I remember Lore Segal's Tell Me a Mitzi so vividly (almost every detail!) from my childhood. I didn't grow up in the city but, for me, it was one of two books which formed a primal image of what life in the city must be like (the other book was From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler).
A "Mitzi" is a story about a girl named Mitzi, and there are three of them in this book. In the first, when Mitzi and her younger brother Jacob wake up and find their parents still asleep they decide to go to grandma's apartment. All by herself, Mitzi gets the both of them ready, out the door and into a taxi, only to find they don't know grandma's address. It's interesting to note that when I heard this story as a child I thought nothing strange about the doorman saying goodbye to the children as they left. As an adult I wondered, "What? Why doesn't that doorman stop them? He's just going to let two small children wander the city? Alone???" That would spoil the story, of course. The story's charm lies in that the children are perfectly independent -- well, almost.
There is a coziness to the stories without being saccharine. The family takes care of each other but without singing "Kumbaya". In the second story everyone gets a cold and the resulting personalities of sick patients reveal themselves. In the third, Mitzi, Jacob and their father watch a presidential motorcade, and the tantrum of a two year old provides an amusing twist.
The city is New York, but Harriet Pincus does not include any landmarks in her colorful illustrations so the cityscape could stand in for any in your child's imagination, as it did in mine. The expressions on faces (such as Mitzi's dad when he comes home with a cold) are priceless and Pincus includes funny little details: Mitzi's parents sleep in twin bunny beds!
I'm surprised to find it out of print, but fortunately I have an old copy, and I bet you can find it in the library. It received all sorts of accolades including a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year and A School Library Journal Best of the Best Books ("Best of the Best", I love that).
Last year, Vintage Books My Kid Loves posted about Mitzi, and you can see some of the artwork, here.
Visit Lore Segal's website.
Big Kid says: I like the taxi ride.