'Llama, Llama' Author Dies, Forgoes Funeral Service In Lieu Of One Simple Request
Author Anna Dewdney dies and asks family and fans to ‘read to a child’ in lieu of funeral service
On Saturday, September 3rd, Anna Dewdney died after a 15-month battle with brain cancer. Her final request? In lieu of a funeral service, she asked that her family and friends read to a child.
As with most of the internet, I was devastated to learn that the writer of some of my favorite children’s books had passed away, and at such a young age. There are some books that, when they come out, you just buy. Period. For me, those were the Llama Llama books. Every time a new one came out, I knew it was going to be timely, helpful, and fun to read with my kids. Dewdney’s books had a certain kind of magic to them that I couldn’t get enough of, and the online reaction to her death shows that I am far from alone.
Dewdney had dreams of becoming a writer for many years before she got to do it full-time. Before she became successful, Dewdney worked as a waitress, mail carrier, daycare provider, and teacher. Her first Llama, Llama book, “Llama, Llama Red Pajama” was published in 2005 and became a huge hit thanks to Dewdney’s lovely illustrations and the sweet yet sassy character of Little Llama. In Little Llama, we saw our kids — warts and all. And in Mama Llama, we saw a mother who was much more patient than we were, but who we could empathize with.
Dewdney wrote a total of ten Llama Llama books, which sold over ten million copies combined. There is also a Llama Llama Netflix series in development, which I am sad my kids will be too old for but is sure to be terrific, and a new book, “Little Excavator,” coming out in 2017.
Dewdney was also a passionate advocate of reading with children. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal in 2013 titled, “How Books Can Teach Your Child To Care,” Dewdney wrote that books teach children empathy and humanity. “When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes,” she wrote. “When we read a book with children, [they] are drawn out of themselves to bond with other human beings, and to see and feel the experiences of others. I believe that it is this moment that makes us human. In this sense, reading makes us human.”
The Llama Llama series was a Godsend for me when my twins were toddlers. It seemed like whichever parenting issue I was struggling with, Dewdney had a book for it. From sleep anxiety (“Llama Llama Red Pajama”), to the first day of preschool (“Llama Llama Misses Momma”), to bullying (“Llama Llama and The Bully Goat”), Dewdney recognized and respected the feelings of children while also showing them the appropriate way to handle tough situations. Reading her books to my kids was a way of telling them, “I understand, and I love you, but this woman says it much better than I can.”
She is survived by her partner, Reed Duncan, and two grown daughters. Tonight, I might dig out “Llama Llama Time to Share” for my now third-graders, but substitute “iPad” for “Fuzzy Llama.”
Dewdney’s books and her advocacy for literacy were gifts to us all, and she will be missed.
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