Tag Archives: new books

January First

January First” is a father’s account of his daughter’s early childhood and their family’s journey through the maze of mental illness. Author Michael Schofield and his wife Susan have two children, January (who goes by Jani) and Bodhi. Much of Schofield’s book describes three daily challenges — meeting Jani’s need for constant stimulation, keeping baby brother Bodi and the family pet safe, and searching for solutions for Jani’s frequent rages.

Jani is a lovable little girl with a genius I.Q. whose parents take her early imaginings for signs of giftedness. It’s a common reaction with parents whose children seem odd or eccentric, but the denial that something deeper is at work can be dangerous. While embracing her high intelligence, Schofield recognizes there’s more to Jani’s cadre of imaginary rats than your typical pretend play. Still, he resists after Susan drives Jani to the hospital one day insisting they admit her for psychiatric evaluation.

We all want to believe we’re imbued as parents with everything we need to help our children through tough times. We want to trust professionals who proffer answers too simple for complex challenges. We want to believe that children are a blank slate, that we can write their lives as beautiful stories through the sheer power of love and positive parenting. We rarely consider the role of genetic roulette until the wheel fails to spin in our favor.

No one imagines, while holding a newborn in their arms, that their precious child will one day need intramuscular injections of antipsychotic medication or find her social stride only with other children admitted for inpatient psychiatric care. For most parents, child-proofing means covering the electrical outlets, not removing all the knives from their kitchen or hiding objects that might become projectiles during a child’s massive mood swings.

Most parents fret over much simpler fare like choosing a birthday party theme or deciding where to take their next vacation. But Schofield and his family live in a wholly different world. Jani’s illness, which sometimes overshadows the lovliest parts of the little girl they love so well, transforms their marriage into a 24/7 exercise in hypervigilence. Friends disappear as Jani’s symptoms escalate. Babysitters aren’t up for the challenge, and most teachers don’t get it.

Families living with mental illness have to fight each day to enjoy even fleeting encounters with the experiences other parents take for granted. Mental health experts note that one in ten children are likely to experience a mental illness severe enough to significantly interfere with school, friends and family life — which means that each and every one of us knows families who are struggling.

Parenting a child with mental illness is an isolating experience, truly understood only by those traversing the same trek. Those who read Schofield’s book will get a glimmer of what life is like for families facing mental illness. The unpredictability of each day. The physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. The brutality of stigma that blames and shames parents for brain disorders beyond their control.

What you take from “January First” may depend on your own experiences with mental illness. Those who’ve never faced it will find the compelling tale of parents pushed to the limit by a devastating disease. Those whose children have symptoms of mental illness will find the solace of knowing they’re not alone. Those farther along in the journey of parenting a child with mental illness may find themselves swept back into the pain of previous trauma.

Schofield is a gifted writer whose book makes several things clear. Every child is unique and wonderful. The bulk of mental illness isn’t born of bad parenting. Schools need better supports for students facing mental illness. Prompt and proper diagnosis and treatment leads to better outcomes. Parents in all situations need support and understanding.

Schofield opens “January First” by comparing mental illness to cancer. Exploring similarities from a public policy perspective is outside the scope of this book, but worth considering. Parenting Jani makes holding a traditional job impossible, and costs for her medical care (like those for other children with chronic illness) are exorbitant. We need to do more for families facing this dual dilemma.

The title “January First” reflects Schofield’s commitment to putting his daughter first — above marriage, career, friendships and personal fulfillment. But also the fact that Jani is a person not defined solely by her disease. Hence I’m puzzled by his descriptions of Jani as “schizophrenic,” which feels a bit like calling a child living with leukemia “cancerous.” Still, it’s not for me to judge. Listen more, judge less — it’s something we should all aspire to.

Reading “January First” is like taking a master class in empathy. I hope every parent reads it, and feels moved to take action. Despite progress made in furthering racial equality and recognizing gay rights, families living with mental illness continue to live in the shadows. Shame on us if we let it continue.

— Lynn

Note: You can follow January’s journey by clicking here to read Schofield’s blog. Click here to learn more about mental illness in children and teens, here to find programs for families living with mental illness, here to find books by one of my favorite authors on the topic of childhood mental illness and here to explore examples of “people first” language.

Coming up: A Vatican tale, Once upon a mural

Hidden treasures

Folks can enjoy all sorts of art adventures south of the Gila River, many of them documented in Lili DeBarbieri’s “A Guide to Southern Arizona’s Historic Farms & Ranches” recently published by The History Press. It’s a fascinating mix of farming and ranching with history and culture.

DeBarbieri’s book profiles nearly two dozen “rustic Southwest retreats,” highlighting ties with agriculture, art, wildlife and more. Seems you can enjoy a nature museum at the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, a sculpture path at the Triangle 2 Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Oracle, and exhibits of visual art at Rancho Linda Vista (also in Oracle). None of these hidden treasures had crossed my path before reading DeBarbieri’s book.

Several of the places DeBarbieri profiles have seen stagecoach, train and car traffic. One was once inhabited by Apache Indians, and another was once home to Pima Indians. One is considered the site where Geronimo was born. And another once hosted an intriguing visitor in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Seems the Simpson Hotel in Duncan even has ties to the case of the Great Orphan Abduction, which went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Many have welcomed famous guests through the years. DeBarbieri notes that John Wayne was a guest at the Hacienda Corona de Guevavi in Nogales. Guests of the 3C Ranch in Oracle included Mae West and Richard Nixon, and guests of the Kenyon Ranch in Tumacacori included Cary Grant and Ricky Nelson. President John Kennedy, Steve McQueen and Walt Disney all stayed at the Triangle T Historic Ranch in Dragoon.

Even fans of film, modern art and musical theater will find fascinating tidbits in DeBarbieri’s book, which explores the Oracle ranch where Andy Warhol filmed the Western movie spoof “Lonesome Cowboy” in 1968, the Amado farm boasting corn fields featured in the opening scene of the movie “Oklahoma” and the Tucson ranch where movies starring Ronald Reagan, George Clooney and others were filmed.

DeBarbieri also reveals getaways of famous folk like Natalie Wood, Paul Newman and Gene Kelly — and shares details about a ranch near Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s childhood home. She’s even uncovered tales featuring folks from Shirley Temple Black to Johnny Depp, making the book a compelling read for those who follow celebrity adventures. Clearly Southern Arizona trumps the Jersey Shore.

Folks who follow a different sort of wildlife will enjoy reading about all the desert critters spotted around Southern Arizona farms and ranches. Seems guests of the Triangle L. Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Oracle sometimes spot hawks, ravens, rabbits, roadrunners, quail, chipmunks and songbirds by day — plus owls, javelina, bobcats and coyotes after nightfall.

Guests at the McKenzie Inn Bed and Breakfast in Eloy sometimes spy buzzard, burrowing owls, coyotes, bats and rabbits. DeBarbieri’s book also recounts the sighting of a rare leopard frog by a guest at Across the Creek at Aravaipa Farms in Winkelman, and notes that the best Arizona place to view sandhill cranes is just two miles from Sojourner’s Homestead Bed and Breakfast in McNeal. Horseback riding is available at many of the farms and ranches she profiles, and one is set up for “BYOH” riders.

Folks can learn plenty of new skills while enjoying agritourism in Southern Arizona. Across the Creek at Aravaipa Farms in Winkelman offers jam-making classes, Simpson Hotel in Duncan has workshops in canning and drying garden produce, and Amuniyalde los Zopilotes in Patgonia will send you home with new gardening techniques. Just reading DeBarbieri’s book will introduce you to new recipes for blueberry pie, minted melon soup, green chili pie, desert Sonoran hummus and other ranch or farm specialties.

Some farms and ranches offer volunteer opportunities, and many help visitors up their knowledge and appreciation of organic foods. Some have special activities for children, and evening meals that make a perfect setting for family members to talk about each day’s adventures. While some have a more social feel, with plentiful opportunities for guests to meet and mingle, others feature more solitary fare. So ask about such things before you decide which places to explore.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “A Guide to Southern Arizona’s Historic Farms & Ranches” by Lili DeBarbieri

Coming up: Madison meets Malibu

9/11 books for children

Books I encountered during a June visit to the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site near the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan

Captain Bob Badgett of the Gilbert Fire Department, whose two children are in their early 20s, spent part of Wednesday this week at Finley Farms Elementary School. He was one of several volunteers who read to 4th graders as part of the town’s “Week of Tribute to 9/11.” www.gilbertaz.gov/911memorial.

Badgett read a book titled “Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey” by Maira Kalman of Manhattan, who “was born in Tel Aviv and moved to New York with her family at the age of four.” She’s written and illustrated thirteen children’s books —  the latest a collaboration with Lemony Snicket titled “13 WORDS.” www.mairakalman.com.

“Fireboat” is the true tale of a boat in 1931 New York that’s eventually retired for a time — until called back into service in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Its crew includes a dog named “Smokey,” which makes me feel only slightly better about the fact that I often call the book “Firedog” by mistake. www.fireboat.org.

I first stumbled on “Fireboat” in June, while visiting the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan — where it was diplayed close to teddy bears wearing NYPD or FDNY shirts and other items honoring 9/11 first responders.

The 9/11 Memorial will open to 9/11 families this Sunday (and others, with online reservations, the following day), but those of us who won’t be in NYC can still support the cause by shopping for 9/11-related books and other items online. www.911memorial.org.

I like the idea of keeping these books handy year-round rather than pulling them out only with the advent of 9/11 anniversary dates. My books on Abraham Lincoln weren’t put away between President’s Day holidays when my children were little, so why treat this historical event any differently?

Be sure you review 9/11-related books before sharing them with your child. “Fireboat” depicts the destruction of the twin towers, which some parents might not feel comfortable with. “Fireboat” is recommended for ages four and up, but you’re the best judge of what your own child can handle.

Badgett says the experience of reading “Fireboat” to fourth graders felt especially profound because almost all of them were born the year that 9/11 took place. “They have a deeper understanding of it than I thought,” reflects Badgett.

He was also impressed by the questions students asked. Do you remember where you were? Didn’t we catch the guy who masterminded this? “I wondered how deep to go with all this,” shares Badgett. It sounds like he kept it simple and very matter of fact in tone — as it should be.

It reminded me of the story about a child who asks a mom where babies come from only to get a full-blown anatomy lecture when a simple “we’ll bring her home from the hospital” would have done the trick. Still, it’s important not to skim over the event as if it never happened or has little significance.

“Kids need real and factual information,” observes Badgett. “If they don’t get it from us, they get misinformation from other places.” Badgett appreciates books like “Fireboat” because they “get kids the information in a non-threatening format.”

On the morning of 9/11, Badgett (then a firefighter in Scottsdale) was “off shift” — watching television at home while enjoying his morning coffee. After seeing the second tower get hit, Badgett brought his own children downstairs and told them what had happened. “That day all firefighters were on duty,” recalls Badgett.

The newest children’s book to explore the events of and after 9/11 is “14 Cows for America,” written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Wilson Kimel Naiyomah collaborated on the book, which is aimed at 6-10 year olds.

It’s the true story of a Maasai student in New York who witnessed 9/11 — then shared the experience with villagers after returning home to Kenya. The tragedy inspired them to make a precious gift to America. It was their cows. www.14cowsforamerica.com.

Many children offered gifts of words and art in the weeks and months following 9/11. Some found their way into books like “September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right,” “Do Not Be Sad: A Chronicle of Healing,” “What Will You Do For Peace?” and “Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11, 2001.” Also “Art for Heart” and “The Day Our World Changed.”

We like to believe that we read books about 9/11 with our children to help them make sense of the world. In reality, we’re the ones still struggling to understand. 

— Lynn

Coming up: Talking with kids about 9/11, Review: 14 Cows for America, Broadway remembers 9/11

“Curious Critters”

As the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix prepares for the Sept 12 opening of the “Dave Rogers’ Big Bugs” exhibit, I’m getting in the mood with a soon-to-be-released book titled “Curious Critters” featuring text and photography by David FitzSimmons.

My son Christopher, now 22, has been curious about critters since early childhood — volunteering with several places devoted to critter care and conservation. So I eagerly snatched up a preview copy of the book, scheduled for a Nov. 7 release, when it was offered. We both fell in love with “Curious Critters” the instant we saw the Gray treefrog on the book’s cover.

It looks green in the photo, of course, but there’s a simple explanation — which the frog explains for itself on the page it occupies opposite a Bush katydid that looks a mix of pink lemonade and cotton candy.

Each critter photo is accompanied by “a vignette, told from the critter’s perspective.” A sappy idea, perhaps, but superbly executed — achieving the author’s goal of both educating and entertaining. Not just the children, but adult readers too. Never mind that it’s meant for four to eight year olds.

Christopher was especially fond of the book’s reptiles and amphibians. Think Spotted salamander, Eastern box turtle, Fox snake and American toad. The insects and arachnids, which include a Chinese praying mantis and Jumping spider, are equally dandy.

I’m more of a fur and feather kind of a gal, so I warmed up to the birds and mammals first — a Southern flying squirrel, Blue jay, Eastern screech owl and more. Crustaceans simply aren’t my style.

A couple of critters get double the real estate, taking up a full two-page spread. Everyone’s favorite, the goldfish. (No, they’re not appropriate as birthday party favors.) Also the Eastern spiny softshell turtle. And the Virginia opossum my 20-year-old Jennifer describes as “scary cute.”

Exploring “Curious Critters” is a fun way to build pre-reading and math skills like finding ways things are similar or different, sorting like objects into discrete categories and noticing small details. It can be a different book each time you read it.

Were my children little again, I’d make a game of “Curious Critters” — hunting for all the critters with four legs, with bright colors, with whiskers and wings and other fun things. I’d compare different eyes and different snouts.

Each critter is seen against a white background meant to showcase “the animals’ colors, textures, and shapes with precision and clarity.” Hence its rightful claim to a place on the shelf with your other art books.

You’ll find a section titled “Curious Critters: Natural History,” which features facts about each creature, near the end of the book. Also a page showing the relative size of each critter. Size is another one of those subjects that pops up a lot in school, and reading books like “Curious Critters” makes thinking about it fun.

“Curious Critters” is the first children’s book from FitzSimmons, who holds a Ph.D. in English from Ohio State University. FitzSimmons says he was “inspired to photograph and write about nature by his parents” — both “active environmentalists and lifelong teachers.”

FitzSimmons credits his wife, a naturalist — plus daughters Sarah and Phoebe — with assisting in his natural history endeavors. How delightful that we can all reap the benefits of their curiosity.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about “Curious Critters” at www.curious-critters.com. Enjoy the photography of David FitzSimmons at www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com. And get the scoop on “Big Bugs” at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix at www.dbg.org.

Coming up: Remembering 9/11 through arts and culture

Tony Award meets comic book?

I’d be getting ahead of myself by speculating at this point about whether or not the new and improved “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” will garner future Tony Award® nominations. But for reasons beyond my mere human powers to decipher, I’ve been inundated during the last day or so with comic-related news.

I’m not a huge fan of comic books or comic book characters, mostly because I know very little about them. Maybe “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” will turn out to be my gateway drug. Until now, my biggest contribution to the comic book universe was giving my daughter Lizabeth a lift to “Comic Zone” in Scottsdale so she could visit friends with a higher C.Q. than my own. But alas — no superhero came to the rescue as they readied to close up shop last month.

Lizabeth is headed out tonight to see a midnight showing of “X-Men: First Class” with a friend from her graduating class at Arizona School for the Arts. Last weekend it was “Phoenix Comicon.” My only recent brush with comic books was watching an MSNBC segment titled “Superhero Success” — with Deepak Chopra and son Gotham Chopra discussing a new book titled “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes.”

Seems mama Chopra used to fret about her son reading too may comic books, but father and son were quick to praise characters like “Batman” during the MSNBC interview for illustrating the importance of drawing strength from adversity. I’d love to read their review of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”

Just the superhero I've been waiting for...

It appears I may finally have found a bit of comic book fare that I can relate to — because Scottsdale Public Art has just announced all sorts of free public events being held in conjunction with the “ZAP! POW! BAM!” exhibition you can enjoy through Sept 2 in a gallery located at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library. The exhibition was organized by The Bremen Museum in Atlanta.

Here’s an exhibit lowdown from event organizers…

“ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938-1950” explores the genesis of cultural icons such as Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and Captain America, and the way those figures shaped popular opinion.

During the economic and political turmoil of the 1930s and 1940s, comic books offered Americans champions who shaped the value of an entire generation. The exhibition examines the creative processes and influences that drove young, largely Jewish artists to express their talents through the story lines and art of graphic novels.

I’m told there’s a “ZAP Costume Ball” Thurs, June 9 in the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts atrium and a “Family Movie” Tues, June 14 at the Center’s “Stage 2.” On Wed, June 22 kids can enjoy a “Drawing Comic Panels” workshop with Albert Morales at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library.

Come Thurs, July 21 the age 18 & up crowd can show their comic book pride with a “Metropolis RetroMovie Night” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. And a “ZAP! POW! BAM! Water Battle” takes place Thurs, July 21 at the Fountain Stage in the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall (think outdoor entertainment area, not shopping mall).

Who knows — maybe this time next year I’ll be penning a post praising the superhero powers of the “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” cast, crew and creative team. For now, I can just dip my big toe in the water of the comic book universe a bit closer to home in Scottsdale.

— Lynn

Note: Always check event details (date/time, location, age recommendations, registration requirements, cost and such) before attending.

Coming up: Puppetry meets Tony Awards®

From JFK to Father’s Day

This poster resembles a T-shirt my daughter Jennifer loves to wear

For most, the name Kennedy conjures thoughts of politics. My own daughter Jennifer, a 20-year-old antroplogy student at ASU who aspires to work for the United Nations, loves wearing a T-shirt that bears the likeness of a 1960 poster supporting JFK’s presidential campaign.

John F. Kennedy was born in Massachusetts on May 29, 1917. Had he not been assassinated in November 1963, today would be JFK’s 94th birthday. And while opinions of his politics may vary, it’s hard to find fault in his avid support for the arts.

After Kennedy’s death, a work in progress originally dubbed the National Culture Center became the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It’s located near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and there are three ways folks in Arizona can enjoy its offerings.

Those visiting D.C. can attend diverse music, dance and theater performance at the Kennedy Center — assuming tickets are available when you’re ready to buy them. The rest of us can watch for touring productions of Kennedy Center programs like the Theater for Young Audiences performance of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” presented last year at Higley Center for the Performing Arts, Or go online for daily webcasts from the Center’s Millennium Stage.

The Kennedy Center offers free daily performances (at 6pm EST) on its Millennium Stage. Saturday night I watched streaming video of the Beach Fossils. Sunday night will feature a D.C. trio called “Medications,” described as “an 18-year collaboration between multi-instrumentalists Devin Ocampo and Chad Molter with drummer Mark Cisneros” that “combines a love of ’60s and ’70s pop, as well as the visceral pulse of ’70s punk.”

There’s plenty of live performance art right here in Arizona, but Kennedy Center Millennium Stage offerings are perfect for evenings you’re content to stay home but still want to get your daily dose of arts and culture. While you’re online, consider exploring the Kennedy Center website to learn about its many collaborations with Arizona artists.

Ballet Arizona performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Center’s “Ballet Across America II” program in June 2010. And Childsplay, a Tempe-based theater company presenting works for youth and families, has participated four times in the Center’s “New Visions/New Voices” playwriting development program — with “The Yellow Boat,” “Even Steven Goes to War,” “Salt & Pepper,” and “Telemera: Stories My Mother Told Me.”

But the Kennedy family legacy goes beyond the realms of politics and art.

Patrick J. Kennedy, son of JFK’s brother Edward M. Kennedy and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is coupling his personal experience with bipolar disorder and addiction with his expertise in public policy to further the work of the newly-established “One Mind for Research” campaign — which aims to unify the science, technology, research and knowledge needed to battle brain disorders.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, JFK’s sister, founded the Special Olympics in 1968. The organization — which describes itself as “the world’s largest movement dedicated to promoting respect, acceptance, inclusion, and human dignity for people with intellectual disabilities” — serves more than 3.5 million people through a variety of programs. From June 25 to July 4, 7,500 athletes from 185 countries will participate in the Special Olympics “World Summer Games” in Athens — which includes 22 Olympic-type sports.

Today the only surviving child of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, continues making her own contributions to arts and culture. She serves as honorary chairman of the American Ballet Theatre governing board and has authored several books including “A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children” and the recently released “She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems.”

I imagine what it must have been like to grow up surrounded by the countless words of others attempting to decipher or describe your father’s legacy. If you’d like to try writing about your own father, consider attending a “Father’s Day Writing Workshop” Fri, June 9, from 6-8pm at MADE Art Boutique on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. Here’s a little blurb about the event from the “Mothers Who Write” website:

A good dad is hard to find. If you’ve got one, let him know how you feel by writing something for him this Father’s Day. And if you don’t, write about him anyway — it just might be cathartic. Bring 17 copies of your two-page (typed, double spaced) piece to MADE and fine-tune it with MWW instructors Amy Silverman (Phoenix New Times) and Deborah Sussman (ASU Art Museum). Spaces are limited; registration is required. To register, call 602.256.MADE.

We all spend far too much time delving into the private lives of other families, famous and otherwise. And while I find the topic of JFK fascinating, I can assure you that my own father is every bit as interesting and complex — albeit in a wholly different sort of a way. Maybe he’s the one I should be writing about…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about Special Olymics Arizona

Coming up: Local twists on the Tony Awards®, Last chance! Art camps, Do the math: Arizona arts & culture by the numbers

Art books seek good homes

Plenty of new books made their way into our home last year — most related to art, history or philosophy.

My favorite titles included When Art Worked: The New Deal, Art, and Democracy (Roger Kennedy), Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet (Jennifer Homans), and Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes (Stephen Sondheim).

Also The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution (Denis Dutton) and Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (Mark Twain). Leaving Art: Writings on Performance, Politics, and Publics (1974-2007) (Suzanne Lacy) will likely be the next book I tackle.

Of course, I’ll have to make room on my bookshelves for these newer acquisitions, which has prompted me to start hauling out some old still-packed boxes labeled “books” in search of titles that might be better off in a new home — so more folks can enjoy them.

I figure that once our third and youngest child heads off to college in the fall, we really won’t need all those picture books and early readers. Of course, we’ll save the classics (like Pat the Bunny and Goodnight Moon) — and the favorites (like Rainbow Fish and I Love You Forever).

But the rest will be going to a good cause, or several of them. In case you’re feeling similarly inspired, I’m happy to share my list of places that need donations of gently-used books — though you should always call ahead to confirm specific needs, donation procedures and such.

The Volunteer Non-Profit Service Association (VNSA) will hold its 55th annual “VNSA Used Book Sale” Sat, Feb 12, and Sun, Feb 13 — at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix.

The sale includes rare and unusual books and foreign language titles, and many general titles will be half-off on Sunday. The event is free, though the fairgrounds do charge for parking.

Proceeds from the VNSA book sale “benefit Valley human service agencies.” To date, “more than $6,000,000” has been donated to local charities. This year’s beneficiaries include the “Arizona Friends of Foster Care Foundation” and “Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County.”

The VNSA website provides details on two options for those wishing to donate gently-used books — at-home pick up or drop box locations throughout the Valley.

The Heard Museum will present its “15th Annual Heard Museum Guild Library Book Sale” Sat, Jan 29, and Sun, Jan 30 — at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. The sale includes “30,000 books in every genre.”

The Heard Museum will also have other items for sale, including “American Indian and vintage jewelry, katsina dolls, prints, pottery and ceramic vessels.” Sounds like a great way to jump start your Valentine’s Day shopping.

Proceeds from the book sale benefit the “Billie Jane Baguley Library and Archives” of the Heard Museum, “one of the country’s most comprehensive research facilities about indigenous art and culture from around the world.” The event has raised more than $250,000 in its 14-year history.

Special features of the sale include a silent auction of “high-end items and rare-edition books,” a Sunday sale, a special children’s area featuring children’s books and other items, and early bird member shopping (on Friday).

The Heard Museum website offers details on each day’s schedule and activities — and how you can donate books to the cause. Although admission to the book sale is free, there is an admission charge for those who also wish to explore the museum’s exhibits.

The Friends of the Phoenix Public Library organization holds book sales throughout the year, which include special shopping opportunities for “Friends” members.  The next sale is Sat, Feb 12, and Sun, Feb, 13 (members can shop Fri, Feb 11).

All sales take place at the Friends of the Phoenix Public Library warehouse in Phoenix. Those wishing to donate gently-used books have two options — requesting pick-up of books or taking books to one of several drop box locations.

Visit the Phoenix Public Library website to learn more about donation procedures, or to request a donation of books to your local non-profit organization. The site also offers tips on hosting a book drive to benefit the Friends organization.

With week one of the “New Year” — and all those well meaning resolutions — nearly behind us, this is the perfect time to declutter your home while enriching the literary lives of others.

— Lynn

Note: You may also wish to check with local schools, day care centers, pediatric medical facilities and children’s charities about their book needs. If your organization accepts donations of gently-used books to benefit local non-profits, please comment below to briefly let our readers know.

Coming up: Cupid meets curator, Art of “Sacred Places,” Film tackles bullying

From Senegal to Seeger

Michael J. Miles performs on banjo at the MIM this Wednesday

I’m told there’s a gentleman who has quite the diverse banjo repetoire, and will be playing seven of these babies Wednesday night at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix — in a concert dubbed “From Senegal to Seeger.”

He’s Michael J. Miles — musician, composer and musical playwright. Think J.S. Bach. Woody Guthrie. And wordsmiths like Walt Whitman too. They’re all part of this picker’s performance art.

Michael J. Miles sports an impressive banjo collection

Miles’ concert is described as a sort of “social and political portrait of America.” And it makes me wonder. Is there some odd alignment of banjo playing with brilliance?

I ask because only yesterday morning I witnessed Renaissance man Steve Martin playing banjo on CBS News Sunday Morning. Martin also spoke of his experiences with art and his newest novel, titled “An Object of Beauty.”

The banjo has its own special sort of beauty

If you’ve never considered the banjo itself, or the music it makes possible, an object of beauty — it might be time for you to experience the banjo up close and personal.

Perhaps at the MIM Museum Encounter this Wed, Dec 8, at 11:30am or 2:30pm. It’s an opportunity to “meet Miles and hear his entertaining mix of music, history, literature, politics and humor.”

Miles makes a serious fashion statement with this banjo

MIM Museum Encounters are free with museum admission, so you can explore the MIM collection of banjos and other instruments while you are there.

And it won’t cost you a thing to jump online and watch the Steve Martin segment on yesterday’s CBS News “Sunday Morning” show — as well as their hour-long webcast.

If you conjure images of “King Tut” or “Pink Panther” when you think of Steve Martin, you’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do. He’s also author, musician, art collector and more.

Martin makes his own "Peace Corps" fashion statement

I love his description of writing — really three simple elements — which is part of the interview you can listen to by clicking here. I’m off to curl up with “An Object of Beauty” now, so I can enjoy the theory put into practice.

The upcoming Miles concert also got me thinking about Arizona Theatre Company’s next production — “Woodie Guthrie’s American Song.”

It runs Dec 30, 2010-Jan 16, 2011 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, and features “songs and writings by Woody Guthrie.”

Fans of folk and theater will appreciate this ATC offering

The “play guide” is already available online, and it looks to be stellar. It’s my next read after I’m done musing over Martin.

I’m also rather smitten with Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 work titled “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.” Turns out Springsteen plays a mean banjo. Check out this version of “Fever” featuring Bruce on banjo if you doubt me on this one.

Some heard Springsteen play folk during concerts at ASU Gammage

Watch for a future post exploring more of the beauty of the banjo — and ways you can introduce your children to the richness of American folk music, past and present.

— Lynn

More proof that banjo players are brilliant

Note: If you’re a fan of American folk music, I hope you were tuned to PBS last night for “My Music: Folk Rewind” featuring folk singers of the ’50s and ’60s. It reminded me that the online PBS gift shop is another great resource for holiday shopping.

Coming up: “Narnia” from books to big screen, Art adventures: Arizona Science Center, Hippies hit ASU Gammage in Tempe