Llama Llama Misses Mama
The academic year of 2020-2021 was unusual in every possible way. Depending on your locality and your child’s learning needs, adjustments may still be in effect. All I know is the little girl next door is going to kindergarten for the first time. Perhaps she feels a little like Llama Llama in Llama Llama Misses Mama.
“Llama Llama feeling shy…”
“Llama Llama feels so new…”
“Llama Llama feels alone.”
Author and illustrator Anna Dewdney, creator of the Llama Llama books, gives her child-readers and listeners an adorable llama surrogate who is always in his feelings. He also carries around his own stuffed llama, which conveys even more feelings through its expressions, especially its eyes. Without speaking, the stuffed animal is a stand-in for some other emotion Llama Llama is feeling. (It’s hard for a little llama face to show more than one feeling at a time.)
The stories are told in rhyme because Dewdney believed in the power of reading aloud. The Anna Dewdney Read Together Award is given every year to a picture book that not only is a great read-aloud selection but also one that promotes empathy and compassion. The winner is announced during Children’s Book Week.
Although Llama Llama’s first day at school gets off to a rough start, by the end he is playing with friends and drawing. But it isn’t just a matter of getting comfortable in this new place. A lesser teacher might have redirected the anxious student to the toy train or the bookshelf — which this teacher does — and leave it at that. But this teacher addresses the underlying issue: that Llama Llama misses Llama Mama.
Don’t be sad, new little llama! It’s OK to miss your mama. But don’t forget—when day is through, she will come right back to you.”
And at the end of the day, Llama Llama exclaims, in all caps, “MAMA LLAMA! YOU CAME BACK!!!” He throws away his newfound crayons and rushes past his new friends into his mother’s outstretched arms.
Although this story is about Llama Llama missing his mama, she is actually with him quite a lot. In fact, in this 32-page picture book, Llama Mama is in 14 of the illustrations, sometimes twice. It’s a subtle way of saying that even when llamas are temporarily separated, they’re still together.
Dewdney passed away from cancer in 2016. Her books continue, with her longtime partner, Reed Duncan, as administrator of the Anna E. Dewdney Literary Trust, and with the illustrations of J.T. Morrow. You can hear her read her first llama book, Llama Llama Red Pajama. You can also listen to Ludacris rap the story.
At the same time I was reading Llama Llama Misses Mama, I was also reading Llama Llama Mad at Mama, when he and Mama go shopping on a Saturday, interrupting Llama Llama’s play-plans. One minute our little llamas are mad at us, and the next moment they miss us. One day they are filled with holiday drama and the next they give thanks.
One summer day, while riding my bike and listening to a spirited review of Llama Llama books, I saw a real-life llama. He (or she, I can’t say for sure) was standing under a tree, nibbling leaves. I got off my bike to doublecheck my own eyes, and there, off to the side, in the cool shade, just out of sight, was a Llama Mama.
What happens when a 4-year-old asks for a scary story? Coraline happens, Neil Gaiman‘s very spooky tale! Join us Friday, October 29, for our next Children’s Book Club.
Photo by Steve Slater, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Megan Willome.
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I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro