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Children’s author, illustrator of Llama Llama stories dies

MONTPELIER, Vermont (AP) -- Best-selling children’s book author and illustrator Anna Dewdney, who gained fame with her series of Llama Llama stories, has died at age 50.

Dewdney, who had a 15-month battle with brain cancer, died Saturday at her home in Chester, publisher Penguin Young Readers said.

“The entire Penguin Young Readers family is heartbroken,” Jen Loja, president of Penguin Young Readers, said in a statement. “And as we grieve, we also celebrate Anna’s life, in dedicating ourselves to carrying forward her mission of putting books into as many little hands as possible.” 

Author Anna Dewdney (Penguin Kids)
Author Anna Dewdney (Penguin Kids)

Dewdney began to gain success in the 1990s as the illustrator of “The Peppermint Race,” by Dian Curtis Regan, and other children’s books. She gained her greatest success with the series that began with the 2005 launch of “Llama Llama Red Pajama.”

That story of Baby Llama’s difficulties getting to sleep at bedtime was a hit with critics and readers alike. It began a series of stories that grew to more than 10 titles with more than 10 million copies combined. Publishers Weekly reported that Netflix is developing an animated “Llama Llama” series due out next year.

Dewdney also was a well-known advocate for children’s literacy. She published a 2013 opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal in which she wrote that “empathy is as important as literacy” when introducing children to reading. By reading with a child, “we are teaching that child to be human,” and the act enables the child “to see the world through someone else’s eyes,” she wrote.

Anna Dewdney’s children’s book series “Llama Llama” (Viking Children’s Books)
Anna Dewdney’s children’s book series “Llama Llama” (Viking Children’s Books)

Born in New York and raised in Englewood, New Jersey, Dewdney graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art from Wesleyan University. She worked as a waitress, a rural mail carrier and a day care provider and taught art and history at a boarding school before gaining success as a children’s book illustrator and author.

In lieu of a funeral, Dewdney asked that people read to children, Penguin said. (AP)