We’ve all heard about the importance of reading to our children as soon as they claw their way out of our wives’ vaginas. When you’ve got a small baby, any old video game magazine will do – babies just need to hear phonetic sounds and hopefully see a couple of colorful pictures. Later on, though, toddlers need something interesting to keep them involved. Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Red Pajama is a sing-songy rhyme about a llama with maternal separation anxiety. Your toddler will love it, and you’ll love teaching your children about mommy’s midlife crisis. You and your child will bond in fear of awakening mommy’s inner beast.

When I first started reading bedtime stories to my son, I tried everything. We have, thanks to our family and friends, all sorts of books. Problem is, we’ve got a lot of “A is for Apple” type books with big colorful pictures, and not a lot of substance. On the other hand, we’ve got some longer books and collections of stories that are way above a toddler bedtime level. Llama Llama Red Pajama is the perfect length for a toddler with a minimal attention span, especially one that likes to participate in the reading process.

Dewdney tells the story about a baby llama who has trouble going to sleep after his mama llama tucks him in for the night. The baby llama goes batsugar-crazy calling down to his mom, but, just like a woman, mama llama is downstairs yapping on her iPhone and doing dishes. Mama Llama’s gone for so long, in fact, that in the apex of the story, Baby Llama actually thinks that she died. You don’t believe me, but the line is “what if Mama Llama’s GONE” and “gone” is in boldfaced red type. Clearly, Baby Llama thinks the worst.

All works out in the end, and Mama Llama shuffles back upstairs, gives her baby two kisses and tucks him back in.

The potential for father-child involvement with Llama Llama Red Pajama is high – because the wording is sparse, you can read the two pages you’ve got open, and then ask your child to comment on what he or she sees. For example, after reading a line about the baby calling down to the mother, I point to the baby on the page and ask my son how he would call down to his mommy if he needed her. The benefit of this is two-fold. First, I am getting him to imagine and use creativity. Second, I’m pruning him to direct all nighttime grievances with mom, so that I can sleep. Mwah hah hahhhhhh.

Plenty of other pages give good opportunities for interaction. I ask my son what he sees on the page – and a lot of the time, he’ll repeat some of the words I just read him – a tricky way to bump up his comprehension and vocabulary! Also, at the end of the book, the mother llama gives the baby two kisses and tucks him in – which is a perfect opportunity for me to do the same with my son. So congrats, Dewdney, the ending works performatorily, which is a word I think I might have just made up.

This is something that most reviews won’t mention – but because this book is simple and has sing-songy rhymes, it’s also easy for me to remember, which helps when reading in the dark. I’m able to turn off the room lights, and read by the light coming in from the hallway. I suppose in some parallel universe, I’m helping my kid’s night vision also, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Side note: There’s no mention of a father llama, so chances are that one of Dewdney’s previous llama-based bedtime stories describes the father llama’s murder at the hands of Mama Llama, and father’s subsequent midnight burial in the rose garden. After reading Llama Llama Red Pajama to my son nearly 100 times, it’s the only explanation for the baby llama’s fear and outbursts, as well as the not-mentioned father’s absence.

Oh, and just kidding about basically everything off-color that I said in this review. The real truth is that this book is delightful and my kid loves it. It overwhelms me with pride and love whenever my son grabs the book and requests that I, specifically, read it to him. Even if I’m in a hurry to get him to sleep so I can *sigh* start cooking dinner, I thoroughly enjoy reading Llama Llama Red Pajama to him.

And if you’ve got a spare minute, please read the 1-star reviews on Amazon.com. They are hilarious. I am, as a matter of fact, docking the book a half-star in solidarity for the parents that mentioned that it’s bad parenting to do trivial household chores while your kid is screaming in the dark upstairs, hysterical and thinking that you’re dead. Otherwise, this book’s a total winner.