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Anna Dewdney, Author Of Beloved 'Llama Llama' Children's Books, Dies


Anna Dewdney wanted children to feel cared for and confident. She had that in mind as she wrote and illustrated her books.


ANNA DEWDNEY: (Reading) Llama llama red pajama reads a story with his mama. Mama kisses baby's hair. Mama Llama goes downstairs.

SHAPIRO: That's Anna Dewdney reading from her 2005 book "Llama Llama Red Pajama." It was the first in a series about a little llama experiencing the highs and lows of toddlerdom, like feeling alone at bedtime. The books went on to be best-sellers - millions of copies sold, millions of comforted kids and parents.


Anna Dewdney died over the weekend at her home in Vermont after a battle with brain cancer. Her publisher says Dewdney always saw picture books as a powerful medium. Here's Jen Loja, president of Penguin Young Readers Group.

JEN LOJA: In Anna's core, she really believed that if more children were read to, the world would literally be a better place and that what a picture book does is it teaches empathy. It teaches kids how to operate in a bigger world, how to see themselves in other characters.

SHAPIRO: Anna's most famous character was in her mind since her two daughters were very young. At the National Book Festival a few years ago, she explained how Baby Llama came to life.


DEWDNEY: You know, you drive around the state of Vermont, and you see lots of animals everywhere. And when my children were small, they would sit in the back seat in their booster seats, and I would drive around the countryside. And I'd see the cows, and I'd go, oh, look, Girls. Look at the cows. And I'd go, moo, moo.

CORNISH: She did this with chickens and sheep, too, always giving them a voice. And then one day they drove past a llama.


DEWDNEY: Llamas don't really say much of anything. I didn't know that at the time. So I said, oh, look Girls, llamas. Oh, llama, llama, llama, llama, llama, llama. And then all of a sudden this story that was inside became, oh, "Llama Llama Red Pajama." And there I was. And I was off.

SHAPIRO: Before she was a full-time author, she was a teacher, mail carrier, daycare provider and waitress. Publisher's Weekly told us today that Anna Dewdney's obituary crashed its site. It ends with this line. She requested that in lieu of a funeral service, people read to a child instead. Children's author and illustrator Anna Dewdney died Saturday at age 50.


DEWDNEY: (Reading) Little llama, don't you know Mama Llama loves you so? Mama Llama's always near even if she's not right here. Llama llama red pajama gets two kisses from his mama, snuggles pillow soft and deep. Baby Llama goes to sleep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.