Product Focus

Wanna See a Llama? – picture book

  • Wanna See a Llama? – picture book

A wild and wacky story about animal recognition to be shared and enjoyed…

At a glance

● Follows on from Wanna See a Penguin? by the same author and illustrator.

● Introduces aspects of basic taxonomy in a child-friendly way.

● Lively and fun text and illustrations.

● Features an interesting and unexpected range of animals.

● Includes a fact file about the creatures featured.

Some children’s books are achingly educational. Some are just a lovely sharing experience. Here’s a new offering from Oxford University Press that walks a fine line between the two and artfully combines belly laughs with biological observation.

Written by Simon Philip and illustrated by Ian Smith, Wanna See a Llama? (RRP £7.99) is a jolly romp about a couple of friends seeking these eponymous animals around a busy city – inexplicable, I know, but so what?

One of these friends self-identifies as a llama expert; the other doubts her credentials as, time after time, she appears to point out animals that are definitely not llamas.

Of course, she never admits to making mistakes but, rather, frames her missteps as checking whether her friend really knows. I’m sure we’ve all met people like that.

The difference with this book is that it picks out features of the incorrectly identified creatures to introduce aspects of basic taxonomy in a manner that is accessible to the young reader.

I also loved the way it does not rely solely on clichéd animal choices, such as lions and elephants, but throws in plenty of unexpected characters. I don’t think I have ever seen a pangolin or snake-necked turtle featured in a children’s book before, so I found myself learning too.

The running gag throughout the book is that there are plenty of actual llamas sprinkled across the pages in the background. They are amusingly anthropomorphised but clearly visible, and the so-called expert seems to be the only one who can’t see them.

She misses all the signs (sometimes literally as they seem to be heading for a llama parade) until the very end, when there is another twist in the tail. But I won’t spoil that for you.

This is the sort of book that children and adults can share together with enormous delight. I can just imagine an almost pantomimic atmosphere whereby the little one is continually calling out “It’s behind you!”

There is plenty of engaging detail in the wonderful images. Thanks to Smith’s excellent illustrations, it could even provide a fun exercise in identifying and interpreting characters’ facial expressions as an early exercise in inference.

Returning to the biological theme, there is a sort of glossary at the back which offers further facts about the various animals featured in the book. Thankfully, though, they have resisted any urge to inflict a screeching change of tone from humorous to serious and, instead, present the information in an entertaining way.

Anyone who has already read Wanna See a Penguin? by the same creative team will find this one very familiar but no less entertaining. If a formula works, it’s worth sticking with it.

Wanna see another after llama? Yes please!

The verdict

● Perfect for young children and their parents/carers to share.

● Fun and engaging.

● Focuses on animal features.

● Refreshingly unusual animal choices.

● Plenty of interest on every page.

Purchase if…
…you enjoy sharing lively, amusing and subtly educational books with your children.

Reviewed by: Mike Davies