Livingstone, Star. Harley. SeaStar Books, 2001. $4.95, 64 pages.
Links to Reviews Available Online:
Reader’s Annotation: Harley the llama is not cut out to be a pack llama, but has a calling to be a guard of sheep instead!
Harley can’t cut it as a pack llama. He doesn’t like the halter, the pack, or following other llamas. So when a shepherd is looking for something to protect her sheep from the coyotes that prowl outside of the fence, Harley is the perfect fit. The first time Harley meets the sheep, he charges them, they all scatter, the ram charges him, and none of the animals are very happy. But by the next morning, Harley has taken his place as the guard. He does his job through the seasons, befriending the ornery ram, being outnumbered by the pestering lambs, scaring the coyotes from their hunt, and being shorn for the spring fair. His llama fleece even wins a prize. Harley has found his calling and his place in the world.
Based on a true story, the story of Harley the guard llama is a charming one. The animals in the story are not anthropomorphized, they do not talk, but their personalities come out in Livingstone’s clever style. The language is simple and the sentences short. Harley’s thoughts and motivations are straightforward and clear. The description of the animals’ actions also show their personality. The ornery ram sneaks up behind the shepherd to butt her, the ewes and lambs stay away from the ram. Livingstone includes details and facts about guard llamas that make the story seem more believable, if a little wonderous. The particular habits of llamas and the way that Harley interacts with the other animals make him seem more realistic. That he enjoys being sprayed with the hose, playing with the ornery ram, and leading the sheep in a single file line make him endearing. Paired with Molly Bang’s illustrations, this short story is an enjoyable read.
- Popularity: 3
Genre and Subgenre: realistic fiction
Appeal Factors: animals, humor, easy reader
Readalike Titles or Authors:
- Llama Drama by Rose Impey
- Carolina’s Gift: A Story of Peru by Katacha Diaz
- The Littlest Llama by Jane Buxton
Awards Won and Book Lists:
- Boston Globe – Horn Book Award honor
- Notable Children’s book
- Harley getting a shower
- Harley and the ram playing
- The lambs jumping on Harley
Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:
- Why is a llama a good guard animal?
- What other unusual guard animals are there?
- How does Livingstone convey the thoughts and feelings of Harley without making him seem fictionalized?
Why I Chose This:
I chose this book because it was about a llama. I’d never heard of guard llamas, and the idea sounded intriguing. Harley was also portrayed as a rebellious llama, which also sounded quite funny.