Tell Me a Mitzi: By Lore Segal, Illustrated by Harriet Pincus

Tell Me a Mitzi is an outstanding trio of stories: Mitzi Takes a Taxi, Mitzi Sneezes, and Mitzi and the President.

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Each story begins with Martha asking her mother or father to tell her a story;

“Tell me a Mitzi.”

In Mitzi Takes a Taxi, Mitzi wakes up early and rouses her little brother Jacob. While their parents are still snoring, Mitzi and Jacob decide to go to grandma and grandpa’s house but before they venture out Jacob has some demands. Mitzi must go through the rigmarole of their morning routine; feeding, cleaning, and dressing Jacob and herself. Finally, all bundled up, they trundle themselves and the stroller down to the bustling New York City street and the doorman hails them a cab.

“Where to?”

“Grandma and Grandpa’s house, please,” said Mitzi.

“Where do they live?” asked the driver.

“I don’t know,” said Mitzi.

The well meaning but mischievous children need no characterization, they speak for themselves: loudly and directly.

Our illustrator, Harriet Pincus, was born in the Bronx, New York, and her illustrations perfectly compliment and encapsulate New York City. Harriet Pincus’ style is refreshingly unique and absolutely satisfying and while the text is beautiful, I cannot get over the illustrations. They are supremely powerful, vivid, pointed, and colourful. Never gaudy or overtly neon but filled with primary colours, the illustrations are reminiscent of a familiar colouring book. However, I can’t neglect the text either. The fluid locomotion of sentences that carry one into the next propel the story forward, giving an eternal, rhythmic feel to the prose.

“First make me my bottle,” said Jacob. So Mitzi got Jacob’s bottle, carried it into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator and took out a carton of milk and opened it and took the top off Jacob’s bottle and poured in the milk and put the top back on and closed the carton and put it back in the refrigerator and closed the door and carried the bottle into the children’s room and gave it to Jacob and said, “Let’s go.”

The metanarrative of a parent telling a child a story lovingly mirrors the dynamic of the picture book which is read to a child by a parent. Children are vividly engaged in all kinds of art forms and this book subtly explores the inquisitive nature of childhood and passion for reading that intrinsically radiates from young people.

This picture book can be seen as directed towards an older audience because it contains more text than a standard book in this age category and larger words like, “exhausted.” I feel that this is still applicable to almost all ages, and beneficial as well.  Pedantically censoring vocabulary to adhere to a specific age actually inhibits educating young people. Removing a large breadth of language from a person’s experience in order to ensure they understand every word doesn’t allow for the introduction of new words. The stories are separated into three and so can be read individually for the listener with a shorter attention span.

Mitzi Takes a Taxi is followed by two more such stories that charmingly characterize the comic tribulations of childhood, family life, and picturesque New York. Even if you don’t have a kid to read this to, you should really read it.

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