Llamaphones, by Janik Coat, Harry N. Abrams Press 2018
04/16/19 Review

This was another library find. I snatched it up because I had seen it online previously, while searching for comps for a critique partner. I found it to be a delightfully clever, witty and educational concept book.

In each spread of this seemingly simple board book, author-illustrator Janik Coat introduces a new homophone, such as “see” and “sea,” paired with clever illustrations of llamas depicting the meaning of each word. For example, “see” depicts a llama wearing larger-than-life glasses, while “sea” depicts a llama swimming in an an endless blue expanse of water.

The illustrations are graphic – flat rather than 3 D, with bold colors and sharp contrasts that are perfect for engaging babies. Despite this rather stark illustration style, many of the illustrations strike me as whimsical, and they are all very imaginative. Some of them are funny or surprising, some are textured, and some even have interactive features like a clock hand that moves around in a circle, or a flap for the word “peak.” I found it very entertaining, and so did my kiddos.

What I loved most about the book, in the end, was that it managed to capture the attention of both of my children – ages 3 and 6 – and would also be appropriate for babies. My youngest loved the illustrations, textures, and interactive features, and learned some new words, while my oldest enjoyed the illustrations but was most engaged and challenged by the educational aspect of the book. I read it to them multiple times, and each time they noticed something different. My oldest focused on the meaning of the words, the similarities and differences between the spellings, and how each homophone pair sounded the same, but was spelled differently. On our last read through, she read it out loud to her sister, which always makes her (and me) very proud.

All in all I give this book two thumbs up. It’s not often that you find a book that will appeal to children ages 0-6, and be educational AND fun. And if you like this one, author-illustrator Janik Coat has several other books, some of which appear to be based on similar concepts. I’ll be checking those out soon.

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