Archives for the month of: October, 2016

It’s short and sweet and goes like this:

Once there was a girl named Mitzi, and she had a little brother named Jacob. They slept in the same room and in the same big bed, each sprawled on her or his own side. Mitzi usually hugged the edge of the bed, teetering on the edge, and usually teetered on the edge of sleep, too, holding out as long as she could. She wanted to snuggle her mama as she went to sleep, lying on her right side with her left arm wrapped around her mama’s left arm. Jacob wanted to put his head on his mama’s right shoulder and snuggle his mama to sleep, too. They’d often drift off grudgingly, as if unwilling to give the day up without a fight. That day would never come again, and who’s to say those few last minutes weren’t the most important?

Tonight – this night – was different.

Tonight Mitzi and Jacob snuggled their mama, snuggled their daddy, and giggled and talked together, making the final moments important in a new way — and then went to sleep all by themselves.

“Good night, Mitzi,” whispered her mama and daddy in wonder. “Good night, Jacob,” whispered his mama and daddy.

And then they stayed up to do exciting things like put cardboard in the recycling bin and fold laundry, and then they all slept happily ever after. (At least I hope that’s how this one will end!)

“Tell me a Mitzi,” said Martha.
     “Later I will,” said her mother. “Now I’ve got a headache.”
     In a little while Martha asked her mother, “Mommy, now is it later?”
     “No,” said her mother. “It’s still now.”
     In a little while Martha asked her mother if she had a headache.
     “No,” said her mother, “Why?”
     “Tell me a Mitzi,” said Martha.

tell

So begins the second of three stories in Lore Segal’s* Tell Me a Mitzi, a picture book with a frame story (in italics) about a family with a daughter named Martha (as seen in the story intro above) plus three stories (in regular font) about the heroine, Mitzi, and her little brother, Jacob.

Mitzi is an independent girl with independent ideas, so while she depends on her mama to help her when she’s sick (like in the second story, “Mitzi Sneezes”), she also dresses herself and her little brother in the first story, “Mitzi Takes a Taxi,” in order to set off into a New York morning to head to her grandparents’ home. Not much taller than the stroller herself, she’s bold and gutsy and not afraid. In her world, adults help children, and children try and do things that they might not ordinarily do, like say hello to the President.

Martha, the frame-story girl, wants attention and focus from her parents, and she gets it in the form of three stories: “Mitzi Takes a Taxi,” “Mitzi Sneezes,” and “Mitzi and the President.” The first and last highlight the independent Mitzi, perhaps to nudge Martha towards independence herself; the middle one shows the Mitzi who needs love and attention and comfort to get through a cold, just as any child like Martha does. Families provide for their children’s needs in these stories, whether it’s in the form of a story, orange juice and soup when sick, or gum and a parade. Who doesn’t love a parade?

No matter which Mitzi you get, your children will be delighted. Mine were. Girl and Boy both relish the stories, and they especially enjoy “Mitzi Sneezes,” with its twist on what happens when the caretakers need care themselves. The stories are accompanied by Harriet Pincus’s charmingly weird illustrations, which are reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s: the children are like small adults with grown-up faces who populate a brightly-colored world filled with kindness. You receive the help you need, even if it’s not always the help you want. You get a story when you need it.

When it’s done, you may find that you want to be told another Mitzi, too.

**********
Segal, Lore. Tell Me a Mitzi. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 1970.

* For more on Lore Segal and her interesting history (plus more on the history of the book and the illustrator), check out this article by Marjorie Ingall.