Title: I Wrote You A Note
Author/Illustrator: Lizi Boyd
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2017
Here’s a question: do you have a favourite picture book that your kids just don’t ‘get’? For me, it’s Flotsam by David Wiesner. Vivi appreciates it more now that she’s older, but Lily just isn’t interested. It’s a very complex looking pictures-only book, so without a story to read aloud, she’s not terribly into it. Sometimes it goes the other way, too. The kids are really enthusiastic about a book that I would happily consign to a box in our overcrowded storage room (I’m looking at you, Rainbow Brite Saves Christmas).
Today’s book falls under the ‘kids like it, grownups are meh-to-indifferent’ category.
I think I know why.
The story is very, very simple. It follows the life of a note a little girl wrote a note to a friend. The note makes its way to various animals who use it in different fashions. (The snail thinks it’s a house. The rabbit uses it as a basket to gather carrots. The squirrel makes it into a book, etc., etc.) The art is good. It’s a sort of block-print style. The kiddos liked the look of it, I liked it, my husband thought it was also too simple (he had a point: each scene is very similar to the last. There’s really no major variation in camera POV, or size of characters).
But then again, he’s a tough customer sometimes.
Apart from the art, where the girls found the story ‘cute’ and ‘nice,’ I found it quite repetitive. It was just a series of events happening, and none of them very interesting, to be honest.
Now, that’s not to say that all picture books have to follow the standard three-act format. They definitely don’t. (I can think of about twenty off the top of my head that don’t follow any specific format at all, but they work so well because they’re written really, really well.) And books about notes can be fantastic (case in point: XO, OX).
But this one wasn’t. I think the biggest issues were:
1. The writing was fairly boring. There was nothing about it that made it stand out as having a ‘style.’ (For instance, you’d read an Anna Dewdney book or a Mo Willems book and you’d know immediately that it was theirs. Their books have a distinctive voice.)
2. The plot was extremely predictable. None of the animals used the note in a radical way. There was no conflict about it. (Like, maybe the squirrel wanted his book bad. Maybe the spider wanted her bridge to stay put. Maybe the goat just wanted to eat the note, darn it.)
3. The ending/payoff was lacking. This is a big problem for me. When I read a picture book, I want the payoff to be worth it. One of the BEST examples of payoff (in my humble opinion) is Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. I burst out laughing the first time I read that story. The ending just works SO well. When an ending works, you feel it. You want to read the book again just to make sure it’s as awesome as you think it is. It either ties things up nicely, or it’s really funny or it’s sweet and touching. But there’s a payoff. This book was so…uninspiring. The note was just asking a friend to meet up. That’s kind of what I figured it said, since the kid kept saying, “I wrote you a note. Did you get it?”
But…all that said, my kids liked the story. They didn’t want to read it again, mind you. So I think they liked the simplicity of it, enjoyed being read to…but I don’t think it’s one they’ll ever go out of their way to ask for.
Mama’s Review: C
Vivi’s Review: “I liked the part where she wrote the note.”
Lily’s Review: “There’s a goat in there!”
Karl’s Review: “This isn’t a great book. It’s very meh.”