From the moment he first had trouble falling asleep in Llama Llama Red Pajama (Viking, 2005), Anna Dewdney’s Baby Llama character has become a relatable everykid, beloved by preschoolers, parents—and booksellers. Now he’s galloping onto bestseller lists again in the new release Llama Llama Holiday Drama, which pubbed on October 19 with a first printing of 200,000. Baby Llama’s patience is mightily tried in the hustling, bustling countdown to Christmas. The book has already gone back to press and now has 280,000 copies in print.
What a difference five years—and lots of fans—have made. Llama Llama Red Pajama initially rolled out with 20,000 copies. Two subsequent titles had steadily increasing sales, and now the four-volume Llama oeuvre boasts more than two million copies in print.
“Llama Llama Red Pajama is a book that was a genuine grass-roots success,” says Regina Hayes, president and publisher of Viking Children’s Books. “The advance sale was respectable for a first book, although not huge, but then the rep reports started to come in and every account was reordering. As one bookseller said, ‘Everyone who looks at this book buys it.’ And that has continued to be true.”
It’s certainly been true for Joy Leavitt, owner of KiddlyWinks, a book and toy store in Longmeadow, Mass. KiddlyWinks hosted Dewdney for an event last month. “I couldn’t believe how excited people were,” Leavitt says. “Anna’s conversations with parents and kids were so lovely. She took time with everyone and drew a llama in each book. We sold all the copies of the new book, and ran out of the plush llama.”
Such an enthusiastic turnout is right in line with KiddlyWinks’ typical experience with Dewdney’s books. “Red Pajama has always been a standout and it has consistently sold well,” Leavitt says. “It was our number one picture book until Holiday Drama came out. I just think they are such great read-alouds. And Baby Llama’s expressions are phenomenal. Preschoolers love the books but older kids can enjoy them, too—they are good family reads about some of the issues that kids go through.”
Tracy Gates, associate editorial director at Viking, concurs. “What works so well about the Llama titles is that they hit the mark on so many levels,” she said. “They’re terrific read-alouds, are visually appealing, and each tells a story that is both comforting to children and helpful to parents, without being too didactic about it.”
Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney. Viking, $16.99 Oct. ISBN 978-0-670-01161-2