Anna Dewdney is a New York Times bestselling author/illustrator of children’s picture books, most notably the LLAMA LLAMA series. Her books are known for the rhyming and cadence, as well as their emotive content and expressive illustrations.
For what age audience do you write?
The label on the books says “birth to five”, but really my books are meant for anyone.
Henry: Indeed. Who doesn’t like a rhyming llama. No one, that’s who.
Tell us about your latest book.
My most recent books are two Llama Llama board books, LLAMA LLAMA TRICK OR TREAT and LLAMA LLAMA JINGLE BELLS.
What do you hope readers will get from reading those?
These board books are part of a series of four little books that are meant to describe certain holidays in a basic, simple way to very small children. The books are intended to reflect the child’s experience of the holiday.
Henry: Next up: LLAMA LLAMA ROSH HASHANAH?
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
The hardest part of writing, for me, is holding myself true to honest, tight rhyme…..it is important to me to write in verse that ANYONE can read without trouble.
Henry: I always discourage beginning authors to use rhyme. Rhyming well is HARD.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
Being a writer has reinforced for me the belief that it is critically important to tell the truth as I see it.
Henry: And to raise public awareness of critical llama-related issues.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
If I’d never been an author, I never would have seen the thousands of wonderful little faces I get to see when I travel to bookstores and schools.
Henry: That is the best.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Be honest. Read all the time. Persist.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I talk my words out loud as I write. Or read them to my dogs. Other than that, my work space needs to be silent.
Henry: Reading rhyme aloud really helps ensure good meter.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I would want to fly, of course! Being invisible is too sneaky, and I have nothing to hide; and I don’t want to know anyone else’s secrets (that’s their business, not mine). But flying would be lovely!
Henry: I would have bet money you were going to pick “have a wool coat that always keeps me warm.”
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Barbara Cooney, Garth Williams, and Margaret Wise Brown might be good choices. They’d all know each other already, but I’d have fun talking with them. I think we’d all get along. I’m guessing that only Barbara Cooney or Garth Williams cooks, though. We might have to order out.
Henry: If you have those authors over, the least you can do is have Wolfgang Puck cater.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
The Kraken. Except now we know that they did really exist: giant squids.
Henry: An innovative choice! I just wrote a picture book with a squid protagonist.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Of course, much of the time I’m not writing, I’m drawing or painting. If I’m not doing that, then I’m out in the woods or gardening. The dogs are always around. I spend time with my boyfriend, often in the woods or as I draw and paint. Whenever I can, I see the children…..but they are very busy people and don’t live at home any more.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
I don’t plan on having a tombstone! If I had one, it would likely say, “Here lies the Llama Llama lady”. But I would WANT it to say, “What are you doing here? Go read one of her books!”
Where can readers find your work?
Well, everywhere (I hope!). Any bookstore or library.
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.