檓 hoping they get to go to Costa Rica on a yoga retreat like in mid-February. I could also see Ella getting her own reality show 鈥 maybe on Bravo.



1. Who was your style inspiration for Ella鈥檚 character?

Readers might identity Ella as a 鈥渉ipster,鈥 and they鈥檙e not entirely wrong. My style inspiration when designing her came from my own backyard. The neighborhoods in Toronto and NYC that I鈥檝e lived in have always been on the pulse of art and design.

A lot of the people who choose to live there are creative individuals who care about expressing themselves through their artwork, whether it鈥檚 visual, written, music or performance. I travel to and from Manhattan regularly so I鈥檓 exposed to fashion on a daily basis. The streets, subways and subway stations become a catwalk. They鈥檙e filled with individuals who have inspired Ella鈥檚 character in some capacity.


2. Where do you think Ella鈥檚 favorite place to buy clothes is?

There鈥檚 a great store near where I live (in Brooklyn) called Park Delicatessen. It鈥檚 a concept store that鈥檚 a blend of a flower shop, skate(board) shop and clothing store; it reads like an art gallery.


3. Your style looks like something that would be in the The New York Times 鈥 in fact, it has been. What do you think this brings to the world of Ella?

This is the first children鈥檚 book I鈥檝e illustrated and my thought process behind creating Ella鈥榮 world was to build a graphic and colorful environment that was strongly narrative and playful. Some of the details might be missed by children, but I鈥檓 hoping they鈥檒l still be able to appreciate and engage with the drawings overall. The details that I鈥檝e inserted such as air plants and stag horn ferns, Manny鈥檚 unfinished tattoo, Geta (sandals), a nod to a vintage Vogue cover are meant to be 鈥渨inks鈥 to some of the adults who might be reading the book with their children. On their own, these details support and give substance to Ella鈥榮 world.


4. What were some of your favorite things to draw in Ella and why?

I enjoyed drawing Ella鈥榮 bedroom because it allowed me to include parts of myself, the things that I love and are surrounded by such as my guitar and coconut plant (I have one at home. She鈥檚 five feet tall and named 鈥淐oco鈥 after the model Coco Rocha). Stacie, Ella鈥榮 dog was also fun to draw because I referenced my own dog 鈥 who鈥檚 a chocolate brown dachshund and terrier mix 鈥 for her poses and behavior.

You can get hip and buy Ella聽from Penguin starting January 22.

Know of any other modern day children鈥檚 books? Let me us know in the comments below!