Interview with Renato Rizzuti (Book: Toddy the Tomcat and Other Tales)
Can you tell us more about your book “Toddy the Tomcat and Other Tales”, what is it about?
“Toddy the Tomcat and Other Tales” is book of 21 poems written for children. The target audience is children from as young as 3 years old to 8 years old. They are unified by the fact that they all share the same aim, which is to educate and entertain. The poems have many important themes such as prejudice based on skin colour, ethnic diversity, basic manners, the diverse wonderful world of animals and “giggly, silly, fun.” Each poem is a self contained “tale” or story which can be read independent of each other. The poems are beautifully illustrated in colour by a very talented artist named Eleonora Bekbulatova.
What’s the story behind “Toddy the Tomcat and Other Tales”? What was your inspiration to write it?
Before writing the book, I had a series of very rewarding experiences with children as an audience. I did a tour of a children’s theatre play. I also played the role of Santa Claus for many children. I had my own clown show which was very successful in entertaining children in daycare centres and the children’s ward of hospitals. When my daughter was born, I had a new audience. I would spend literally hours playing with my young daughter Rachela Rizzuti. She would love the bedtime stories that I would improvise for her. There was nothing better then the sound of her laughing and having a big smile on her face! I was inspired by Rachela and the other rewarding experiences I had entertaining children!
“Toddy the Tomcat and Other Tales” uses rhymes to tell the tales about animals and supports racial equality amongst peers, am I correct? Do you think you will expand on your book, to add more morale encouraging books for young readers?
Yes, you are correct. I plan on exploring that theme further. I feel that it is very important to have morale encouraging books for young readers. I want to educate and also entertain and my future books will also have the same objectives.
Can you tell us about some of the tales that readers could enjoy in “Toddy the Tomcat and Other Tales”?
“Bob the Bear” is about a bear that tries wearing underwear but realizes it is silly for a bear to wear underwear because he does not mind if people look at his bum and stare!
“Mortadella Sandwiches” is about an Italian boy who eats mortadella sandwiches at lunchtime. The other children think this is offensive because of the smell of mortadella. The poem explains that they should not be a “phoney” because not every child eats “baloney.” It is an important lesson about the diversity of ethnic food.
Why has been important for you to write “Toddy the Tomcat and Other Tales”
It has been important for me to write the book to educate and entertain my young audience while at the same time, letting my own inner child out to play creatively!
Would you have any words of guidance to those who would be interested in writing for others?
Always keep in mind the audience that you are writing for. I always had to keep in mind what young children would find entertaining and educating. I had to let my own inner child out to get the right perspective!
You are also an actor, and have been in a number of popular TV shows, one of which I have just started to watch myself! Can you tell our readers what it is like to act out the work of others, and how you set yourself up to be in the personal of another person’s creation?
It is fun to act out the work of others! I set myself up by adopting a child like wonderment in what I am doing at the time. Like a child, I use my imagination to create a character and also believe totally in the “realness” of the situation even though it is, in essence, completely “artificial!” If you watch a child role playing or acting out an imaginary situation, you will see the relaxed yet intense concentration in their “acting.” It is a completely pure performance devoid of any interference of the child’s own ego. I strive to maintain those same levels in my acting!
What has been the highlight of your career? Please share any special, memorable moments with us.
The highlight of my writing career is getting “Toddy the Tomcat and Other Tales” published by Lucky Pineapple Books and Films!
The highlight of my teaching career was the success of a play that I wrote and directed for a school performance. Many “stars” were “born” during that play! There was the first performance by Russell Peters who is now a millionaire, world famous comedian! Another young lad had trouble expressing himself and he opened right up and would not stop talking! His mother came up to me after the performance with tears in her eyes and said, “Thank you so much for the transformation of my son.” Another young lad was considered as suffering from “selective mutism” gave a brilliant performance in a lead role of the play! The school secretaries asked me after the play, “How did you ever get him to talk? He comes into the office and will not tell us why he is there.” It felt wonderful to know that I inspired my students!
The highlight of my acting career has been a series of highlights from success in theatre, film, TV and commercials. Acting opposite world famous Canadian film director David Cronenberg was a real highlight! I learned a great deal about acting and directing. David Cronenberg has a great sense of humour and is a true gentleman!
Which do you enjoy more, writing, acting or teaching others English and Drama?
Enjoy all of them! I can be creative in all three! As long as I can be creative, I am happy! As far as what and when I can do these things, acting and teaching require a great deal of people in order for me to perform at scheduled times. Writing is the simplest creative endeavour that I can do alone anytime and anywhere! I do not really need a computer; I can use the old “pen and a serviette” trick. I can even compose while sleeping and dreaming!
If our readers would like to find out more about you, your work, or a way to contact you, what would be the best route?
Lucky Pineapple Books and Films set up a website for me which I post various forms of writing on a regular basis. It is: rizzutiandrisotto.com and is dubbed “Italian cooking with a side of acting and real life.” My cooking skills, acting skills, teaching skills, life skills and creative writing skills are all demonstrated on the website. Through my writing, I am constantly revealing different aspects of myself. Contact information is listed on the website. Looking forward to connecting with the readers!
Buy the Book on Amazon