Art + Culture
DUMBO Author Pens Brooklyn’s Answer to Eloise
Longtime DUMBO resident and creative professional Mallory Kasdan has just published a children’s book ELLA, a cheeky parody of a spunky six-year-old girl who lives in a Brooklyn hotel. Ella’s world includes grilled cheese food trucks, reclaimed twine and Hillary Clinton fundraisers. As Kirkus Review writes, ELLA is “for hipsters of all ages”. PowerHouse Arena hosts the book launch party on Sunday, Jan 25 from 3-5pm. Bring the kids!
Below, we chatted with Mallory about the neighborhood, her inspiration, and an imaginary playdate between ELLA and Eloise at the Plaza.
Like so many creatives in this neighborhood, you have a multihypenate career: you’re a voice actor, NPR reporter, and author of forthcoming children’s book ELLA. Briefly tell us a bit about your career:
I started my career in books actually — my first two jobs were in book publishing publicity. I left publishing after a few years to pursue a voice acting career, which is kind of a random niche-y job that I’ve been lucky to hold onto for the last 15 or so years. Once I was established in the voiceover world I decided to try and pursue my love of radio, so for a few years I was contributing arts and culture stories to several NPR shows while simultaneously doing voiceovers for commercials. That felt like my career sweet spot, but I wasn’t able to keep up with the radio pieces once I had my kids. The voiceover work sustained me from that point on and gave me flexibility when the kids were little, and I always tried to keep writing — essays about pop culture, parenting, and life in NYC. For a while I thought I would try and get a podcast going but that never happened. And then the idea came to me for ELLA, which is my first children’s book. I love the concept of doing work that is inspired by my kids, so I hope to keep on writing books that they might likewise enjoy.
ELLA chronicles the life of spunky six-year-old girl who lives in a hotel — Brooklyn’s answer to Eloise at the Plaza. How did living in DUMBO help inspire the story? If ELLA and Eloise had a playdate in DUMBO, what would they do?
DUMBO is filled with all kinds of stories. I’m constantly writing down (via social media) the funny things I see — like a grown man riding an adult scooter with a small dog in a baby bjorn, or being stuck in the middle of some crazy confluence of construction workers, models in a photo shoot, and a group of tourists. All of that energy and attitude and creative output where everyone is expressing themselves on the street continues to be an inspiration.
Ella and Eloise Playdate: ok so first they would grab some kind of steamed milk beverage with honey and cardamom in it or something at Brooklyn Roasters. They would chill there for a while and Ella would catch Eloise up on all the development happening in DUMBO. Then they would scooter over to Almondine for pretzel bread if it was the weekend and Herve was feeling the pretzel bread love. They might go look at some art books at PowerHouse. From there they would make fun of tourists at the carousel and try not get smacked with selfie sticks. Then they would scoot down the bike path in BBP, maybe have a roller skate or a kayak depending on the season, and then sneak over the Squibb Park bridge that’s been closed forever so they could then scooter like mad down the Columbia Heights hill and end the day at with a concrete at Shake Shack.
How long have you lived here? What attracted you to DUMBO?
My husband and I moved here in 2003. We loved the views and the quiet and the cobblestones and the relative adventure of it at the time. Since then, the neighborhood has obviously changed so much but it’s development has mostly dovetailed with our lifestyle after having 2 kids. We love how its like a small town and we know everyone, but there is always something new and interesting happening. And having Brooklyn Bridge Park as our literal backyard is so special.
A growing number of families are calling DUMBO home. What makes this neighborhood great for parents and little ones?
There is a feeling of spaciousness that is unique to DUMBO. Yes, it is more crowded than its ever been, and continues to grow, but still if you walk down certain streets you can be entirely alone. That is a rarity in New York, and creates a nice comforting and calming feeling for all people, including families. Plus our bookstores, the amazing park, so many dessert places, Jane’s Carousel, and groovy events happening all the time. My kids are now unfazed when they walk by 20 jackhammers going full force at 8 am on the way to school, or by Steven Spielberg herding extras. So we’ve got that going for us. Like Eloise and Ella, we are never bored.