Llamas and Circus Animals

Josie Leavitt - November 23, 2009

Author events on Saturdays are always fun. This past Saturday we had not one, but two events – we were lucky enough to have two great author/illustrators.

Anna Dewdney was our first event, at 11 a.m.  We had a roomful of toddlers who were there to hear any of the Llama Llama stories. Anna was a charming reader who did admirably with the noise of some kids, who made it a challenge to hear, let alone read, and she didn’t miss a beat. (Check out this little guy, on the left who thought the lamp was really cool.) Rather than take questions after each story, Anna smartly chose to take questions at the end. There was one little boy who had a question in the middle of the second story. Rather than interrupt the flow of the reading (the kids had finally settled down), she waited to call on him. She nodded to him and said she’d get to him, but he had no faith and continued to keep his little hand in the air. At one point he used his other hand to prop up his elbow. I should mention, he was in the front row.

His question was actually really astute. He noticed that Llama Llama’s toy, the dolly llama, expressions mirrored Llama Llama’s. His question was very simple: "Why llamas?" I loved the answer. Apparently whenever Anna drove by farm animals, even as an adult, she’d make their noises. Mooing for cows, baaing for sheep, but one day she drove by some llamas and didn’t know what sound they made, so she just went, "llama llama." And thus a great character was born. Sometimes it’s that simple and charming.

Chris Van Dusen came at 4 p.m. and captivated a small group of kids who all were fascinated by the process of creating the art for a picture book. The crowd for this event was older and they just loved watching him draw a flying pig. One boy, about eight or so, had declared just last week that he wanted to be an artist. His eyes were wide as he watched Chris draw. It really felt like a life-changing moment for this child.

Not only did Chris read from his newest book, The Circus Ship (utterly charming, if you don’t know it), he brought some of the original paintings. He explained his process of working from the the back to the front of the painting, from the farthest away to the nearest.

I love meeting illustrators because I have no artistic talent, and no real idea how anything can be painted,  and it’s great to see how they do what they do, and so easily. To hear any artist tell of the process of sketching and then tracing the lines and using gouache (or other medium) to create a fully realized painting always astounds me.

Meeting all these talented folks is one of the best perks of my job. And a great side benefit is I get to sell their books for the holidays. Pretty much a win-win for all involved.

2 thoughts on “Llamas and Circus Animals

  1. Chris Van Dusen

    It was my pleasure to visit your store and I can’t wait to come back. I was so impressed not only with your beautiful store, but with your passion for books. It really shows that you and Elizabeth love what you’re doing. And I picked up a copy of your bulletin, “Pig-Tales” and read it in bed last night. So that’s what’s on MY night stand! Thanks for having me! -Chris

  2. shelftalker elizabeth

    Chris, we LOVED having you visit! Talent, kindness with kids and adults, graciousness, hilarious books — what’s not to love? Thanks again for coming to the Flying Pig! And thanks for saying so many nice things about the store. Don’t we have all great jobs in this field? (Totally stress-free, of course.)


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