What is it
Llama Llama is a book series and an animated series based on the characters from the books.
Llama Llama is a young child with some separation anxiety, learning the basics of interacting with others and overcoming the conflict and resentment toward his mother.
Who is it for
The themes in the books make it ideal for very young children, age 2 to 4. The show is more general and kids as old as 6 might get something out of it
What Kids Like
The main plot of the first book Llama Llama Red Pajama is of a kid who doesn’t want to go to bed, who misses his mom and gets lonely. He screams for her and she comes running, but then scolds him for his “Llama drama”.
Our young kids relate to that very well and became obsessed with the book after having it read to them the first time. The red pajama book is worth sharing with your child. If they like it, you might consider the other books as well. A few others in the series deal with the same theme of the conflict that can arise between parent and child, especially at bedtime.
The appeal to kids is that, of all the kids stories out there, there aren’t many that explore the anguish of being left alone in a dark room at bedtime.
And the TV version also depicts scenarios that are not common in other kids media. For example, in one episode the child (called simply, “llama llama”) throws a fit at a grocery store and makes a mess by knocking items off a shelf. The mother (“mama llama”) then scolds him and makes him clean it up.
What Parents Like
The illustrations are fun and the rhyming language of the text makes it fun to read with a child.
I can’t think of another book, or set of books, that address the particular issue of the child getting angry at the parent. We see young adult literature in which teens defy the parent, but not board books for kids in which the child resents the parent for unfair bedtime practices.
And I like having scenes like the grocery store one described above. It’s good for kids to see depictions of bad behavior in other kids and seeing the consequences of it.
What the Critics Think
Several books in the series have won awards:
The show has had mixed reviews, with most ratings giving it ~3 stars out of 5.
Common Sense Media gives the series 5 stars, however
In some ways, the show doesn’t really distinguish itself from other shows aimed at young children, with themes such as the importance of sharing, how to express frustration, etc. The way that it does distinguish itself is in how it also addresses themes of conflict between a parent and a young child: e.g. the fights that happen at bedtime when the child decides he wants one more thing to eat before bed.
The show can be a bit generic – not bad, but not particularly different from Daniel Tiger or any of the other many, many wholesome kids’ cartoons out there now.
In the cartoon, the mother is voiced by the actress Jennifer Garner, so to me the show sounds like a long Capital One commercial. Although, after hearing so much of it, I’ve decided that she has a particularly clear and appealing voice.
Who Made it
Anna Dewdney wrote and illustrated about two dozen books, most of them in the Llama Llama series
She died at age 50 in 2016
Dewdney illustrated many books for other authors, but Llama Llama Red Pajama was the first one she wrote and illustrated herself in 2005. It almost immediately became an enormous hit.
An interview with the author at Parenting magazine
Where Can I Get it
The books are published by Viking and are available everywhere. The show is on Netflix