Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Visiting Author - Welcome to Toni Buzzeo!

I was approached (technologically speaking!) by Emilie Bandy, Associate Online Marketing Manager for Penguin Young Readers Group about hosting the second stop of a Blog Tour for Toni Buzzeo. Eagerly, I accepted. It's an honor to be approached as a blog host!

The first part of this second stop features a review (by me) of just one of Toni's many books, Dawdle Duckling. The second part is complements of Toni, herself, and focuses on how nature inspires Toni's writing, paying special attention to the titles with animals - specifically, Dawdle Duckling, Ready or Not Dawdle Duckling, The Sea Chest, and Little Loon and Papa. Toni also shares how her writing of children's books would have been different had she stayed in Detroit (her childhood home), rather than experiencing what she has living in Maine. Enjoy!

Buzzeo, Toni.
Dawdle Duckling.
Dial Books for Young Readers.

This was my first experience reading a book written by Toni Buzzeo. I was definitely impressed and will certainly be picking up more of her books in the future!

The tale of these four baby ducklings and their mother is perfect to share with the adventurous child, perhaps even a mischievous one! Mama duck, decked out in her straw hat with purple tie takes her baby ducklings out for a paddle in the bay. Three of the ducklings behave perfectly and following along with her. A fourth, more mischievous one, doesn't follow along quite as quickly, choosing rather to participate in more interesting activities!
but the fourth little duckling
dawdles and dreams,
preens and plays,
splashes and spins,
dunks and dips,
looks -
Pretty soon, Mother spots danger just beyond the cattails
Look out!"
Three of her babies quickly scurry to her side and jump on her back, but the fourth little duckling is too busy exploring... until he hears
"Quack! Quack! Quack!"
That's all he needs to hear, before leaping aboard his Mama's back with his siblings! At last, they're safe from danger, all together!

Perhaps young children will learn from this that it's best to listen to their Mama, for she is aware of her surroundings and wants what is best for her children! This would definitely make for a great bedtime story or read-aloud!

Toni Buzzeo's Other Books for Children:
Professional Books by Toni Buzzeo:
And now, thanks to Toni for sharing the wealth of information below!

I am lucky enough to have at least two close writing friends --- and one husband -- who have, as Howard Gardener names it, "naturalist intelligence." They are passionate about the natural world, prefer to explore it and learn about it above any other activities, and, in the case of my two writing friends are deeply connect to animals.

While I love the natural world, especially the thirty-three acres of white pine forest and two-cleared acres of lawns, orchard, and gardens surrounding my Colonial farmhouse here in Maine, I probably don't qualify as a naturalist. No matter! Nature was one of the siren calls that first drew me to Main, and ever since, I have collected images and experiences that creep into my stories and fill them with the natural world that surrounds me.

It's no wonder, actually. I grew up surrounded by concrete in metropolitan Detroit. Other than the tiny woods two blocks down and three streets over from my small, gray brick house, my experience of nature was limited to the elms lining the curbs of our paved streets and the small grass-covered backyards separated by chain link fences. Maine, in contrast, is a nature wonderland - with its majestic mountains and crashing ocean -- and provides me so many experiences upon which to base my stories.

For example, Dawdle Duckling, the frustratingly imaginative little quacker featured in
Dawdle Duckling and Ready or Not, Dawdle Duckling, is based on a born-and-raised Maine mallard duckling my brother-in-law Mike saw swimming along the Atlantic shores of Phippsburg, Maine. Mike, an Arizonan, snuck out early one morning at Rock Gardens Inn to capture some Main photos. Snapping away, Mike was particularly charmed by a mother Mallard he spotted swimming along the shore with a line of little ducklings paddling right behind her. Next, he heard Mama quacking in alarm and captured photos of all her little ducklings jumping up on her back and riding away in safety. All but her littlest duckling, that is. Mike says that the littlest duckling paid no attention at all. Instead, he dawdled and dreamed, preened and played, splashed and spun, dunked and dipped before he finally looked and LEAPED on board Mama's back.

What children's author could have failed to see the picture book waiting to be written in that story?

Of course, any close reader of
Dawdle Duckling as it was published will quickly realize that Mama and her babies have been transported from Maine in the pages of this book. Not only does the genteel Mama Duck don a straw sunhat tied beneath her chin with a purple chiffon scarf and the ducklings sport straw boaters, but that's a CROCODILE threatening in the water nearby. It's great fun to talk to students in more northerly states about whether the story, as it is illustrated by Margaret Spengler, could actually take place in Maine. In this case, my text was less than specific about the threatening animal and so the actual setting is revealed in the illustrations - somewhere in the swampy southeastern United States. That makes it a wonderful opportunity to teach visual literacy and inference to even the youngest readers.

We also talk about that original story as it unfolded on the Maine shore. What could have frightened that Mama duck and caused her to quack in alarm? Was it a fox on the shore? Was it a snapping turtle in the water? Or was it a heron standing nearby in the reeds?

The ducklings in the Dawdle stories; the loons, bears, moose, and beaver in
Little Loon and Papa, and the settings of my two lighthouse picture books, The Sea Chest and the forthcoming A Lighthouse Christmas (Dial 2010), all grew from my love of the beautiful natural world that surrounds me here in Maine.

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to Amazon.com.