Cover image for Harley
Publication Information:
New York : SeaStar Books, c2001.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : color illustrations.
Added Author:
Because Harley the llama does not get along with other llamas, he becomes a guard llama, protecting sheep from hungry coyotes and befriending a cantankerous ram.


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Harley is a young llama who lives on a ranch. He is learning to be a pack animal, but he is having a hard time. He kicks. He screams. He spits! But then a shepherd calls; she needs a llama to watch over her sheep. She decides to take a chance on Harley. Through the seasons, a series of challenges both great and small turn the temperamental llama into a loving leaderwhether he's facing mischievous lambs, a bullying ram, or a pack of coyotes who prey on the sheep. With its poetic languageand captivating artwork by Caldecott Honor-winning Molly Bang, this distinctive book speaks to all those who sometimes march to the beat of a different drummer.

Author Notes

Star Livingstone formerly lived in a tipi near the edge of the field where Harley watches his sheep. She now lives in Forestport, New York.

Molly Bang is the acclaimed illustrator of over fifty books for children, including three Caldecott Honor books: When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry...; Ten, Nine, Eight ; and The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher. She lives in Massachus

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

"In the author's debut novel, the eponymous star of this affecting reader is a pack llama-in-training who is destined for a different calling. What follows is a lyrical and wryly observed portrait of an animal hero," wrote PW. Ages 6-9. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Primary) Harley is pretty much a failure as a pack animal. He doesn't like to wear a halter; he'd rather lead than follow others down a path; and he displays nasty traits such as shoving, kicking, and spitting. When a savvy shepherd chooses Harley to guard her sheep against predators, the llama finds his true calling. He establishes his role as leader and, in a dramatic confrontation, drives coyotes away from the vulnerable herd. Harley stands as one of the few books intended for those beginning readers who prefer their animals with authentic attributes rather than the human characteristics exhibited by Frog and Toad and Little Bear. Acknowledging the developing reading skills of her audience, Livingstone helps readers with potentially unfamiliar words through context. ""Harley runs to the middle of the field. He throws himself down. He rolls and rolls on his back. His legs wave around in the air. He hums and shows his teeth. Harley is having a tantrum."" Varying among spot art, full-page spreads, and double-page spreads, Molly Bang's rustically textured illustrations warm the tone and highlight the action, supplying extra help for those who may have difficulties following the plot or deciphering key words. These features provide a literary comfort level that helps ease youngsters into other, less common, textual elements. For example, individual episodes involve different points of view that Livingstone smoothly integrates into the story, giving children a nonthreatening exposure to a structure that will become critical in understanding future, more sophisticated fare. Bold, slightly enlarged letters, rather than defined chapter breaks, indicate the beginning of each new episode and thus introduce subtle clues for bookmarking the continuous text. But it is Harley's story that puts him in good stead: a high adventure well told with respect to both animal and audience. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Gr. 1-3, younger for reading aloud. In a lively, thoroughly enjoyable debut, Livingstone uses ultrashort sentences and contraction-free prose to both comic and dramatic effect, drawing from personal experience for this tale of a bad-tempered llama brought in to guard a flock of sheep from prowling coyotes. Stubbornly resistant to being trained as a pack animal, Harley becomes a mother hen once transferred to the shepherd's field, eating out of the shepherd's hand, carefully supervising the lambing, and one night springing to the attack when coyotes jump the fence: "Harley is screaming. Harley is running. His legs fly out every which way. His neck waves back and forth . . . .The coyotes are not there. They have run away." Molly Bang's artwork ranges from spot illustrations to full-spread scenes. Bang effectively captures the visual appeal of the woolly sheep and their ungainly, long-necked guardian, leaving large areas of her rough, speckled paper unfinished for a rustic look. The author and illustrator steer clear of anthropomorphism, but their close, accurate, good-humored observations not only bring out the individual characters here, but also will draw readers irresistibly into the world of field and flock as well. Excellent for newer readers wanting practice. --John Peters

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

An unusually long easy-reader format—but 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 Angry—Really, 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)