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


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 Lynn (although . . . twas said with a grin).
The Players: Lloyd, Fred, Jane, Rhonda, Clyde, Lynn 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 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.

"Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially. You may read selections to sensible women, -- if young the better."
A. Bronson Alcott

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