When I was ten, my siblings, Karen, David, and Glen, began to arrive and within three years, not only was I no longer an only child, but we were a family of four children. I spent a great deal of time caring for my younger brothers and sister, especially reading to them. To this day, when I read a Dr. Seuss book aloud to children, I am transported back in time to that Danish modern couch in our living room, surrounded by the three of them.
As a teenager, I started my writing career as a poet and an anthologist. I spent hours at the formica kitchen table, copying out poems in longhand into spiral bound notebooks. I selected huge stacks of books each week at the library, and always, several volumes of poetry. I read these poetry books and marked my favorites with scraps of paper. Then, after dinner, when my homework was finished, I would sit at the table and copy out the poems I loved.
That is how I learned to write. I read and re-read and listened to the words I was reading in my mind. Then I copied them out and listened to them again. I learned to write poetry in that long apprenticeship. Years later, when I was working my way through college, I began to publish my poetry in the college literary magazines, and I began to think of myself as a real writer. Since then, I have always written, in one way or another, publishing here and there.
Also as a teenager, I started my library career. Again, there was a long apprenticeship. I worked first as a "page" shelving books at the Dearborn Public Library, in that old stone building with the huge dollhouse outside the children’s room. At 18, I took my first full time job as a library clerk. From there, I progressed through a variety of paraprofessional positions, learning along the way how much I still loved the children’s department.Things all came full circle when, in 1988, I took my first job as a children’s librarian at the Baxter Memorial Library in Gorham, Maine. That year, I also joined the Southern Maine Library District Children’s Book Review and learned that I loved to write reviews. I honed that craft and then expanded it as I began to write for the then-fledgling AudioFile Magazine. I reviewed AudioFile for ten years.
In 1995, I began to write for children. I continued my apprenticeship in that work for five years, and though I didn’t sit at a kitchen table copying longhand anymore, that apprenticeship reminded me of that first writing apprenticeship, so long ago, as I read large stacks of books each week and learn from what is best in them.
After five years of writing for children, I won the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Barbara Karlin Grant for my picture book, The Sea Chest, in July 2000. Only two months later, in September, I sold the book to Dial Books for Young Readers. It is illustrated by Mary GrandPre (who has illustrated the American Harry Potter books as well as many other beautiful picture books) and was published September 2002. The Sea Chest, a Junior Library Guild selection, won a 2002 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award as well as the 2004-05 Children's Crown Gallery Award.
In January of 2001, I sold my second children's book, Dawdle Duckling, also to Dial. Quite differenct from The Sea Chest, Dawdle Duckling is a story for very young readers, birth to six years of age. This story of a little duckling who swims to the beat of his own drummer, is illustrated by Margaret Spengler
Dawdle Duckling, a Children's Book-of-the-Month Club selection and a Dolly Parton Imagination Library selection, was published in January 2003.
Little Loon and Papa was published in May 2004 by Dial. Illustrated by Margaret Spengler in the same charming pastels as Dawdle Duckling, Little Loon and Papa is another story for very young readers, birth to six years of age. In this story, timid Little Loon gets lost when Papa tries to teach him to dive. He encounters a series of northwoods animals on the shore before he is able to gather his courage and try! It is a Brodart Top Juvenile Title as well as a Dolly Parton Imagination Library selection.
Ready or Not, Dawdle
Duckling debuted in 2005, my fourth Dial
picture book. Once again, Margaret Spengler has
brought the charming Dawdle to life, again in the
company of his friends, Frog, Fish, and Turtle.
When Dawdle plays hide-and-seek with Mama Duck and his
siblings, his dawdling nature gets in the way until he
turns to his friends for help!
Our Librarian Won't
Tell Us ANYTHING! is my latest children's book,
published in 2006. Illustrator Sachiko Yoshikawa
has painted charming illustrations of the wise and
funny librarian who won't tell Robert or Carmen
ANYTHING--but who will teach them to do anything to
become proficient in the library media center.
Another of my joys is
sharing quality children's literature with students
through Reader's Theater. I publish a script in
each issue of Library
Sparks magazine. In addition, a set of ten
RT scripts with an author interview and
standards-based curriculim activities are published in
Learn! Ten Reader's Theater Projects for Literacy
Enhancement by Upstart
In addition, I have published three professional books for Linworth Publishers for library media specialists and teachers. Collaborating to Meet Literacy Standards: Teacher/Librarian Partnerships for K-2, Collaborating to Meet Standards: Teacher/Librarian Partnerships for K-6 and Collaborating to Meet Standards: Teacher/Librarian Partnerships for 7-12 are available for purchase. Each volume includes three meaty chapters devoted to the history of collaboration and practical implementation ideas as well as a host of fully detailed collaborative instructional units. The remainder of my time is devoted to writing books for children, so that someday my books will be lined up in the children’s libraries that have nurtured me so much all of my life.
1999 saw the publication of my first book, Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers: Real Space and Virtual Links from Libraries Unlimited. My co-author, Jane Kurtz, and I wrote the book because we knew, from our personal experiences and from the stories of our friends, that author, illustrator, and storyteller visits to libraries and schools are sometimes extraordinary and sometimes dismal failures. We wanted to correct that by creating a book that would show all of the players--authors, illustrators, storytellers, librarians, and teachers--how to make the very best connections between kids and bookpeople, whether in person or in cyberspace.
I was named
Maine Library Media Specialist of the Year in May 1999
by the Maine
Association of School Libraries, a tremendous
honor and a long time goal of mine. I continue my work
as a children’s librarian, although I am no longer
employed in a school. I serve on the Executive
Board of the Maine Association of School Libraries and
volunteer as a collaborating library media specialist
in my local school here in Buxton, Maine. I also
speak across the country in schools, at library,
reading and writing conferences, and in district and
regional trainings for teachers and librarians.
As you see, I continue to write, too!
Learn More about Toni
You can also learn more about me and my writing around the web. Please consider stopping by these online interviews with me!