Harley is a llama who can't get along with other llamas at his farm but eventually makes a perfect and possessive guard for a nearby flock of sheep. Episodes in a season of Harley's career are recounted with a deadpan straightforward text but are by turns factual, poignant and laugh-out-loud hilarious. It takes Harley awhile to warm to the flock but they become "his" sheep; the initially suspicious and bullying ram becomes his great if not exactly passive pal; and Harley throws a perfect llama tantrum in midfield when two of "his" sheep are taken off to be sold. Meanwhile, Harley also protects the sheep from roaming coyotes, a dramatic but ultimately not too scary incident. Short, mostly declarative sentences help practiced new readers tackle more text, and 64 pages give Harley's story some heft. Since the story does not build to any climax, readers may stop along the way; the book reads like a chapter-less chapter book with its episodic incidents as the seasons move along. Mollie Bang's full-color paintings are wonderfully varied compositions that reflect the humor, the solidness of the sheep and the exuberant intensity of Harley without lapsing into caricature. While humans appear here as "the shepherd" or "the teacher," it is really the animals that hold center stage. The author swears the incidents are true, which lets readers learn plenty about this personality-laden animal and may even send them to further research. 2001, SeaStar, $14.95 and $14.88. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Susan Hepler
K-Gr 2-Harley just can't seem to learn to be a pack animal, or to get along with the other llamas. When a shepherd comes to the ranch looking for a guard llama, she decides she likes the look of Harley, so she takes him back to her field. He learns to guard the sheep and comes to take his job very seriously. He even manages to befriend the cantankerous ram. In short, declarative sentences appropriate for beginning readers, Livingstone tells a simple tale culled from everyday realities, developing the animals' personalities without resorting to anthropomorphism. Bang's charming illustrations complement this effort, conveying Harley's obvious pride in watching over his flock and his rage as he warns away prowling coyotes. Excellent use is made of page layout, as when the ram, preparing a playful charge in the upper left-hand corner of a two-page spread, faces Harley in the lower right-hand corner. Children will be intrigued to hear that all of the characters and events in this book were based on real life, as the author observed it. A charming story of a creature who finds his place.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, Eldersburg, MD Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
An unusually long easy-reader formatbut then llamas are unusual animals, and a guard llama that watches over a flock of sheep is even more extraordinary. First-timer Livingstone does an excellent job of creating distinct personalities for Harley and for the ram of the flock and the shy sheepdog named Jet. The shepherd in the story happens to be a woman who happens to have an Asian daughter, with all the characters in the book based on real people and animals who are former neighbors of the author. The reader learns how a llama can keep a flock of sheep safe from both coyotes and a rambunctious ram, and about quite a few other aspects of both llama- and sheep-keeping, all told in a simple, anecdotal style with a good bit of dry humor. With short sentences, controlled vocabulary, and no contractions, this would serve well as a long easy reader, as transitional fiction between easy readers and chapter books, or as reading material for new teen or adult readers. Charming illustrations by Caldecott Honor winner Bang (When Sophie Gets AngryReally, Really Angry . . . , 1999) capture Harley's antics (llamas can spit and throw tantrums) and add personality to the other animals and human characters. An interesting story that will appeal to kids who like uncommon animals and to any family who owns llamas. (Fiction. 6-9)