Llama Out Loud is the first in a new series written by Annabelle Sami, who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite new authors of hilarious middle-grade fiction. This is laugh-out-loud storytelling about a shy young girl and one very LOUD llama.
In Llama Out Loud, Annabelle Sami continues her mission to increase the representation of funny girls and diverse characters in children’s books. It is fantastic for some children to see a character that more closely resembles themselves and that they can feel more connected to. This is her second diverse lead character after she first introduced us to Agent Zaiba in Agent Zaiba Investigates. In Llama Out Loud we are introduced to Yasmin.
Yasmin is a mute ten year-old-girl who lives with her rather noisy extended-family in Brick Lane, East London. Her world changes for the worse when a scruffy, toy llama comes bursting into her life and unfortunately for Yasmin, he very much doesn’t know when to shut up! Levi the llama is loud, rude and always has something to say and is set to bring chaos and mischief into her life. There is no end to the drama that one llama can cause and there seems to be only one solution…the llama has to go.
Despite Yasmin’s best laid plans (recorded in her special ‘Adventures of Secret Agent Yasmin’ notebook) nothing seems to work and she is swept away in Levi’s antics. Whether Levi is playing pranks in Yasmin’s home, getting her into trouble at school or disrupting life at the old people’s home, there is never a dull moment when Levi is around. But perhaps there is a method to all of his madness and he is on his own secret mission to help Yasmin find her voice.
Llama Out Loud is packed full of mayhem, mischief and llama based puns. The action moves on at pace and has brilliant comic timing (mostly thanks to Levi). Levi is brilliant fun and is possibly the best talking animal since Donkey in Shrek. This cockney speaking llama had me in fits of giggles and despite all of his pranks and unwelcome antics you can’t help but love him. In amongst all the laughs are important messages on friendship, self-belief and finding the inner-confidence to stand up for yourself. Yasmin’s growth as a character throughout the story will be relatable to many readers. It is through the antics of Levi that Yasmin is able to overcome her shyness and eventually finds her voice.
I loved the Brick Lane setting. It is always a must visit place for me whenever I am in London and Sami depicts it perfectly. The hustle and bustle of Old Spitalfields Market, the rainbow coloured bagels, the curry houses, the cobbles…there is nowhere quite like it. The references to Pakistani culture are a great fit and these will help many readers understand and appreciate a culture that is different to their own. Allen Fatimaharan provides the black and white illustrations and they complement the story perfectly. I am particularly fond of the illustrations of Levi - his mischievous nature just shines through.
So grab yourself a glass of ‘llamanade’ and get ready for plenty of llama-drama. I eagerly await the next adventure, Llama on a Mission (I’ll alpaca my bags - yes Levi I know you’re a llama and not an alpaca).
Recommended for 7+.
With thanks to Netgalley and Egmont for the review copy.