A young llama gets spooked by the dark, resulting in all sorts of “llama drama” for his mama in Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Red Pajama and the ensuing series. Now the rhyming classic has been chosen as the book for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, an initiative aimed at closing the early education achievement gap and setting a world record too, as more than 2 million people read the book simultaneously on October 6, 2011. We chatted with the children’s author to find out how a llama became her inspiration, which children’s books she loves, and why she’s so passionate about literacy.
How did you get the idea for the Llama Llama series? Why a llama?
When my two daughters were small, we would drive through the Vermont countryside and we would see cows everywhere. Every time we passed a field of cows, I would loudly moo. (I still do this, even though I only have dogs in the car now.) When we saw sheep, I would baaaaaaa. When we passed chickens, I would cluck cluck cluck. But sometimes we passed a field with a llama, and I had no idea what a llama "said,” so I said, "Ooooo... look! Llamallamallamallama! There's a llamallamallamallama!" And one day, "Llama Llama" became "Llama Llama...red pajama...reads a story with his mama...."
These days, I know that llamas in fields don't say much of anything (although they DO spit!) But my llama llama in his pajamas says a lot.
Do you have a favorite children’s book?
I have many, many favorite books, but here are a few of my favorite children's books: The Poky Little Puppy, written by Janette Sebring Lowrey and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren; Higglety Pigglety Pop, by Maurice Sendak; and Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. All three are about journeys of one kind or another.
There are now five llama books. Plans for any more?
Oh yes! I'm writing one about sharing right now, and it introduces a new character, with whom Llama Llama has to share some toys—and it isn't easy!
How did you get involved with Jumpstart's Read for the Record?
I found out this spring that Llama Llama Red Pajama had been chosen for this year's record, and I was incredibly honored and gratified. I've known about Read for the Record for a while now, and I firmly believe in Jumpstart's mission.
How did it feel to have your book chosen?
I am so humbled to be a part of this tremendous endeavor. Literacy is the critical piece in launching a successful education. Once a child learns to read, he has the entire world at his fingertips. A child who loves to open a book will grow and flourish throughout her entire life. Every child deserves the opportunity to read with adults on a regular basis, and Read for the Record is a fantastic chance for us all to read together.
Who will you be reading the book to for Jumpstart's Read to the Record?
I hope to be reading to many children on October 6th, but I am certain to be reading to my two little nephews. I'm also going to call my two children and read it to each girl over the phone...after all, they are the original "little llamas,” and I couldn't let the day go by without sharing it with them.