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'Llama Llama' author dies of cancer, asks friends and fans for final favor

Anna Dewdney, author and illustrator of the beloved "Llama Llama" children's books, passed away September 3.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Parents and children who love the "Llama Llama" books — featuring a little llama famous for his red pajamas and being mad at his mama — are in mourning for the books' author and illustrator, the original Mama Llama, Anna Dewdney.

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Dewdney passed away at her home in Vermont on September 3 after a 15-month fight against brain cancer, Publisher's Weekly reported in an obituary for the author. She was 50 years old and is survived by partner Reed Duncan and two grown daughters.

Publishing house Viking first published "Llama Llama Red Pajama," written and illustrated by Dewdney, in 2005, and its warm and relatable rhyme about a little llama at bedtime was a hit: "Llama, Llama red pajama/waiting, waiting for his mama/Mama isn't coming yet./Baby Llama starts to fret."

"Her books are so special and play a huge role in our bedtime routine," said Sarah Cottrell, a mother of boys ages 6 and 3 in Bangor, Maine. "Right now, my youngest LOVES 'Llama Llama Mad At Mama,' because the llama gets to throw a fit in a grocery store."

Dewdney was described as an "outspoken advocate of literacy," and her final request reflects that passion: in lieu of a funeral service, Dewdney asked that friends and fans read a book to a child instead.

News of Dewdney's death created a flood of posts on social media in her honor. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, an organization that sends books to children who might not otherwise have them, posted, "In Anna's memory, read a book to your child tonight."

In a press release, Penguin Young Readers president Jen Loja said, "The entire Penguin Young Readers family is heartbroken. 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."