Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Is Your Mama A Llama? Written by Deborah Guarino and illustrated by Steven Kellogg.

*New* To read Vulpes Libris’s exclusive interview with Deborah Guarino, please click here.

Repeat after me:

“Is your mama a llama?” I asked my friend Dave.

“No, she is not,” is the answer Dave gave.

“She hangs by her feet, and she lives in a cave. I do not believe that’s how llamas behave.”

“Oh,” I said. “You are right about that. I think that your mama sounds more like a…”

[turn page]

“Bat!”

Is there not something delightful about that use of rhyme and rhythm? I enjoy these quoted words so much that I have often found myself murmuring them whilst out and about. Not just at the supermarket either. Sometimes I’ll surprise myself and others when I launch into these verses in a quiet doctors’ surgery. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We don’t very often discuss books that are aimed at little children or babies on Vulpes Libris but a book about a deeply confused llama was just too good to ignore.

The Premise: Lloyd is a young llama with a lot of friends of different species. Perhaps he’s only just realised that his friends ARE of different species because for some reason he feels the need to ask each of them if their mama is a llama.

The Setting: I’m unclear as to the precise habitat, as Lloyd’s friends include swans, seals, cows, llamas and kangaroos. And of course bats. There aren’t any fences visible in the illustrations or I’d have assumed a zoo. Perhaps it is some kind of animal reserve, as in The Animals of Farthing Wood. Still, the jury is out.

The Plot: Averaging two lines per page and 34 pages in total, plot is as one would imagine rather thin on the ground. The basic gist of it has admittedly already been covered in Premise and Setting, but we have a sequence of animal riddles leading to a fantastic twist at the end of the book when Lloyd gets a bit of a telling off from his friend Llyn (although . . . twas said with a grin).

The Players: Lloyd, Fred, Jane, Rhonda, Clyde, Llyn and Dave. And in my opinion there just aren’t enough books featuring animals called Dave.

Recurring Imagery: Various juvenile animals and their mamas. Plus a small brown llama.

Rhyme structure: End rhyme AND internal rhyme.

The Moral of the Story: Again, I’m not entirely clear on this. If I was forced to have a stab at it, perhaps I’d opt for something like: It can be unnerving when a youngster realises their friends (and their friends’ families) are different from them, but we all have unique characteristics and abilities so we’d be best off accepting our differences and getting along.

Conclusion: this is a delightful picture book, full of rhyme, riddle and educational animal facts. The book was apparently inspired by the author meeting a llama in Central Park petting zoo, which makes me immediately want to rush off to New York to meet the llama in question, though I fear that animal is no longer of this world.

I should also mention that my copy of Is Your Mama a Llama? was not a review copy. I first became aware of the book when I spotted Allison DuBois (played by Patricia Arquette) reading it to her daughter in the television show Medium. Luckily for me I now have my own daughter to read it to, which is just as well, as people do tend to take more kindly to adults reciting nursery rhymes when a child is present.

We don’t have a star rating system here but if we did, I’d give this one four and a half bright yellow stars. I’d have to deduct half a star from top marks because at one point the name “Rhonda” is rhymed with the word “responded,” which was a bit of a let down. But that is very picky of me.

If you would like to see an animation of Is Your Mama a Llama? an excellent one can be found on YouTube.

Scholastic Paperbacks, 34 pages, £4.50, ISBN-13: 978-0439598422.

15 comments on “Is Your Mama A Llama? Written by Deborah Guarino and illustrated by Steven Kellogg.

  1. Anne Brooke
    February 23, 2011

    It sounds utterly charming, Lisa! Really there should be more rhyme and fun in adult books too – bring it on!

    🙂

    Anne
    xxx

  2. Hilary
    February 23, 2011

    I agree with Anne! This is so clever and delightful. Enjoyable on many levels for readers of any age. A lovely review of it, Lisa.

  3. Colin
    February 23, 2011

    I know a cat called Dave. He should probably have books written about him, although maybe not for children, as he is a vicious creature.

  4. Jackie
    February 23, 2011

    This sounds very cute & I like the idea of introspection & identity seeking in baby animals. I also am pleased that they have a bat in this book, as I don’t think bats get enough good press & here they are as something cuddly & friendly, not scary or Halloween-y.
    I can see how the rhymes would stick in your head, they’re quite catchy. Thanks for the entertaining review of a book that sounds quite pleasant.

  5. Lisa
    February 24, 2011

    Thanks for the comments. There’s just something about this book that makes me feel very cheerful. And yes, Jackie, the rhymes ARE catchy. They lend themselves to chanting, like a mantra… 😉

    Colin, Dave the Cat sounds ferocious. Maybe he could pop up in a gory thriller.

  6. Eve Harvey
    February 24, 2011

    Oh this sounds brilliant. I read your review on my phone (as I do!) and then was stupid enough to trawl YouTube on a Blackberry trying to find the video… less said about that experience the better 🙂

    Loved it when I found it though… on a computer!

  7. Moira
    February 25, 2011

    Would it have got 5 stars if ‘Rhonda’ had been rhymed with ‘responder’? 🙂

    This sounds just lovely – in a Dr Seuss-sy sort of way … and the sort of thing I loved when I was a kid (and – er- not such a kid ).

  8. Lisa
    February 25, 2011

    Moira, that is a better rhyme, and works particularly well in my Westcountry accent. Rhonda was perhaps an ambitious choice for the rhyme scheme.

    Eve, sorry about your Blackberry nightmare. I originally linked to the animation but then deleted it when WordPress automatically hosted the video at the bottom of the review (& wasn’t sure on the rules of doing that). But today the animation has disappeared from Youtube – drat!

  9. Nikki
    February 26, 2011

    I’ve found myself chanting “Is your mama a llama” – I love how the rhyme just trips off the tongue.

  10. Deborah Guarino
    March 8, 2011

    Gentle Readers,

    How lovely to hear from such a well-read group of women! And, I assume, British ladies, as well! Since my own mother was a war-bride hailing from Cleethorpes, near Grimsby in Lincolnshire, you can imagine how dear the U.K. is to me. I’ve longed for the day when my book would be selling in Britain, so I’m hoping, through the intervention of readers like you, it soon may be!

    My one disappointment was your reaction to the rhyme, “Rhonda responded.” Sorry, ladies, but that rhyme has been called “Brilliant,” by some reviewers and it is my own favorite rhyme in the whole book! Rhymes don’t have to be literally correct, you know. Perhaps it’s my own American accent, but if you say it quickly, “Rhonda responded” does fall trippingly from the tongue, and was a very, VERY intentional choice…so we’ll just have to agree to differ in our opinion of it!

    I do thank you, though, profusely, for your mostly-positive opinion of the book and really loved the way one of you described your delight in saying some of the verses aloud to yourself throughout the day. Believe it or not, its rhyming title was what sold the book to its publisher in the first place, and years later the book actually inspired a composer, Andy Mayo, (www.andymayomusic.com) to set its verses to music, which he did with a reggae tune!

    After a struggle, and with my help, we finally persuaded Scholastic to give him permission to produce the song on a CD, and I use it now during my author visits to schools, along with the animated version you mentioned on YouTube, which was originally produced by the amazing company, Weston Woods.

    It might amuse you all to know that the little boy, Joshua, who helped inspire the book when he was only a toddler is now a strapping six foot, two-inch 25 year-old stand-up comedian who lives with his girlfriend in Brooklyn, NY! I’ve since had another son, Daniel, who’s impatiently waiting for his own book (as am I!). In the meantime, we’re very grateful for readers like you and, as someone who lived in London for four years, really thrilled to know that Brits are, at last, getting the word out.

    Thanks again for your kind words. Cheers!

    Love,

    Deborah Guarino

    P.S. Just so you know, I was also thrilled to hear the book quoted on “Medium,” one of my all-time favorite programs, but had absolutely no idea it was going to be used! I found out, just as you did, by total accident when I tuned in one night! And last year the title of the book was used as an answer on our most famous American game-show, “Jeopardy!” (again without any prior heads-up to me), so people here now feel it’s achieved an “iconic” status! Talk about being chuffed! I just wish my mum had been alive to see it! Take care! D.G.

  11. Lisa
    March 8, 2011

    Wow, lovely to hear from you, Deborah! It is a fabulous book and I never tire of reading it to my daughter – in fact I am just about to read it to her now for her bedtime story. Thrilled that you found this review. It’s always fun when an author pops in. And I agree with you about Medium being a great show – that must have been a brilliant moment for you. Thanks for stopping by.
    Very best, Lisa.

  12. Debbie G.
    March 9, 2011

    Thanks so much, Lisa! I really wanted to find your website again (which I’d done by accident, yesterday) and am so pleased I did, and that you “responded,” ha, ha!

    Please give your little girl a kiss from me and tell her it comes direct from Lloyd’s “Mama,” (whose middle name, by the way, is also “Lynne,” although not with a double “l!”

    I actually chose the name “Lloyd,” although I usually despise sacchrine picture book characters whose names start with the first letter of their species, because of the visual pun of the double letters. Believe me, had it not been for that lovely Welsh name going so well with the double “ll” in “llama,” the main character of this book could well have been called something completely different, so, well done, Wales!

    And this might interest you, Lisa…when I wondered how either the writer and/or producers of “Medium” became aware of my book in the first place, I guessed it must have been a “six-degrees of separation” thing.

    About a year or two before it happened I’d run into the actor Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing of “Friends,” remember?) in New York. As I approached him he reached for a pen, but I stopped him, saying, “Oh, I don’t want your autograph…I want to give you my autograph—” and proceeded to offer him a copy of my book! How’s that for cheek? Anyway, he couldn’t have been lovelier or more impressed, apparently, and instead of having the book signed for one of his many nephews and nieces, he asked for it to be signed to himself.

    Well, I still carry the photo someone took of the pair of us on that day in my wallet, (hey, I’m single and can dream, can’t I), and then I realized…Matthew is friends with Courtney Cox (“Monica) and she is (or was) married to David Arquette, the actor/director who’s not only Patricia Arquette’s brother, but who did, in fact, direct that particular episode of “Medium,” called “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Since he and Courtney have a young daughter, “Coco,” it might well have been that Matthew recommended the book, and, well….

    Coincidence? I think not! Which is why I’ve taken to bringing paperback versions of my book whenever I may be among celebrities…you never know where it may lead, and fellow authors I meet apparently do the same thing. Here it’s called “chutzpah,” but, by Jove, I guess it works!

    Because of this I now know that quite a few celebrities, from Sarah Jessica Parker to Eric Idle to actress Jennifer Garner have read my book to their children, and I’m very flattered. In fact, Jennifer Garner was photographed reading it to a group of inner-city pre-school children and that photo ended up in PEOPLE Magazine with a very lovely quote by her, endorsing the book, God bless her. Now if only I could travel in as heady Hollywood circles as it does! Sigh.

    Oops! Sorry to run on again…but it’s been lovely to meet you, Lisa, and I love your website. I’ll be sure not to forget where it is from now on and can’t wait to show it to my younger son.

    Be well, everyone! Love to all.

    Debbie G.

  13. Lisa
    March 11, 2011

    I found all of that fascinating, Deborah. You’ve mentioned some of my favourite actors. Thrilling indeed.

    Which is why I’ve taken to bringing paperback versions of my book whenever I may be among celebrities…you never know where it may lead, and fellow authors I meet apparently do the same thing. Here it’s called “chutzpah,” but, by Jove, I guess it works!

    I like it! I’m not sure I’d have the nerve to do the same thing, but perhaps I should. Well, if I ever AM among celebrities, which is, alas, highly unlikely.

    Very nice to meet you too, and I’ll join you in saluting Wales (which is where I studied for my degrees.) A brilliant country teeming with brilliant people.

    All best wishes, Lisa.

  14. Joe Brender
    July 16, 2013

    I’d say my son William, who is 5 months, loves this book, but I think the truth is that I just love reading it to him. Its very fun and light-hearted.

  15. Discover More Here
    September 30, 2018

    Valuable information. Fortunate me I discovered your website by chance, and I’m shocked why this twist of fate did not took place earlier! I bookmarked it.

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2011 by in Entries by Lisa, Fiction: children's, Poetry: children's, Uncategorized.

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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