Mitzi Tulane may be a preschool detective, but she is also a birthday girl.
She doesn’t know that yet, though. Her first clue is that she smells a new smell in the kitchen. Baby Kev doesn’t give her any help in figuring things out, and neither does Daddy. She finds him shaving in the bathroom, which is odd since it’s Sunday, and he usually stays “scratchy all weekend.” Undaunted, Mitzi continues to investigate, and she gets yet more clues when grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins arrive. They add to the matter-of-fact multiracial cast of characters—the extended family includes aunties and cousins with a range of skin tones and hair textures, while Mitzi, with brown skin and curly dark hair, appears black, and her fair-skinned parents and baby brother are white. Confusingly, relatives’ clothing doesn’t seem to remain the same from one spread to the next, so it’s hard to track their presence in different scenes as Mitzi solves the mystery that it is her birthday. (That eponymous smell from the kitchen? It’s her birthday cake.) It’s also a bit hard to believe that such a smart, inquisitive child would be unaware of her approaching fourth birthday when this is such a big deal to most kids.
Despite misgivings, it’s a sweet story centering on a bright, black birthday girl, and on that front it takes the cake. (Picture book. 3-5)