It’s Saturday and Llama Llama wants to play. Except Mama Llama has to shop. And she can’t leave her little one behind. Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney is one of many titles in a series of popular picture books featuring the most unusual character of a llama. Dewdney’s work is known for how it sympathetically address the everyday issues of young children and its incredible use of facial expressions in the illustrations. With Llama Llama Mad at Momma, Dewdney once again delivers.
What I like most about Llama Llama Mad at Mama is how accurately Dewdney captures a shopping trip from the perspective of both parent and child. Neither of them wants to shop, but it’s a task that must be done, and so they will reward themselves with a treat when done. Despite this promise, the noise and the smells and the long lines at the store start to wear on Llama Llama and he begins to whine. When Llama Llama is subjected to trying on shirts and pants and shoes, his patience grows even more thin. But Mama Llama isn’t done. She still has to buy them food. Mama Llamas tries to keep him engaged, asking what he would like for lunch. But Llama Llama has had enough. A tantrum ensues! That feels about right for a shopping trip, doesn’t it?
Llama Lhama’s tantrum has been a topic of discussion by some reviewers. Is Dewdney condoning tantrums? Or is she creatively showing how one family handled them? I’ve certainly seen them resolved in multiple different ways in real life. Some parents will remove their child from the store. Others will stick out the trip, but warn their child of consequences that will happen at home. There are also ones who will bribe their child to behave by hastily buying them whatever treat will keep them quiet. Mama Llama’s initial reaction is to exclaim, “Llama Llama that’s enough!” Her next reaction is a more patient one. She understands shopping is boring, but they have each other and so how about they try to make the task fun? I should note that part of their teamwork effort involves cleaning up the mess that Llama Llama made. After that, they proceed more calmly with their shopping trip.
Dewdey is known not just for the quality of her stories but also of her artwork. As I noted in my introduction, she makes incredible use of facial illustrations. When Llama Llama is sleepy, his eyes droop and his mouth almost disappears. When he is bored, his eyes roll and his tongue hangs out. There is also a priceless moment when his brows crease and his eyes narrow, because the clothes itch which Mama makes try. Aside from facial expressions, the full-page oil-painted spreads are bold and colorful. Each illustration is detailed, but not so much that the story is overshadowed with too much art.
Llama Llama Mad at Mama is an excellent read aloud which might get families talking about how to handle those mandatory shopping trips. Young readers will connect to Llama Llama’s frustration. Adults will also appreciate the subtle lesson Dewdney teaches about compassion and teamwork.
My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.
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