Monday, February 7, 2011


This week we're thrilled to feature Toni Buzzeo. In addition to being a fantastic librarian, Toni also wears the hat of author.

TXS&S: What interested you in becoming a children's librarian? What has been a special highlight in your career?

TB: I worked at the main public library in my hometown of Dearborn, Michigan while I was in high school and then continued as I put myself through college. During my college years, I had the good fortune to be transferred to the Snow Branch library where I worked as an aide in the children’s department and once again fell in love with children’s books. I began to read them, buy them, treasure them. From there, I took a circuitous route through graduate school in English Language and Literature followed by teaching writing at the college and high school level before I found my way back to the world of libraries. When I earned my masters degree in library science, though, I had no question that I wanted to work with children and their literature.

The greatest honor I experienced in my LIBRARY career was when the Maine Association of School Libraries honored me as the 1999 Maine Library Media Specialist of the Year. What an amazing tribute to my passion for children and their books!

One of the most fun experiences in my WRITING career, directly tied to my love of libraries, was the recent inclusion of 1.55 million copies of my picture book No T. Rex in the Library (illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa, McElderry, 2010) in Cheerios boxes through the Spoonfuls of Stories program.

TXS&S: What led you to writing books for children? Are there any writing tips you could offer?

TB: Literally, BOOKS led me to the writing of children’s books. As a librarian, I selected books, I reviewed books, I shared books. Finally, after years of all this, I knew that I wanted to WRITE them as well.

Inevitably, despite my years of knowledgeable interaction with contemporary children’s books, the first words I set on paper reflected not the style of those recent books but the style of the books I’d read as a child. It was only through a year of guidance and encouragement from my mentor, children’s author Jane Kurtz, that I learned to model my own writing on current, published fiction. So my best advice is to not only read piles of current books in the genre you are writing but to consciously analyze what makes them successful in content, style, theme.

TXS&S: You've also been involved in Reader's Theater--could you share with us what your experience has been like?

TB: I am the author of stacks of Reader’s Theater scripts based on the texts of published children’s books (with formal author/publisher permission, of course). It’s absolutely delightful work to re-work stories to the requirements of a script. I’m a huge proponent of children’s reader’s theater because it has been proven to be the single most effective technique for improving readers’ fluency. Besides, kids love reader’s theater.

I have created a reader’s theater script for most of my published books, such as the two Adventure Annies, Adventure Annie Goes to Work and Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten, and have made them available on my web site I encourage each of you with published books to consider doing so as well.

TXS&S: Toni, you do quite a few talks at schools, libraries, conferences, etc. Any public speaking tips you could offer?

TB: I have several suggestions for authors who speak in schools and libraries and at conferences:

  • Attend as many presentations by other author-speakers as possible and, when possible, discuss the content as well as the modes of delivery with the presenters.
  • Plan to spend many days (weeks, if necessary) to create excellent presentations with a logical progression, crisp, clear images, and all necessary props.
  • Practice, practice, practice. For school visits, plan to do several free presentations (with feedback) before venturing into paid presentations.
  • Read my book, Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers, for loads of specifics about the details of school and library speaking.

TXS&S: How do you get children motivated about reading and writing? What are you looking forward to?

TB: My method of motivating kids to read is to share the stories behind my stories, to show them the connections between my life and my stories, to ask them to look for their own connections to my books as well as the other books they are reading. Of course, as a librarian, I also talk with them about other people’s books that I love as well as the books they are currently reading.

My method for motivating kids to write is to show them, in my presentations, that all stories come from our own experiences in one way or another, to encourage them to find the things in their own lives that call to them to be written. I also conduct workshops with young writers, giving them tools in “showing, not telling” in order to improve their own writing skills.

Right now, I’m looking forward to six more picture books that will be published in the next two years.
  • Penelope Popper, Book Doctor, ill. by Jana Christy (Upstart, Spring 2011)
  • A Lighthouse Christmas, ill. by Nancy Carpenter (Dial, Fall 2011)
  • One Cool Friend, ill. by David Small (Dial, Spring 2012)
  • Stay Close to Mama, ill. by Mike Wohnoutka (Hyperion, Spring 2012)
  • Inside the Books, ill. by Jude Daly (Upstart, 2012)
  • Just Like My Papa, ill. by Mike Wohnoutka (Hyperion, Spring 2013)

Beyond that, I look forward to writing many more picture books and continuing to work on the four novel-length manuscripts I have underway. Much of that writing will happen in my beautiful writing cottage which I invite you to visit by viewing the video on my web site or directly on youtube.

This is the fabulous writing cottage where Toni works.

TXS&S: Thank you so very much, Toni!


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.


  1. Definitely sweetheart material, Margie!

  2. Thanks, Margie! Toni is definitely super!

  3. Loved the interview, ladies. :)

  4. Thanks, Tammi! Toni is wonderful, isn't she?
    Hope to see you soon!