I am so excited to share with you a beautiful book that my family adores.
My Bibi Always Remembers
by Toni Buzzeo illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
On Sale September 2nd
We are fortunate enough to be part of a close, loving family. I am so very lucky to still have all four of my grandparents living and a part of my life. Having them love, nurture, and support me for so many years has been a tremendous gift. And now I am lucky enough to watch that love trickle down the generational line to the beautiful relationships between my parents and my children.
Bibi and Tembo represent something bigger than just words. Their love is felt through this story and it's beautiful illustrations. This is a wonderful book for children and grandparents to share and treasure!
I was lucky enough to be able to ask the author and illustrator some questions about this new book. See what they have to say and feel how much of their heart and souls have gone into making a book for families to share.
Questions for the Author:
What inspired you to write My Bibi Always Remembers?
Nearly two decades ago, my family was lucky enough to take a once-in-a-lifetime safari to Kenya. It was something my husband Ken and I had long dreamed of doing and our then 12-year-old son Topher was game to accompany us, so off we went for three and a half weeks with two very experienced tour guides and ten other fellow travelers to
Imagine seeing giraffes, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, zebra, baboons, hippos, rhinos, wildebeest, cape buffalo, antelope, warthogs, and elephants—so many elephants—living in their natural habitat. I was so taken with the elephant families, especially the grandmother elephants leading their families and the tiny baby elephants surrounded and protected by their families. Two years ago, I had to go back to visit those same elephants again in Amboseli National Park in Kenya.
My Bibi Always Remembers is the third in a collection of East African animal family stories. I wrote the first, Stay Close to Mama, about a baby giraffe—Twiga--and his mama and the second, Just Like My Papa, about a lion cub—Kito--and his papa. And as I was writing those books, I knew I was moving toward the most personal story of the three, My Bibi Always Remembers, the story of a grandmother elephant and her grandbaby elephant--Tembo.
What is your connection with Bibi and Tembo?
My Bibi Always Remembers is, in many ways, the story of my grandmother Mae Mackey and me. I had the wonderful luxury of living, along with my parents, with my grandparents for the first two years of my life. After that, we lived less than five miles from my grandparents for the next four years. During those early years of my life I formed an intense and lasting bond with my Grandma Mae. More than anyone else in my life, she was the one I looked to for guidance, for comfort, for unconditional love—and for fun!
We did so many things together, Grandma Mae and I. She had a blue willow china tea set, so we had tea parties. She had black cap raspberries along the back fence, so we went on berry picking expeditions. She had a dog, Ginger, who had a whole family of puppies, so we played with them. And, of course, we read piles and piles and piles of books! In short, we did everything together. As you can guess, then, Grandma Mae is Bibi in My Bibi Always Remembers and I am Tembo, the lucky recipient of a grandmother’s love and protection.
I’m thrilled to tell you that as My Bibi Always Remembers is making its way in the world, I am myself learning to be a Nonna--the very same sort of wonderful grandmother that Grandma Mae was to me and that Bibi is to Tembo—to my own very first grandbaby, Camden James.
What message are you hoping to send to your young readers?
All three of my East African stories carry the same message, and that is: It’s okay to be precisely who you are; it’s okay to be a curious, playful child; no matter what, you will be loved, cherished, and nurtured by the adults in your family.
The world is a complicated and sometimes dangerous place, but it shouldn’t feel so for our little ones. Their world should, instead, be filled with loving adults who nurture in them their curiosity, their playful natures, their wide-eyed wonder at a glorious place full of new and delightful sights and sounds and experiences.
Questions for the Illustrator:
What was your favorite part about illustrating this beautiful book?
My favorite thing about illustrating this wonderful story was the color palette. Since it takes place during a drought, the grass and land had to be subdued colors, like brown and yellow ochre, and of course the elephants are gray. All these muted colors made for a limited palette. At first this was very daunting, but I ended up loving the controlled palette of subtle colors.
Bibi and Tembo's facial expressions are very telling, what messages did you want to send through their faces?
The emotion of my characters is very important to me. With each scene in a book I’m really thinking about what the emotion would be. I try to convey this emotion through color, body language, and, most importantly, facial expressions. I’m happy to hear you feel the facial expressions are very telling in BIBI, because with this more realistic style it can be challenging to show exactly what the character is feeling.
How long did it take you to illustrate the book and what mediums did you use?
It took approximately six weeks to do all the pencil sketches and color studies. The final paintings took four months. I used acrylic paints.