Toni Buzzeo on Libraries and Disneyland

Toni Head Shot Trimmed

It’s a treat to have the warm and talented Toni Buzzeo visit Good Books to Share. Toni and I share a love of baby elephant stories. Just as Mama’s Day with Little Gray features a warm relationship between a mama and her son, Toni’s book My Bibi Always Remembers depicts a baby elephant and grandmother. 

Toni was a high school and college writing teacher before she became a children’s librarian. Since she began to write for children in 1995, Toni has written 19 books for children and 11 books for professionals. Among these is the 2013 Caldecott Honor Book One Cool Friend.

Welcome, Toni! Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have? 

What a lucky girl I was! I was born into a family of women who loved to read. I have wonderful memories of my Grandma Mae reading to me and talking about books with me. Those conversations opened a door for a shy child like I was, as you can see in this photograph.

In addition to the pleasure of being snuggled up next to my grandmother’s side with a book opened on our laps, I had the pleasure of accompanying my mother or grandmother to the public library every week. We always returned with an enormous stack of picture books.

Toni and Grandma Mae Reading

Luckier still, when I was 8 years old, my town built a branch library just three and a half blocks from my house. For me, that was like Disneyland appearing in my neighborhood! I read my way through all of the children’s novels and the young adult alcove before graduating, at 13, to the adult books.

My life as a reader started at my grandma’s side and in my town’s libraries, and it has never flagged.

Tell us about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child or children. What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

Perhaps it was those many early experiences in libraries that led me onto my professional path, but I grew up to be a librarian! So, for me, sharing books with kids was my life’s work for many, many years. I started as a children’s librarian at a local public library and moved on to become a teaching librarian in school libraries. In both settings, I was always eager to share stories with my students.

A particular memory that still delights me is reading Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus to my students. No matter what time of day, if I student walked by my desk with that book in his or her hand, I jumped up, asked him/her to hand over the book, settled the kids around me, and launched into a raucous and lively reading of the book, complete with student-chorus.

Dawdle Duckling high resSea Chest high res

How special it was, then, when my own books began to be published. (I continued to work as a librarian for my first two years after publication). Sharing my OWN books with my students was such a treasure. I remember a class of fourth graders quizzing me about the decisions I made in the plot of my first book, The Sea Chest (still in print a dozen years later) and the little kindergartner who picked up the rubber-banded f&g (folded and gathered copy) of Dawdle Duckling and asked, “Mrs. Buzzeo, how many copies of this book do you have to SEW TOGETHER?”

Please give us your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

What a pleasure it is to share my books now with enormous numbers of kids at school visits and reading festivals! My favorite way to share books is through puppets. I have a full complement of puppets for all of the characters of my books: Stay Close to Mama, No T. Rex in the Library, and Little Loon and Papa. I ask adults/teachers to select the actors for me (describing for each whether they will have lines to speak or special attitudes or actions) and then I read the book to the larger group and sneak up behind each puppeteer and whisper their lines or needed actions. The kids love it, the teachers and/or parents love it, and most of all, I love the fun of bringing my stories to life on the stage!

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So whether you are a teacher, a librarian, or a parent, start building sets of puppets (even finger puppets work with small groups) to accompany the stories you share!

Thanks, Toni! How about you? What fabulous memories of libraries do you cherish?

Connect with Toni through her website: website: http://www.tonibuzzeo.com/HOME.html

Bibione cool friendLighthouse Christmas

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Deborah Underwood on Classics Old and New

With Bella 2It’s  lovely to host Deborah Underwood on Good Books to Share. Deborah is the author of many children’s books, including Here Comes Santa Cat; The Christmas Quiet Book; Bad Bye, Good ByePirate Mom; and the New York Times bestsellers Here Comes the Easter Cat; The Quiet Book; and The Loud Book. She co-wrote the Sugar Plum Ballerina chapter book series with Whoopi Goldberg, and she has written 27 nonfiction titles. She lives in Northern California with her feline muse, Bella.

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

My parents were both teachers, and I grew up surrounded by books. So it’s not surprising that my parents read to me a lot when I was young. I have fond memories of using my finger to trace the tail of the Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz at the end of Dr. Seuss’s ABC, and of correcting my parents if they missed reading one of the numerous beebeebobbibobbis in The Baby Beebee Bird.

But I most strongly remember connecting with the books I read in elementary school—laughing at Ramona’s mishearing of the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” being inspired (along with half of my class) to get a spy notebook after our teacher read Harriet the Spy out loud to us, and reading classics like Thimble Summer and The Good Master over and over when I was having a difficult time for one reason or another.

Mary Bakes a Cake
In this photo, I’m reading a book called “Mary Bakes a Cake.” Early evidence of my lifelong love of both reading and cake!

I often felt out of place as a kid. I’d skipped a grade, so I was a year younger than everyone else in my class, and I was terrible at sports, and I was shy. I remember the relief I felt when I discovered that the elementary school library was open during lunch—I could go there and read rather than hanging out on the playground trying to avoid getting whacked by stray baseballs! The books I read not only helped me escape school life, but also showed me other worlds and other more inviting possibilities.

Tell us about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child or children. What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

I don’t have my own kids, but I madly adore my two nieces who live in Scotland. They’re older now, but when they were picture-book age, I really enjoyed reading to them during our visits. One reason, of course, was that it was just wonderful to share the experience of reading with them. But I also learned things that were incredibly helpful to me in my own writing.

For example, I stumbled across Mo Willem’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! in a bookstore not long after it came out, and laughed out loud as I read it. I knew immediately that I wanted to get it for my youngest niece. I brought it out during my visit to Scotland, and was delighted that she loved it as much as I did—it validated my instincts about what kids might like.

One thing surprised me: after the first reading, she immediately wanted to read it again, but said, “You be the reader, and I’ll be the ‘no’-er.” This potential for interaction hadn’t dawned on me as I stood in the bookstore reading the book to myself, but of course that implied and repeated “No!” is obvious to a kid!

SarahReading72
My oldest niece several years ago, reading as she walks down the street just as I did as a child.

Another important lesson I learned from reading to them: short books are greatly appreciated, especially at bedtime. I’m sure all parents know this, but I didn’t! When my nieces went to the bookshelf to choose a bedtime story, I cringed if it was a really long one. Now I know that when I cut words in a manuscript, I’m not only tightening my story and leaving more room for the illustrator, I’m also helping a parent get to bed a little earlier!

And the last lesson that was a revelation to non-parent me: a bad book is even worse when you have to read it over and over and over. There was one book that one of my nieces inexplicably loved, and it was painful to have to reread it. I try to write books that hold up to repeated readings, not just for the child’s benefit, but for the adult’s as well.

What are your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children?

I’m sure others you’ve interviewed here have covered all the concrete ideas I’d have plus many others: varying vocal dynamics and tone, assuming voices for different characters, asking the kids what they think will happen next, giving them time to really look closely at the illustrations—kids are so much more observant than I am of the little details on the page!

For me, the important point is that kids are smart. If you’re enthusiastic about reading, and if you love a particular book, they will absolutely pick up on that. I think one of the best things you can do to encourage a love of reading is to let kids see that it’s an important part of your life. What a great excuse to curl up with a good book!

Thank you, Deborah! 

Special offer: Leave a brief comment on this post to be entered in a draw for one of Deborah’s wonderful Christmas books. You can choose which book you would like to receive, and Deborah will autograph it for you. Comments must be posted by midnight EST on December 7th, 2014.  

Another holiday offer: For a limited time, Aimee is shipping out free, personalized bookplates that can be placed inside copies of Mama’s Day with Little Gray. Click here for more information. 

Santa Cat Cover copyChristmas Quiet Book

Connect with Deborah: 

Website: DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com
Twitter: @underwoodwriter

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Free, Personalized Bookplates

I’ve been touched by notes from readers telling me about those with whom they have shared Mama’s Day with Little Gray. Copies have gone to brand new babies, young adults just leaving the nest, elderly parents, andof coursechildren. I even heard that a book is on its way to a family in Thailand that runs an elephant shelter. 

With gratitude for the many ways people are sharing Mama’s Day with Little Gray, I am offering, for a limited time, to send out free bookplates with personalized inscriptions. The bookplate is clear with adhesive on the back so that it may be affixed to the book. 

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Just drop me a note through the contact form at www.aimeereidbooks.com. Let me know to whom I should address the autograph and where you’d like it sent. I will not share your information. 

I’ll try to send out your bookplates soon after I receive your requests in case you’d like to give Mama’s Day with Little Gray as a holiday gift. I would love to be a part of your festivities in this small way. 

Warm holiday wishes!

Aimee