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Llama Llama Single Mama

Llama Llama Red PajamaAnna Dewdney’s Llama Llama series has been one of the favorites of the four and five year olds in my classroom for years now. The fun rhymes combined with relatable stories and illustrations of the characters faces that are great at conveying emotions seem to really draw the children into the books. However, there is another aspect of the books which gives them extra depth. Mama Llama is a single mom.

This fact is never explicitly stated in the books, but the character of “Daddy Llama” has yet to make an appearance. Furthermore, from the very first book, Llama Llama Red Pajama, we see Mama Llama busily having to accomplish a variety of tasks without any support. Even though I have read these books hundreds of times over the past few years, I have literally never had a student ask a question about where Llama Llama’s Dad might be and I have never brought it up.

I suspect that in most cases young children won’t pick up on the fact that Llama’s family may not be like the heterosexual families with two parents that are found in your average children’s book; but, that does not mean that there is no impact from Llama Llama being raised by a single mom. Books like the Llama Llama series that don’t prominently feature a nuclear family almost subversively normalize that family type and give young children someone they can possibly relate to. Anecdotally, I can tell you that as a child raised by a single mom, I was often drawn to books/movies/songs with that dynamic even when I was not completely conscious of it.

Thus, I would argue it is important that we include books with a variety of family dynamic in our classrooms where the deviations from the standard nuclear family is not central to the story but sits in the background of the book. (Books where the different family type are central to the story can also be helpful if done well, but I would put them in a separate genre). Unfortunately, those books are few and far between. Anyone have any recommendations for books that feature family variations but where those variations are not central to the story?

Teddy Kokoros About Teddy Kokoros

Teddy Kokoros works as a Pre-K teacher and adjunct early childhood education professor in Boston, MA.

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Comments

  1. That’s interesting. I never noticed that, either. The Quantum League: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. Kirby has a boy raised by a single mom.

    Also, though not a book, in the Toy Story movies, Andy is raised by a mom, but there is never any mention of a dad.

  2. Lesley Colabucci says:

    Great question. I tend to notice when dads are not pictured or mentioned since my kid has two moms. But I’m also astutely award of our two dad families and how mom is every where in all media. What about “Kate and Nate are Running Late” or “Pecan Pie Baby.” I also recently came across “Bear Hug” by Laurence Pringle (who knew he wrote fiction!?) and thought it was a fun Dad-focused book that did not overcompensate or make the dad seem extra-ordinary as often is the trope.

  3. Erik Burgeson says:

    I had not noticed this before. But it is intriguing to think about. I’m just wondering if I have missed any good books with a single dad raising his kids. Not that is something I could relate to. 🙂

  4. I am rather pleased with myself that I never once questioned if there is a Papa Llama and wondered where he was. I actually won’t fret I’d one shows up in a future edition. Cue the music: I love the books just the way they are. 😉

  5. Editing above: Typo correction: “I actually won’t fret -if- one shows up in a future edition.”

    Either I need glasses or I have to start enlarging the font size on the screen. Or both. ;>

  6. I never noticed the absence of a daddy llama; however, my three year old daughter did. She loves the Llama Llama books and has her father and I read them to her at bedtime. The other night she asked where the daddy llama was and was very concerned. I thought this was pretty smart for a 3-year-old to notice. Great opportunity to teach her how not all families have a mommy and daddy.

  7. I was just noticing the lack of Dad in the Llama llama books myself. I haven’t read all of them (our library is missing some of the series), but I did notice that there’s never a dad, which is why I came online to look and see what others thought. I sincerely hope Mama Llama is a single mom, instead of a stay at home mom who takes on all the childrearing. I think that’s a bit optimistic of a viewpoint, but it would be nice. Otherwise it’s just transcribing the conservative family norms. I wish there were more dads in children’s books, actually, not being exceptional, but just a dad. Threatens so many books where you only see a woman taking care of her kid.

  8. To Kelly: “Rory the Dinosaur” is very cute. And seemingly on the Single Dad side of the scale.

  9. there is a book series? that I don’t remember the author, one is called when mama comes home tonight and another is called when papa comes home tonight. each is about a nightly routine from when the parent comes home to sleeping. and each one is a different family. lovely single parent books. as a military family my little one LOVES to hear daddy only books when his is away.

  10. Daddy, Could I Have an Elephant? by Jake Wolf and Marylin Hafner is a single-dad book. It’s never explicitly a single dad, but as Jake imagines life with various pets it is always just him and his dad.

  11. Rhythm Grace says:

    Llama llama, single moma,
    Ain’t got no time for llama moma drama.
    Llama Moma do the best she could,
    Llama llama growing up in the hood.
    Llama Daddy no were to be found,
    No one seem to care Llama Daddy ain’t around.
    Llama Moma deserve some mad respect,
    Moma llama lonely but Moma not wrecked.

  12. Tony Schmitz says:

    Maybe one day their will finally be a “Llama Llama needs a Papa”. Men need to step up and be dads. Theirs so much more to it then just being a financial contributor.

  13. My daughter is watching the new series on Netflix and has read all the books and she just said that she always wondered where the Daddy is. I thought I’d look it up and see if there was an actual answer, but appears the Dad isn’t actually ever addresssd so we will go with the dad isn’t around

  14. Richard Sutherland says:

    It’s so nice to see all the comments as to why dads don’t need inclusion into the family realm, if it weren’t for dads humans as a species would be living in caves and getting eaten as snacks.
    If you’re so intent on destroying core values that are in fact important for happy children, perhaps it should be kept on its own platform and not children’s books.

  15. As we are sitting here watching llama llama on Netflix now noticed no daddy llama so I got curious and googled it came across this. Apparently im not alone on noticing this. But I also noticed they don’t call their teacher by Ms. or Mrs. they call her by her by her first and last name however the librarian is referred to as Ms.Lenora. but the show is cute my three year old loves it

  16. Christina says:

    Richard – Who attacked a nuclear family? Also, people can be single parents for a variety of reasons. My cousin’s wife just died of appendiceal cancer and left him with four children under six. A friend’s father was schizophrenic and sexually molested all his daughters, so he was removed from their lives. Those kids need to see single parent families too.

  17. Watching and reading Llama Llama, I noticed there was no dad, but there was a grandpa. I am a single mother of two boys. My six year old son told me that maybe his father is in the Navy. That was just cute, cause their father lives out of state…not the military though.

  18. I’m with Richard (although with a little less emotion). I disagree slightly with the original article/post; while I can absolutely see the argument of the importance of children’s books for everyone to relate to, I think those are better kept to the home and not the classroom.

    I got here like many of you, googling where Daddy Llama is, as a very active working father in a traditional nuclear family (1 Mom, 1 Dad, and we have 1 child).

    Raising children is sometimes challenging and very demanding. The more time and effort parents invest in their children, the better the children grow. It follows logic (and studies have shown) that two people doing the raising in the home vice one by themselves (regardless of gender) is healthier for everyone involved. I was raised by a single mother, and have single parented my child for months at a time, and regardless of the strength of my mother (or any other single parent), the child(ren) is exposed to the natural ups and downs and mood swings we all go through, without another parent available to provide balance. It indeed “takes a village”, and extended family and close friends can help also, but there is still something to be said for two parents in the home.

    My bottom line is, I am the Daddy Llama in my house, and I’m a little sad for Llama Llama that he doesn’t have a Daddy Llama too.

  19. As a single dad, I noticed no father after episode two. I do find it strange that the show hasn’t mentioned anything, also I guess the show is based off of books. Which I heard the books don’t mention anything either, I don’t think all of us dads are bad but we do get a bad rep from all the dead beat ones. I see my boy 50/50 but hey the show doesn’t bother me but maybe it should mention something eventually, especially having a child going through divorce and over 50% of children dealing with the same.

  20. I had wondered years ago if Mama Llama was a single mom, as I am. I think it’s importsnt to explore all types of family, and I’m proud to say my son’s pre-k class teacher does so as appropriately as possible. There are plenty of books on single parent families, both for dads and moms, and other family dynamics as well. Just google it. I’m glad to have found this post, as we just discovered Llama Llama on Netflix. I do think it’s important to bring into the classroom for so many reasons. One of which I addressed with my son and his classmate directly. I believe it teaches understanding and acceptance. Kids at a young age don’t need complex explanations. They do pretty well with the simple facts of other family dynamics. “Jacob, is your dad at work?” My son “I don’t have a daddy.” My son asked me questions later and being a psychologist in training at age 38 I learned about simplicity for such young children. And to stop thinking of them as thinking like us. That whole interaction fared well for his friend’s family and mine with my son. i Strive to teach my son about diversity and acceptance of such, and I’m thankful his school does the same. One of the best preschools in Annapolis!!

  21. Katrina M Warren says:

    I am a single mother and noticed right away. Just like toy story. You know what I am quite glad. There are millions of book and family movie that children with no father’s have to watch an read. That also goes to school with family day or daddy daughter dances and many more. That children have to experience void everytime, an trust me it is voiced. Children notice, my 4yr old hasn’t notice there’s no daddy, because he believes that to be normal for him. I hope they keep story line just the way it is. I am thankful for the small handful of what our family can relate to

  22. Angrywoodchucks Blog says:

    My daughters been watching this on Netflix. I watched with her for 15 mins and asked her, “Where’s the dad?” She said there’s no dad, there’s a grandpa. Went to Google. Found this. So here’s the deal….I don’t want my daughter taught acceptance and compassion in school because; a) I don’t know from what personal conviction any given teacher is going to teach that to her and b) it is not the government’s job, nor concern, to teach my family, my family’s values.

    I can assume, that a teacher that is a single mom could very easily teach the “values” of Llama Llama different from say, my wife and me, that believe two parent households, whenever possible, are preferred to a degree greater than zero, as opposed to a single parent household of any sex. It’s possible, the teacher is an advocate for single motherhood or fails to point out the negative aspects of it, creating, through the sin of omission, a falsified reality that my child then accepts as fact – which at some point I have to unwind.

    Therefore, it is not the teachers place, nor the government’s place, to assume that the values as they see it, are the same as the values as we see it, which is why we call them family values and not social values, or societal values, or Federal values, because we all understand that we are all different and hold a wide variety of different core beliefs. That is our freedom and our natural right.

    Thanks to Llama Llama, I have taught my daughter that our family’s value is the belief, personally and statistically, that two parent households provide better results to children than single parent households. I have taught her that we don’t discuss these values with other children, because it’s not the childrens fault if they are from a single parent household, we also don’t know the reason for the single parent household, whether the mom made a bad choice of father, or the father died, etc… and so we don’t discuss it because there is a possibility it will only distress the child and makes no difference, ultimately, in how my daughter feels about the other child.

    But I do want her to be aware of why children have single parents, the leading causes of single parenthood, the other causes of single parenthood, and when she’s older why it’s important for her to be critical and hold high standards for the man she chooses to have a family with, and why two parents has been shown to be better than one.

    So for that, I do thank Llama Llama as a teachable moment.

  23. Not to throw a spanner in the works, but I am guessing male llamas leave the child rearing to the mother llama. That could be a potential response to a kid.

    If you’re going to fret over this, nearly every fairy tale has a dead mother and wicked stepmother.

    While I cannot say who desired an end to cave dwelling, it was probably the person stuck cleaning it.

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