Monday, May 7, 2012

Stay Close To Mama by Toni Buzzeo Blog Tour & Giveaway

Just in time for Mother's Day, I'm thrilled to be the next stop on the blog tour for Toni Buzzeo's newest children's book, Stay Close to Mama. Let me introduce you to Toni and her beloved character Twiga.



Twiga is an adorable character. What made you want to write a story about a cute "little" giraffe?
Before my first trip to Kenya in 1995 (I recently returned from a second trip where I visited the International School of Kenya in Nairobi and spent time in Amboseli National Park), I didn’t know how very much I would love giraffes. But on that trip, they enchanted me with their gracefulness and their near-invisibility—until they moved. Their tawny colors blend into the dusty savannah. Most of all, though, I fell in love with those “little” babies. At six feet tall, they are thin and lithe and oh so curious.

When I heard about a small giraffe falling into the swimming pool at the ranch on Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, I couldn’t help but imagine him in my mind, determined to get to the fruit of the sausage tree overhanging the pool, despite his mother’s warnings. And, over time, I was persuaded to have the swimming pool morph into a more-universal watering hole (complete with a dangerous looking crocodile).

What kind of research went into writing Twiga's story? 
I am a librarian, so research is one of the most splendid aspects of a new story’s beginning for me. I read everything I could find about giraffes. Most importantly, I learned what they eat (they are especially fond of the sausage tree fruit), what they are afraid of (not much except WATER—even rain!), what they should be afraid of (all sorts of savannah predators such as hyenas and cheetahs), and the relationship between babies and mothers.

A mother giraffe has few predators but she must keep an ever-watchful eye on her baby, so she’s likely to be right out in the open where she can spot danger lurking, but she does always want her baby right at her side. Giraffes of all ages, however, are incredibly curious!

As an author, how closely do you get to work with your story's illustrator? Do you have any say in how they illustrate your characters?
Authors are always free to embed illustration notes in their manuscripts that direct the illustrator about what the author has in mind for a particular scene. However, we are cautioned to use these illustration notes sparingly, advice I take to heart. So, when the text says “Ka-splosh!” I might let my illustrator know that the baby giraffe has fallen into the water hole. Or when the text says “danger lurking” I might insert a note that tells him it’s a cheetah in the tree above.

But it’s wise, as well, to allow the illustrator, whose creation the book is as much as it is my own, to have his free reign in interpreting the story. So the first round of sketches come off Mike’s fingers with only my few and brief illustration notes in the text to guide him. However, once those first sketches were complete, they came to my editor and designer and to me. That’s when I got involved in thinking deeply about what Mike had imagined.  

As a librarian, I’m always looking for accuracy first. Is that the way a giraffe’s legs bend when he runs? Is that how the canopy of an acacia tree looks? What does the fruit of the sausage tree look like, anyway? Of course, in the case of Stay Close to Mama, I was able to draw on my personal experience in Kenya, as well as online research.

Mike did such a splendid job with the illustrations—and added his own touch of brilliance by creating a story that follows the giraffes from sunrise to sunset on the broad African savannah.

What inspired you to start writing children's books?
It was actually this very story that started me on my children’s writing career! In 1995, on a trip to Kenya, I encountered the story of a little giraffe who’d wandered away from his Mama and fallen into a swimming pool. Of course, there isn’t a swimming pool in Stay Close to Mama, but the water hole Twiga falls into has its roots in that pool.

Of course, the inspiration goes back much farther than 1995. I grew up with books in my hands from the time I was very small. Both my mother and my grandmother were huge readers and library users. They took me to the library every week, and we brought home enormous piles of delicious children’s books which they read to me until I could read on my own. Books, and all of the authors of the stories I loved from Maj Lindman to Beverly Cleary to Hugh Lofting, were my inspiration to grow up to become a children’s book author.

What message do hope young readers take way from Stay Close to Mama?
There really are two important messages in Stay Close to Mama. The first is that Mama (or Papa) really does know best when it comes to keeping little ones safe. But as with my earlier book, Dawdle Duckling, I also want to support young readers in their curiosity, imagination, and budding independence. And as parents, we all know that this is an enormous tight-rope walk!

Thank you for stopping by Mundie Kids today Toni. Congratulations on your newest children's book, Stay Close to Mama. 

Meet the Giraffe that inspired Twiga's character:


About the book:



In the wide, shining world there is so much to see, and Twiga is curious. But Twiga’s tall, tall Mama wants her baby to stay close, stay safe from the dangers that lurk near each irresistible sweet smell and sparkling sight that Twiga finds.
With lyrical text and enchanting illustrations, this story of a mother’s love will soothe and delight readers of all ages. -Barnes & Noble


Be sure to catch Toni's next stop on the tour will be Susan Heim on Parenting.

Giveaway:

Thank you to Disney  Hyperion, I have a signed copy of Stay Close to Mama to giveaway to 1 lucky winner! To enter, please fill out the form below.

- US & Canadian residents only
- Must be 13 yrs & older to enter (under a parent/guardian's permission is required)
- This giveaway on May 21st, 2012
- 1 entry per person

2 comments:

  1. I LOVED her One Cool Friend book! I'm interested in reading this one and the Dawdle Duckling. I like what she said about letting kids have their independence, but also that parents know best. The problem is finding that balance!

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I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~