“Llamallamallamallama” Anna Dewdney loved driving by the neighbor’s fields each morning on the way to school. Her children were enthralled by the interesting animals, and she would teach them the sounds of the animals as they drove past. When the neighbor pastured llamas, she had no idea what sound they made, so she would exclaim “llamallamallamallama” when she saw them grazing in the morning sun.
The repetition of the sound intrigued her. Anna started working with the idea of a children’s book series in which the protagonist was an anthropomorphized little llama. According to Anna, “He is “little boy” because during the final incarnation of the story …I was working at a boarding school for young, dyslexic boys…and I put them to bed several times a week. Therefore, I was thinking about little boys and separation anxiety.”
Separation is what happened this week as Anna died at home after her 15-month struggle with brain cancer. She lived in Vermont, loving the people and the place. When asked “If you could live anyplace real or fictional, where would it be? Why? She replied, “I’m living precisely where I want to be! I have yet to find a place or people that I feel more comfortable with than Vermonters in Vermont. We are a stoic, yet loving and respectful people up here. I don’t like the cold, but I put up with it so I can have the rest of the year.”
According to Wikipedia, “Dewdney’s Llama Llama books have all been New York Times Bestsellers and some have reached #1 on the list.” There are 18 books in the Llama Llama series. Few writers achieve such acclaim. “A good children’s book can be read by an adult to a child, and experienced genuinely by both… (it) is like a performance. I don’t feel my world really exists until an adult has read it to a child” said Dewdney.
Her books were also a local favorite according to Amy Aynedjian, children’s librarian in her hometown grade school. “The repetition, the rhymes … and they’re about things children can associate with, such as bedtime, or going off to school,”
When asked why she chose writing, Anna said “I learned that it was possible to be a writer by watching my mother work. My mother also instilled in me a keen interest in reading. Before beginning a book, she showed us the inside cover pages, telling us who the author and the illustrator were. We talked about how many words were on each page and how the pictures moved the story along.” Anna’s sister, anthropologist Tanya Marie Luhrmann is also a respected writer.
In lieu of a funeral, Dewdney had a final request to her friends and fans: “Please read a book to a child.”
“Mama llama is always near, even if she is not right here.” Llama Llama Red Pajama