About this review of I love you then I love You Still
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily. It goes without saying (and yet here we are) that my review will contain spoilers. It is not very constructive, after all, to just ditch generalities about likes and dislikes. So, as per tradition, our review is first of all an analysis. Remember that if we bother to leave one, we have finished reading the book and there is goodness in it.
I Love You Then, I Love You Still is a book written by Amanda Zoltanski-Hafez
I Love You Then, I Love You Still is not just a book. It is a love letter from a parent to a child, from the dedication at the beginning to the last word, through the whole story unfolded page after page.
The love letter
The verses are in rhyme which give it that added lyricism. Of course, it would have been even more so if the number of syllables matched in the lines of each stanza as they would in a nursery rhyme. Such a love letter would have no doubt needed every trick in the book to help us remember it or chant it even as parents when the going gets to its toughest with our own little monsters. Even the children would have benefitted. When their naughtiness has reached points of seeming no return, these lines would keep their hope up that their parent will still love them in spite of all.
Reading the full love letter, it feels more like we are having a peak into the author’s life. I am not into reality shows to be honest. I tend to believe that what happens in a house is more useful to help relating people draw lessons for their own. So, it was a little disappointment to me that it was so very specific that it sometimes alienated the reader into an observer role rather than a partaker.
At times, it is hard to know how old her little monster is, if you have not read the blurb. It wouldn’t actually matter if it was not for the specific actions described in the book. Indeed spilling drinks sounds like a baby or a toddler (or was it just my own kid?). Yet in the next breath / verse “piling your dishes” sounds more like an older child or even a teenager so at times it is a little confusing. It is clear from each line why the author calls her boy her little monster. I wish I could have read more explicitly about the “good-hearted” Tristan in there beyond the messy one. While the appelation is a cute and tender one, the absence of sustantial evidence of his good heart makes her love sounds only like the biased perspective of a mother. It is also surprising to realise later on in the read that the child has siblings as the beginning very much reads like he is an only child. For example, it states that breakfast is all for the one child.
Writing and illustrations
The writing clear and appropriate for the target audience. The font is really fun, but at the same time a little hard to read. A nice little trick would have been to expand the font. This would have kept the fun side of the font face whilst upping its readability. The title certainly would have benefited from that. However, considering how short it is, it does not strain our eyes for too long. Another downside of the body font is its choice to capitalise the letter K. It is a detail that subliminally makes the letter not so conducive to learning the right spelling or understanding the place and role of capitalisation. It is fun when it is in words like Kiss because it almost make it special but the English language has so many words that contain the letter k!
The drawings are lovely and very age-appropriate. They have a particularly fun side to them. I love that the mum is a cyclop, a “monster” of her own accord, whether this was intentional or not. Having full page images also immerses the reader in the experience which is gratifying. Some images though have no text, so breaking up the text to have it breathe a little better across the pages should have been the option. It would have made the lines easier to read and more pleasant and inviting to look at for children and parents alike. More importantly, it would have avoided the awkwardness of having text so close to the page border or getting into the furniture! 🙂
As pointed out before, the rhymes are a great idea. In addition, pairing them makes them easier to read and diges. Therefore, it shocks the attentive reader or mind when either
- two-line stanza fail to rhyme as in:
“no, that’s not nice!
you can’t be mean to your siblings all day”
- when their form lacks sense,
- when additional lines are added up as seen among others on page 22
- or when the uneven number of syllable takes away from the letter’s lyricism
Substance and lessons to children
There is substance. There are some lessons that a child reading may draw.
I do love that discipline is part of the love but the percentage given to it is so minute, it reads more like a post scriptum:
“don’t ever think that i don’t love you,
but i must teach you the right things to do
The explanation about why not to do things beside the implicit “I said so” aka “Mums know best” or “it is not nice” is unconvincing. This was an opportunity to bring forth a little logic and savoir-vivre in the mind of a little one. There would lie the work that not all can make, to say in the simplest and most beautiful and rhyming word what the consequences are to some of the things our monsters do that they should not. However, there is much more of the enabling the behaviour unfortuantely.
The title bothers me a great deal. While the sentiment is noble, the grammar makes it confusing. The meaning I guess is “I loved you at that time, I love you still now…”. However, the grammatical choice (if that is one) reads as if “then” meant either “in that case” or “afterwards”. Also, this refrain is sweet but does not always come in logical manner at the end of a verse. You would expect that the rest of the page would showcase why the child might doubt his mother’s love each time or not know what it is that she is expressing as she goes through the things he does that might make her angry or ashamed or whatever else that might make him doubt she loves him but it is not always the case and when it is not, it tends to break the semantic flow.
What a beautiful idea to write what is effectively a love letter to our child to assure them of our love and support whatever happens. A last proofreading would have disambiguated the title, upped the discipline, evened the rhymes and lines, and delivered the lovely book to its best. I would have loved to see a little more about why they deserve and get our love and support so it does not all sounds so “because I am your mum”. More mention of discipline would have also evened the field: after all, love feels more genuine and honest when it doesn’t just say yes to everything.