Kay Thompson was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1911, the daughter of a local jeweler. She showed early promise as a pianist; she started to play the piano when she was four, and at sixteen played Franz Liszt with the St. Louis Symphony. Shortly afterward, she appeared as featured vocalist with a local dance band. Thompson went to California in 1929, when she was seventeen. Her first job was as a diving instructor, but she soon found a job on the radio as a vocalist with the Mills Brothers. Later she joined Fred Waring's band in New York as a singer and arranger. She decided to produce her own radio show, which was aired over the CBS network under the name Kay Thompson and Company. The show was not as big a success as Thompson had hoped and so she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios as an arranger and composer. Beginning in 1942, she worked with MGM choreographer Robert Alton on such films as The Ziegfield Follies, The Harvey Girls, and The Kid From Brooklyn. She remained with the studio for four years until she created her own night club routine. The show opened at Ciro's night club in 1947 and was successful enough to be taken on the road. That autumn she opened in Chicago and in February 1948 she moved to Miami for a $15,000-a-week engagement. Thompson kept the act going until 1953. Eloise's birth was unexpected. Thompson prized punctuality, but one day she was late to rehearsals with the Mills Brothers. In a high, childish voice, she made her apology. One of her co-workers said, 'Who are you, little girl?' Thompson replied, 'I am Eloise. I am 6.' The others joined in the game, each assuming a juvenile identity, and it became a regular rehearsal pastime. The routine became a book after Thompson began performing in 1954 in a one-woman show at the Plaza. While she was appearing in the hotel's Persian Room, she was introduced to an artist, Hilary Knight, and he became the illustrator of Eloise, which was subtitled A Book for Precocious Grown Ups. Thompson wrote the book during a three-month break from performing. Later she wrote three other books about Eloise, which were also illustrated by Knight. In the first two years after Eloise came out, 150,000 copies were sold. According to records beginning in 1983, 592,000 copies of "Eloise" have been sold in the United States since then. Thompson also wrote "Kay Thompson's Miss Pooky Peckinpaugh and Her Secret Private Boyfriends Complete with Telephone Numbers," illustrated by Joe Eula. Thompson also founded Eloise Ltd., which made recordings and other products related to the Eloise character. In later years, Ms. Thompson acted in movies, including "Funny Face," and on television. Kay Thompson died in July of 1998
Hilary Knight was born on November 1, 1926. He is the son of artist-writers Clayton Knight and Katherine Sturges. He was born in Hempstead, Long Island and grew up in the town of Roslyn. When he was six the family moved to Manhattan where he has lived ever since. He is the illustrator of over fifty books, nine of which he also wrote. He is best known as the illustrator of Kay Thompson's Eloise (1955) and others in the Eloise series. He lives in an apartment in midtown Manhattan which also serves as his studio and library. His illustrations are available for purchase at two galleries--the Giraffics Gallery (East Hampton, New York) and Every Picture Tells a Story (Santa Monica, California).