Review: May I Visit? By Zolotow & Blegvad

Mother’s Day weekend is upon us! I have a special post set for Sunday – a mesh of a lot of favorite mother scenes from a variety of picture books – so come back for that. And I will never top my best Mother’s Day post of all time – How To Be An Excellent Mother, learning life lessons from one of my all-time favorite mother characters in the Little Bear books. But while I was making Sunday’s toast to mothers, I was reminded of this vintage gem. It’s a small paperback by a classic author and fantastic illustrator. It is dripping of 1970s fashion and decor, but timeless in its sweetness and mother-daughter bond. A story about a little girl who wonders if she can visit her mother when she grows up, if she stops making all the mistakes and messes she makes currently. Have a smile, perhaps choke up a bit, and then go call your own mother and decide on your next visit. Celebrate motherhood from the thoughts of a child with May I Visit? by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, 1976.

The story begins with the young girl waving goodbye to her grown and married sister. She had come for a short overnight visit, doing all the usual things she used to do in their home.

But the young girl notes many things that her sister doesn’t do anymore. She doesn’t steam up the bathroom or spill talcum on the floor. She was helpful and nice and didn’t talk back like she once did to their mother.

After she left, the little girl wonders and asks her mother if she too can visit when she is grown up…

if she doesn’t spill talcum on the floor or leave the shower curtain outside the tub. If she doesn’t leave crumbs while watching television or spoil Mother’s good stationery with drawings. If she doesn’t try on all Mother’s scarves or necklaces, or leave marker on the bedspread.

Her list goes on and on. Spills and messes, eating things she shouldn’t – she includes all the little grievances she either knows are frustrating or perhaps there has been conversation about them before.

It is a funny and familiar list. And the mother’s response? “Of course,” but she adds to it what we all long for in our lives, that even if she does do any of those things, it will be fun to have her then… “just as it is now!”

I had forgotten about this darling little book. I was completely charmed and a bit weepy after reacquainting myself to it. It is strange to be on this side of the book, listening to her concerns about being able to visit if she finally learns to stop her annoying habits; and then look around me at my own little ones also still in the midst of their growing days. A good reminder to yes, survive these young days in consistency and teaching; but also to thrive in them, recognizing the joy and charm of the little days.

A book like this is vintage in so many ways these days. The fashion and decor, as mentioned above; but also the illustration style and the focus are considered classic and dated. I adore Blegvad’s loose pen lines and limited color. I love the many bathtub scenes, familiar in parenting, but a bit of a rarity in current books. I love the juxtaposition of the grown sister and the little sister. And I love watching the mother in the background – watching the sisters interact again, and also carrying on with her normal tasks and loving ways. It is such a charming book.

I am very aware that Mother’s Day comes in different forms and feelings for everyone. I have my own stories of the years with it as well. But I hope that this sweet little book delights you as much as it did me. I hope it brings sweet thoughts, and even healing memories in some ways. I hope it gives perspective on all these continual hard days of the young years.

However you celebrate Mother’s Day, whether a mother yourself or hoping to be or focusing on your own caregiver in your childhood, may you find the joy of love and belonging of who you are and who you are with.

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