As you can see, it’s all about the big guy, the little ones and the special relationship they share. The beauty of this particular title is that it has everything you need to celebrate Father’s Day (or any day for that matter) in one package. You’ve got wild animals, adorable illustrations, lessons learned, and “training” received. We go from a story about little Kito following his Dad around to his imitating his every move and by book’s end, evolve into a reaching of common ground and a loving understanding between both father and son of each others goals and desires. A nice progression if I do say so myself…and certainly an easy recommendation for readers (and gift recipients) of all ages. Anywho…
A review was not all that I promised you today, though I do hope you enjoyed it. When this blog tour rolled around, I was given the opportunity to interview the author and with the focus of Father’s Day high on the calendar, I thought….why not make it personal? Ready to see how that panned out? Allow me to introduce, author Toni Buzzeo!
Kito wants nothing more than to grow up to be JUST like Dad. What is your fondest memory of time spent with YOUR dad?
More than my dad, it was my Grandpa Don who was the maker of fond memories for me. What I remember more than anything else are his stories. He was a grand weaver of tales, my grandpa. Born into a family of NINE children, he was the third in the lineup, the first to be born in the United States to immigrant parents in the Finnish-settlement town of Kaleva, Michigan. Money was tight, and all the tighter when his father disappeared and never returned. But my great-grandmother was the stalwart type, and she did her best to raise all nine on her own! Grandpa told stories of her baking 48 loaves of Finnish rye bread every Thursday. As young teens, the boys would swoop through the kitchen, each grab a loaf of bread and a bread knife and high tail it away to consume a whole loaf each. When he was fourteen, Grandpa Don left Kaleva to join the cavalry in Texas and lived to tell many a tale. Red-haired and freckled, he was a fun-loving guy and was just the sort of storyteller I wanted to become!
Throughout the story, Kito learns what it is to actually be King. Some of those lessons are more fun than others. Tell us, what was the most valuable lesson you feel your grandfather imparted to you?
The most important lesson I learned from Grandpa Don was that a life well-lived is a life of service. For all his fun-loving nature, the most important thing to him was helping others and sharing what he had, whether his storytelling skills, the apple harvest from Grandma Mae‘s ancestral Bear Lake, Michigan farm, or his talents. When he was in his mid-seventies, he came two summers in a row from Michigan to Maine to tear down—from the roofline to the cellar—two brick chimneys on our antique Maine farmhouse. Brick by brick he shared his love. While I don’t have his physical strength or stamina, I share my love word by word, as a story weaver.
What inspired you to become a writer...and on the flip side, what would you have been had you not become one?
This time, it wasn’t Grandpa who inspired me, but Grandma Mae. Oh did she love to read! Between her and my mother, they took me to the Dearborn Public Library every week of my childhood. And Grandma was always ready to read to me, and read and read and read. I always tell my young readers that it was READING that inspired me to be a writer. Of course, it was also reading that inspired me to become a school librarian, which was my profession before I became a writer and would have continued to be my profession forever had I not found it impossible to continue to do two jobs simultaneously. I loved being a librarian too!
Quid pro quo...
Blue, blue, blue!
Giraffe—tall and beautiful—especially as they wander the African savanna.
...place you'd love to travel to someday?
I’ve been to the continent of Africa three times and have spent time in Ethiopia, Morocco, and Kenya (twice). But it’s a huge continent with 54 countries and there are many more trips in my future.
...favorite book at the moment?
Adult: When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood
Children’s: Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan
One of the greatest pleasures of being a children’s writer is sharing those stories with my young readers. Perhaps it’s because I‘m also a librarian, but having young readers is so important to me, watching their excitement as the lionesses chase the wildebeest, hearing their laughter as Papa Lion sends Kito sailing through the air time and time again and hearing their voices chiming in when Papa proclaims himself the protector and the king. These are the ways I know that I’ve touched their hearts. My book in a children’s hands makes the work complete for me and allows me to live the lesson I learned from Grandpa Don. A life well-lived is a life of service—and my stories are the way I serve.
Toni Buzzeo is a former school librarian, so she comes by her love of books and kids quite naturally. In fact, it was while teaching at Longfellow School in Portland, Maine that she began to write for children, right after her first trip to Kenya in 1995. She has published nineteen picture books thus far, with two more under contract, including My Grandma Always Remembers. Toni’s book One Cool Friend, illustrated by the distinguished illustrator David Small, won a 2013 Caldecott Honor. Many of her other books have garnered award attention as well. Toni and her husband live in Buxton, Maine from May through December, where she writes in a lovely writing cottage above the brook. But just after the winter holidays each year, she high-tails it down to sunny Sarasota, Florida where she can listen to the birds singing outside her office window during the days and zip over to walk the beach at sunset.
Find Toni online at www.tonibuzzeo.com and watch the video of that sweet writing cottage being built!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -