'Is Your Mama A Llama?' Author to Visit Barnegat
Deborah Guarino, author of a well-known rhyming picture book, will sign copies for kids and families at the Barnegat Library and read from her next story.
Deboarh Guarino's "Is Your Mama A Llama," a rhyming picture books for toddlers and preschoolers, has been in print for 23 years, in five different editions from hardcover and paperback, to board book format and animated reading.
The book has been recommended by the Oprah Book Club for young people in 2000, endorsed by a well-known movie actress, translated into French and Spanish, and incorporated into dialogue on TV shows.
The School Library Journal called the story "an enchanting animal guessing game."
But the book's most awe-inspiring accomplishment? Two years ago the title of "Is Your Mama a Llama" was used as a clue in "Jeopardy."
"It's what impresses my family the most," said Guarino, laughing.
Guarino is coming to the Barnegat Branch of the Ocean County Library Thursday, May 17, at 6:30 p.m., to meet her young fans and their families, sign her books and read from her next story.
Guarino, 58, who lives in Sussex County, where she also peforms for two different theater companies and writes song lyrics and plays, comes from a family of five, which prided itself on the children's involvement with the arts, the author said.
"When you come from a family with a lot of creative people, you don’t get singled out very much," Guarino said.
Guarino credited her fourth-grade teacher in Newark, Irene Rosatti, for giving her the encouragement she needed at just the right time.
"She made me feel special," Guarino said, "and I think every child needs that."
Guarino, who said she has always loved wordplay and rhyming, got her inspiration for "Is Your Mama A Llama?" when she took her then toddler son to Central Park Zoo on a rainy day.
"I said to him, 'Look, a Llama,'" she said.
Wanting her son to understand that animals can be of either gender, just like people, Guarino told her son, "'I don't know if it's a Papa Llama or a Mama Llama,'" she said.
"And it just hit me, 'Mama Llama, Mama Llama,'" Guarino said, remembering. "I couldn't get it out of my head."
When she came home, she just sat down and wrote the story, which took her 45 minutes, Guarino said.
The book was published by Scholastic in 1989, with illustrations by a well-known children's books artist Steven Kellogg, which Guarino said was quite a feat in itself, one she compared to a first-time filmmaker's movie getting produced by Steven Spielberg.
When asked to reflect on the story's success, Guarino said it might have had something to do with her treating her readers as equals.
"I grew up watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, which were really written for adults, and I've always had that sensibility," she said. "When I write, I always write to amuse myself, never to talk down to kids, and I think they appreciate that."
"I tried to keep the language challenging enough to educate children, and yet simple enough to entertain them," Guarino added.
Guarino's next story, which is currently on submission to an editor, takes this sensibility to the next level.
"Does The Shoe Fit?" which Guarino billed as a tale for any age, features peripheral fairytale characters starring in major roles, for a change.
"Who made the glass slipper?" is one of the questions asked in Guarino's new story, she said.
Guarino said in addition to reading from her book and the signing tomorrow, she will allow the audience a sneak peek into this yet-to-be-published manuscript.