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!

Little Loon cover 3x2.5notrexcoverlargeStay Close To Mama Cover-Large (1)

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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