Llama on a Mission- Q&A with Annabelle Sami

Annabelle Sami has such a fantastic style of writing and her two books featuring Yasmin and Levi are sure to delight readers! We asked Annabelle Sami some questions and we love her answers!

Can you tell us about Llama on a Mission in a couple of sentences?

Yasmin has finally found her voice but is finding that speaking and communicating are two different things. Levi is desperate to get his llama license back so he can stay as a guardian toy llama, but the Mama Llama has set him one final challenge to help Yasmin or he’ll be sent back to Peru – forever!

How much fun was it to write the character of Levi?  Where did some of his characteristics come from?

It was so fun! It’s great to write a character who just says what he thinks, whenever he wants to (something I definitely don’t do in real life!) I try to make him as exaggerated as possible and always think ‘what’s the silliest thing he could do next?’ which is great fun. I drew inspiration for him from the various talking toy animal characters I’ve seen on tv or movies over the years. 

Yasmin’s family are loud, chaotic but loving (except her brothers…).  Is this family based on your own at all?

Yes, my family on both sides are loud, chaotic and opinionated! I love it but it definitely can be overwhelming at times for an introvert like Yasmin. Her family, including her brothers, do love her but aren’t listening to her needs which is why they can come off as quite mean in the books. In the third book which I’m writing now, Yasmin’s brothers do redeem themselves a bit!

Yasmin, in the first book, has made the decision to keep silent and has done so for several years.  How did you manage to write so knowledgeably about this?

I think lots of children have experienced the feeling that people aren’t listening to them or that their voice doesn’t matter. I definitely did as a child, especially being a girl and being a person of colour, sometimes I felt I wasn’t important and there’s a temptation to be silent rather than fight back. But I did find the courage to speak up for myself eventually and I hope this book encourages children who feel overlooked to do the same. 

What can children learn from Yasmin?

That you don’t need to be loud to stand your ground and speak up for what you need. Yasmin is quiet in nature but she’s still funny, brave and adventurous. I think sometimes it’s insinuated that only extroverted people can have those qualities, but that’s not true. Embrace who you are!

Can readers hope to meet Levi again in a third book?

Oh definitely. These are the Levi and Yasmin adventures, so they will both be in book three. But book three is about them deciding whether they should continue working together as secret agents. It might be the last you see of him… You’ll have to read to find out!

Are there any books being published this year that you are looking forward to?

Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traore has just been published and it is a wonderful book. Really magical and moving, I think kids will love it.

Are you working on anything you can tell us about?

I’ve been working on a semi-autobiographical book about a young saxophonist for ages and I’m hoping this month I will actually finish it. It’s my favourite book I’ve written so far! 

We love the illustrations from Allen Fatimaharan- what are your thoughts?

 Allen’s illustrations have made the book into what it is. It just wouldn’t be the same without them. He is so brilliant at capturing the humour of the story and putting in tiny hilarious details that really catch you off guard. I also love the way he draws the comic strips in the book in a different style to show they are Yasmin’s drawings and set them apart from the main illustrations. He is very talented! 

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