Friday, February 13, 2015

Author/ Illustrator Interview with Anna Dewdney


The DMS was lucky enough to interview Anna Dewdney. Fairday reviewed her children's book Llama Llama: Time to Share, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours! We're excited to learn a little more about her story. So, without further ado... take it away, Anna!

What inspired you to write the Llama Llama books?

I had Llama Llama’s story kicking around in my head for a few years when my children were small (for obvious reasons), but the protagonist became a llama when my little girls and I started driving past a llama in a field and I started to say, “llamallamallamallama” every time we went by. I loved the sound of the word, and so the story became a llama – llama story. He is “little boy” because during the final incarnation of the story before I submitted it for publication, my own children were older and I was working at a boarding school for young, dyslexic boys…and I put them to bed several times a week. Therefore, I was thinking about little boys and separation anxiety.

How long does it take you to write a Llama Llama book?

That is very tough to say!  In reality, it takes years. The gestation period can be two to fifteen years, and the actual official scramble with the writing can take from three months to two years. And I’m often still fine-tuning things are the book is going to print! In fact, the latest Llama Llama book, LLAMA LLAMA , GRAM, and GRANDPA, is being fine-tuned right now…. while the paintings are en route to China.

What made you choose a Llama as your character?  

Well, as I mentioned…..it’s the sound of the word that initially attracted me.  However, llamas are such wonderfully weird animals; an artist has a lot of room to play with a physique like that.


What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?

Oh my goodness! There are so many books that I loved and continue to love.  HIGGLETYPIGGLETY POP, by Maurice Sendak, is probably my favorite picture book. I adored Tasha Tudor when I was a child, but I like her work somewhat less, now. I did want to be Tasha Tudor when I was a child, and I suppose I’m a version of her, now. Barbara Cooney, Garth Williams, Ruth Krauss, Beatrix Potter….the list goes on. I wish I could have known E. B. White and Garth Williams; I think we would have understood each other. Kevin Henkes has been a real inspiration to me. Knowing his work was out there kept me going through all my years of rejections…. I figured that if people responded to his work, that there had to be room for mine. (Not that I’m comparing the quality of my work to his! But he and I are dealing with very similar issues in our picture books.)

If you could live anyplace real or fictional, where would it be? Why?

I’m living precisely where I want to be! I have yet to find a place or people that I feel more comfortable with than Vermonters in Vermont. We are a stoic, yet loving and respectful people up here. I don’t like the cold, but I put up with it so I can have the rest of the year. And I used to think that I wanted to go back to the 1800’s (as Tasha pretended to), but that was until I had children. NO WAY would I want to go back in time, as a woman! 

Ah, Vermont.
You are the author and illustrator of the Llama Llama books. The illustrations are enchanting and the rhyming cadence is appealing. What is your process of weaving the illustrations into the words to set the scene?

My books come together almost like quilts. I’m happy that I chose a quilt as the endpapers for the first LLAMA book; it suits the entire series. The book starts with a feeling (anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, etc.) and develops into snippets of language and image.  I work on the text and the images together until I get to the “official” writing stage, and that’s when I get a working dummy together. I’m never able to write well without a set of drawings. Some author/illustrators are more illustrator than author (or the other way around); I think I’m very balanced. Both pieces play an equal role in the creation of the book inside my head and on the page.


In Llama Llama: Time To Share, Llama learns how to share with a friend. What is your advice for parents who are teaching their children how to play nicely with others? 

Sharing is very hard to do…. for everyone! Grown-ups are lousy at sharing, yet we expect our children to do it. The truth is, some things really are not meant to be shared, especially things that have deep emotional resonance. If they have to be shared, then it is important to address that difficulty head-on. A parent can’t gloss over a child’s difficulty with that. Demonstrating that sharing is not the same as losing can help (i.e. “Even though we are sharing our blocks, we will still have them when so and so goes away.”). Young children aren’t developmentally able to reason well. And we shouldn’t ask them to share things that they have deep emotional attachments to until they are ready to do so (unless they have to share a parent with a new sibling, which is a more complicated issue).


Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

I’m always working on new books! I’m currently officially scheduled through 2021, but I have many more books that I’m gestating that may find the light of day well into the middle of the century. The official books that are on their way to publication this year and next are: LLAMA LLAMA, GRAM, and GRANDPA, a book (not officially titled) about a little piece of heavy machinery, a second book (not officially titled) about Nelly Gnu, and some early readers. I’m working on the heavy equipment book right now, and it brings me so much joy! I first wrote it back in 2005, and it’s morphed a bit since then. It took me a while to learn to draw my little guy, but I think I’ve got him now. He’s chugging around with me all day.

Author, Stephanie Robinson and Llama Llama at the 2014 UCONN Children's Book Fair










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64 comments:

  1. I like the sound of this book... my daughter is having a second child.. my grandson is a doll but he'll have to learn how to share with his sister eventually. I agree children shouldn't have to share their special items... I'll have to purchase this book for him... he loves books♡

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    1. Launna- If your grandson loves books- then I know he will adore Llama Llama! Happy reading! :)

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  2. omg...have some friends with kids who would go crazy...absolutely adorable!

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    1. oops forgot ha, tigers intrigue me most I'd say!

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    2. Beth Ellyn- Llama Llama is absolutely adorable! Your friends' kids will love these books! :)

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  3. What a wonderful interview! I so enjoyed hearing about the process of creating a children's picture book. I agree, llama is such a musical word to play on and a fun and unique animal to write about.

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    1. Donna- So glad you enjoyed the interview! I find the process of creating a children's PB fascinating! :)

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  4. Great interview. I LOVE the Llama Llama books I've read. Can't wait to read this one. I'm crazy about turtles and tortoises. Don't know why, I just am.

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    1. Rosi- Awesome to hear that you love the Llama Llama books too! I know you will love this one too! I also think turtles are cute. :)

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  5. Anna's illustrations are adorable! It's great she has so many authors that inspired her. I think I'd love living in Vermont, too. Wishing her much success!

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    1. Lexa- I agree with you that Anna's illustrations are fabulous. Vermont is one of my favorite states! :)

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  6. Fantastic post. I am looking forward to the newest Llama llama book. My children love the books. We have almost all of them. Have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. Heidi- I am excited for the newest Llama Llama book too! Glad these are a favorite with your kids. :)

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  7. This sounds like a lovely book, and wow, it must take a lot of time in the makings to make such a wonderful and detailed book! I love the dedication she puts into her work. That aside, although the owl and dolphin are my favourite animals, llama is one of my favourite words to say! Which makes me pleased that the sound of the word was what inspired her to write this story.

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    1. Olivia-Savannah- It really is a lovely book. I can only imagine the time and care to add the details into a picture book. I think llama is a fun word to say too. It makes me want to smile. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. :)

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    1. The Armchair Squid- What a lovely state you live in! :)

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  9. I LOVE Anna's Llama books! Thank you so much for this amazing interview!

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    1. Becky- You are welcome! I am glad to hear you love Anna's books too! :)

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  10. What a cool interview! Scheduled until 2021? Wow! That's awesome and quite a lot of books :)

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    1. Meradeth- I know! Isn't it amazing to be scheduled until 2021! Impressive! :)

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  11. The Llama (mascot) was at an event I did in the fall. He was a huge hit.

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    1. Kelly- I be the Llama mascot was a big hit! He was very popular at the children's book fair I went to as well. :)

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  12. What a great interview. I feel such awe toward anyone who can both illustrate and write. I was only given one talent and I'm still honing that one!

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    1. Stephanie- I agree with you! Being able to illustrate and write is amazing! You are a talented writer, Stephanie. Love the way you put words on the page. :)

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  13. We picked up our first Llama Llama book at the bookstore a while back, super cute. And I am intrigued by foxes and otters. =)

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    1. Leandra- The Llama Llama books are fun and cute. :) I am obsessed with otters. Soooo cute!

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  14. Fantastic interview and I love the books. I adore llamas and in fact have a stuffed one the hubby got me years ago on my bed. His name is Wallaby Spit. I would love to win a copy for my granddaughter Sophia

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    1. Kimba- So glad you enjoyed the interview. How adorable that you have a stuffed llama that your husband gave you. Fun name! Good luck in the giveaway! :)

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  15. Thanks for a wonderful interview, ladies. The books sound like such fun. Wish I had some wee ones to read them. I'll be saying llama, llama now cause it's so neat. :)

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    1. You are welcome, Beverly! It is a fun book. Llama Llama is definitely catchy. :)

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  16. Great interview dear. I'm sure this book will be a hit to kids and kids at heart. :)

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    1. SuperLux- Thanks! It is great for kids and kids at heart! :)

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  17. This was such a great interview. I'll be looking for these books for my grand kids.
    Thanks for your nice comment on my blog.
    Hugs,
    JB

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    1. Julia- I always enjoy your blog! Glad you enjoyed the interview. I am sure your grand kids will love the Llama Llama books. :)

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  18. Such cute looking books! I wish my kids were still young enough for picture books… *hunts for friends with young children*

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    1. Kate- These are cute books. If you find any friends with young kids, they will love them! :)

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  19. Aquela cor de batom é linda! Estou apaixonada!

    Adorei a entrevista com a Anna Dewdney. Não conhecia os livros...

    Ótimo sábado!

    Beijo! ^^

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    1. Amanda- Thanks for visiting! Glad to introduce you to Anna's book. Have a great week! :)

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  20. A children's book about llamas? That's clever and the illustrations are adorable!

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    1. Chrys- I thought they were unique and adorable too! :)

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  21. A children's book about llamas? That's clever and the illustrations are adorable!

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  22. Love it. teaching kids about sharing is really important.

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    1. Mary- I agree! Super important to learn to share! :)

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  23. I think Llamas are the perfect choice for your story, Anna. A few years back my husband and I farm-sat. There were over 10 Llamas. They were gentle, sweet, cuddly animals. They made the morning rituals a happy routine. Best of luck with your books. It's a wonderful idea!

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    1. Joylene- How cool that you farm-sat over 10 llamas! It sounds like a wonderful experience. The llamas I have been lucky enough to meet have been so sweet. Thanks for your wonderful comment for Anna! :)

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  24. These books are wonderful and how awesome to have a giant llama mascot! I'll choose seals for animals that intrigue me. Thanks for sharing this great interview!

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    1. Marcia- Thanks for visiting! A giant llama mascot is definitely cool! :)

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  25. Great interview, missing my kiddies(who are all adults) now to share this!

    Congrats on the release!

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    1. Nas- Thanks for stopping in! Glad you enjoyed the interview. :)

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  26. I LOVE the Llama Llama series. Too bad my kids are too old for it now.

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    1. Stina- Awesome to hear you love the Llama Llama series. The books are just so cute! :)

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  27. Anna's right ~ some things aren't meant to be shared yet grown-ups expect children to always be generous and to always share everything. That isn't fair especially since we can't bring ourselves to do it sometimes! The Llama Llama series is a huge hit with very young readers. I loved the one about him going to school for the first time.

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    1. Claudine- I agree! It is good to share, but sometimes you have to know if there is something you are not okay sharing because you won't be able to handle it if something happens to the special object/book. :)

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  28. My two little granddaughters are going to love these sweet books.

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    1. Barbara- They definitely will! :)

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  29. My kids love the Llama Llama books! As far as intriguing animals, I've always loved the horse (no surprise there). My daughters love cheetahs and zebras.

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    1. Dena- So awesome to hear your kids love the LLama Llama books! I love horses. :) ~Jess

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  30. WE LOVE Llama Llama Bully Goat! And use the phrase don't be a bully goat all the time. An intriguing animal? Dogs--they are a wonder to me.

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    1. Margo- Yeah! How cool that your family uses a phrase from Llama Llama Bully Goat. :)

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  31. So excited to share with my granddaughter Sophia. Thank you!

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    1. Congratulations, Kimba! We hope you and Sophia enjoy it! :)

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