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Come, Llamas

Come, Llamas

4.8 13
by Jennifer Morris

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It’s spring time on the Kinnaman Ranch in Alaska, and nine-year-old JT is sure it will be the best one yet. This season he’s determined to become a pitcher on his school’s baseball team and to raise his very own llama, just like Grandad promised. When baby llama Elmo is born, JT has all kinds of plans for the first of his herd. Every night after


It’s spring time on the Kinnaman Ranch in Alaska, and nine-year-old JT is sure it will be the best one yet. This season he’s determined to become a pitcher on his school’s baseball team and to raise his very own llama, just like Grandad promised. When baby llama Elmo is born, JT has all kinds of plans for the first of his herd. Every night after baseball practice, JT trains Elmo. And every morning, the small llama seems to be growing stronger—even as Grandad’s persistant cough gets worse and worse.

Then a bear charges through their property, and JT doesn’t see how their family will manage. Half their llamas are gone, Elmo’s leg is broken, and it’s not long before Grandad needs to be rushed to the clinic. But everything’s always growing and changing on a llama ranch, and JT will find a way to keep on keeping on and make Grandad proud.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A unique setting and lifestyle mark this first novel about nine-year-old JT Kinnaman's coming-of-age. Springtime on the Kinnamans' Alaskan llama ranch is birthing season, and JT, the youngest of his family, has been promised the first newborn will be his to raise. In a gritty opening chapter, the first cria is stillborn, but its tiny twin survives. JT nurtures Elmo, and the llama gets stronger in deliberate contrast to JT's 86-year-old grandfather, whose life is ebbing. Despite the plot's predictability and the unappealing cover art, there's plenty here to attract boys, who'll envy JT his FourTrax, the four-wheel vehicle he drives everywhere, including across the wilderness to rescue Elmo after a bear attacks the herd. Squeamish readers, be forewarned the family burns the dead baby llama's carcass because fresh meat of any kind would attract predators and the scene where JT's mother sets a llama's broken leg is hard to read without wincing. A subplot involving JT's baseball team seems tacked on, but the details are authentic. Middle-graders will likely be entranced by the unusual JT, who mucks barns before school, mixes up biscuit dough for two dozen and, when the injured Elmo can't nurse, milks a llama himself and feeds it to the animal through a rubber kitchen glove. Laura Ingalls Wilder's got nothing on this modern-day pioneer. Ages 8-12. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This beautifully- written story is about nine-year-old JT, who lives with his family on a llama farm in Alaska. This year JT has been promised the first llama calf of the season. JT is excited about starting his own herd and dreams of the day he will be a llama farmer like his father and grandfather. His other passion—besides being a llama farmer—is baseball. He has been practicing all year with his grandfather to become a pitcher on the school's baseball team. JT's dreams start to come true as the first calf is born and he makes pitcher for the baseball team. Then one day it all changes—a bear breaks into the farm and kills several llamas. His own llama is missing and his grandfather becomes very ill and is put in a clinic. JT has to make some important decisions and learn how to deal with loss and death. This wonderful book was written by a first time novelist. 2005, Delacorte Press, and Ages 8 to 12.
—Debbie Bohn
Kirkus Reviews
Good intentions and informative details can't overcome flat characterization and a clunky, predictable plot in this middle-grade story set on an Alaskan llama ranch. J.T. Kinnaman, the nine-year-old narrator tells readers how much he loves his 86-year-old grandfather, how eager he is to raise his own llama (and thus feel like a full partner in the family business), and how hard he works to improve his skills and become the pitcher of his baseball team. Meanwhile, Grandad's health is failing, a bear breaks in and attacks the llamas, and J.T.'s llama, Elmo, is lost and injured. Unfortunately, though it's clear that Morris knows plenty about her subject, she fails to bring either characters or setting to life. Readers won't be particularly surprised to discover that Grandad's illness is fatal, that J.T. manages to nurse Elmo back to health, and that he eventually finds a measure of relief from his grief in carrying on the work of the family ranch. Earnest but unengaging. (Fiction 9-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Reprinted Edition
Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.49(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

"Hey, girl," I called softly. I shined the light into Snow's stall. All llamas, and especially grouchy pregnant llamas, dislike a surprise. "Hey." Usually she swung her face over the gate to greet me with a whiffle--a puff of air--and take an alfalfa biscuit from my hand. When she didn't come to the stall door, I peered over the wall.

She lay on her side, panting. I unlatched the door and stepped in. "Snow?" Her brown eyes rolled toward me. Llamas tuck their legs under them when they sleep; they don't lie flat unless they're sick or hurt.

Or having trouble birthing a cria.

I checked under her tail. There was one tiny black hoof.

I ran out of the barn, across the yard, and up the steps, bursting through the mudroom and into the kitchen. "Dad!"

Dad and Grandad looked up from the table.

"Snow's down! And her cria's coming!"

Dad got up, hurrying past me to the mudroom. Grandad followed, putting his cap on and shoving his feet into his boots. "Where's Greg?"

"Changing the starter on the crummy," I said. Our old pickup truck always needed work.

"Then we'll need your help, JT. Wash your hands and get the medicine bag," Grandad said.

I scrubbed my hands, ran to the shop, grabbed the bag, and sprinted through the night air back to Snow's stall.

Dad and Grandad knelt next to her, their backs hunched at the same angle, wearing matching blue Kinnaman Ranch caps. Dad put gloves on and said, "Squirt iodine on my hands, Joey." I dug the bottle out of the bag and squirted the brown liquid on his gloves. Grandad laid tools on a blanket--a scalpel, cutters, a clamp, and twine. "JT, you be ready to hand these to your dad when he needs them."

My heart was pounding so hard, I could feel it through my shirt. I said the names of the tools over and over to myself. Grandad gently lay across Snow's neck to hold her down, then said, "Ready."

Snow grunted and Dad pulled. "Rope, Joe."


I fumbled for the twine and handed it to him. Dad tied it around the cria's ankles, then sat back on his heels and waited. Snow thrashed around, then grunted, and Dad reached in and pulled. "Come on, little llama," he coaxed. He grimaced, his forehead turning red. Grandad stroked Snow's white cheek and her neck, telling her it would be all right.

Dad stopped pulling and rubbed his arm over his face. "Must be big. Who's the sire?"

"Tumtum," Grandad said.

Dad whistled. He rested one hand on Snow's leg. "Hang in there, girl," he said. Tumtum was Greg's llama, and the largest llama on Kinnaman Ranch, probably in all of Alaska--more than four hundred pounds.

Grandad petted Snow and told her it would be over soon. The warm cozy barn was starting to feel hot and sticky. Bits of hay stuck to the sweat on my forehead.

Snow's eyes rolled and she grunted again. Dad braced himself and pulled. The head came out, and then a slimy gray cria slid onto the straw. I turned away.

Grandad sat on his heels and Snow's ears swiveled toward the cria. She wanted to sniff the baby, but she was too tired. She laid her head down. Grandad said, "JT, take a look at that."

I looked back at the tiny wet llama. It was amazing and gross at the same time. "Wow." Then I looked at Snow, stretched out flat like roadkill. "Is she okay?"

"She'll be all right," Grandad said, rubbing the cria with a towel. "But he's kind of small. Doesn't look like much for all this trouble. Maybe twelve pounds. Come on, baby, breathe."

Dad was feeling around Snow's belly. He held his palm against her side. "Well, I'll be," he said.


"We've got another heartbeat. Snow here is having twins."

"Twins!" I said. Llamas hardly ever have twins.

"No time to lose. Her contractions will start up again soon. Is he breathing?"

Grandad cut the cord with the scalpel, then suctioned the cria's nose. "Not yet. But there's still hope." He rubbed the cria's chest, pushing on his ribs.

I bent over the little face. He was gray like morning fog. The cria's eyes were closed. I wiped his leathery nostrils and little lips. "Breathe, little guy."

Grandad hung the cria upside down to get fluid out of his airway. Nothing. He worked on it awhile longer, then set the body down and sighed. "That's a shame," he said.

I stood staring at it. It looked so perfect, a perfect little llama. "What's the matter?"

"We might never know. We lost that one." Grandad put his arm around me.

That was supposed to be my llama.

"Rope," Dad said, startling me.

I gave him the rope and he tied it around another little black hoof. Suddenly Snow stood. Her belly contracted and another cria slid out headfirst, landing on the straw with a thump.

This cria was black as night, with a tiny white star between his ears. "He's not breathing either," Dad said.

Grandad knelt over the body, sucking mucus out of its nostrils with a nasal syringe. "Come on," he whispered.

Dad thumped it on the chest a couple of times, then stood and hung it upside down. "It's tiny."

"We're not losing them both." Grandad leaned over and blew a short puff in the cria's face.

Suddenly the cria sneezed and started breathing. "That's better," Grandad said. "JT, wipe out his nose and mouth so he can breathe easier, then dry him off."

I knelt down and took a look at the newest Kinnaman llama. I dried his mouth and nose and rubbed him with the towel.

Following Grandad's instructions, I cut the umbilical cord, untied the rope, and stretched each leg out to check for broken bones. I looked in his ears. Last, I checked to be sure the cord had quit bleeding. It was wrinkled like a deflated balloon. The cria's black eyes were clear and bright--like they were made of oil. He blinked at me.

"Three minutes," Grandad warned. "I'll get rid of this carcass before she smells it and gets upset." He picked up the gray cria and stepped out of the stall.

"Three minutes until what?" I asked.

"You can't handle a newborn cria longer than three minutes, or else he'll think he's your baby and not Snow's. Then he'll starve," Dad said. He gave Snow a shot and rubbed her hip muscle where it went in. "Now come on. We've got to get out of here."

Snow stepped gingerly to the water bucket for a long drink. Then she stood over the black cria, telling me with her big brown eyes to go away.

Dad stepped outside the stall and looked back.

"We'll see how he does," Dad said. "He sure is a little guy, isn't he?"

"I'll say," said Grandad. He tipped back his cap and scratched at his bald spot. "See that star, JT?" He pointed at the white spot on the cria's head. "That means he'll bring good luck to his owner."

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Jennifer Morris grew up in Oregon, and earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and their three children.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Come, Llamas 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this novel very much. Details are given so much thought. One feels they are living right there in Alaska on a llama farm while reading this endearing story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thays gross!! Go to a another book but not hre!! Eeeewww-devon
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yeah but i just got done eating lunch.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To l.l.l: Awesome!!!!! Thks so much! To devon: You may post your imagine here. Otherwise let me know where you post your imagine so that I may judge. ~Zamil
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't mean to break your heart, but honey, Harry's gay.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Haha you are i wish i could write images like u Anna
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
During that time,Harry made a descision..."Hey,Natalie?"Harry asked you shyly."Yeah Harry?" "Can i ask you something?" "Yeah sure what's up? "Well,~breath~would you like to go out tonight at 7?" "That would be great!!What did you have in mind?" "Oh,that's a surprise.Just dress nicely and have a change of clothes.Something you can get...oh crap it's 12:30." "Yeah your'e right...You have to get ready to leave soon and i have to work at 1:00.In that case,ill see you at 7;00 tonight." "Ok ill walk you back to your car." "Ok thanks!!"You and Harry were at your car in a few short minutes."Thanks for everything Harry!Can you at least tell me where were going tonight?" "Well,no,but i can give you a clue:im going to text you an address later and i want you to meet me there at 7.00 p.m. Enter the address right before you leave your apartment tonight.I'll see you at 7!!" "Ok bye Harry thanks again!!!!" ~6:15~Since you left for work that morning,all you had thought about was Harry.Finiall at 6:00 your shift ended and you drove home to get ready.You first took a shower and dried your hair.Then you chose both of your outfits.Your first outfit was a little red dress with ruffels down the neck and the second outfit was a simple blue t-shirt and white cut jeans.When you were done it was only 6:30.You decided to find the place that you were going to meet Harry in a short half hour. Harry had sent you the address right before you started work.It turned out to be Manchester Gardens, one of the fanciest resturaunts in the whole country.You sighed and put the addresd into your phone's gps.It was then 6:43 so you drove off.~~~When you got there,there was no sighn of Harry.Shrugging,you went inside.Still no sighn of Harry.You sat on one of the red-wood benches near the front ,waiting for Harry.Suddenly,there was a tap on your shoulder.................Sorry it took so long!!!!!!!!i had theatre camp this week and im exhausted.thank you for your positive feedback and ill post some more of it later next week.Hope you like it!!!!!!!love l.l.l.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Llamas r awesimer than any thing
Guest More than 1 year ago
Come, Llamas is a wonderful book for young and old alike. I cried right along with JT! A wonderful story that engages the reader. I couldn't put it down.