Book festival packed with activities for kids

Share story time with a kid in your life and support a local author.

To prolong the magic beyond Christmas, gift the kids in your life with children's books by local authors. 

There are way more options than you would expect, with stories covering everything from the desert to Down syndrome. 

We've organized the list by local author — with titles, publication dates and ratings as you would find them on Amazon. 

Happy reading!

Lori Alexander

"A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games" (2020): This young readers biography uses art and photographs to tell the origin story of the Paralympics. This book has five stars and six ratings on Amazon.

"Backhoe Joe" (2014): A story about a boy who tries to adopt a backhoe that misbehaves like a rambunctious puppy. This book has 89 ratings and four-and-a-half stars on Amazon. 

Learn more about Alexander and her other books at

Byrd Baylor

"Everybody Needs a Rock" (1985): A rock hunter shares her 10 rules for finding a rock. The book has four-and-a-half stars and 314 ratings. 

"The Way to Start a Day" (1986): The book explores how people around the world watch the sunrise. This book has five stars and 85 ratings. 

Byrd Baylor doing some work as she is sitting at a table near her kitchen using an old-fashioned typewriter, which she always uses to do her books Thursday April 23, 2009. 

Baylor has many other books that celebrate the natural world, the desert and the simple pleasures of life such as family and beauty. Find them listed at Antigone Books here

Rhody Cohon

"Blast to the Past: Lincoln's Legacy" (2005): The first book in a series that whisks a class back in time to learn about history up close and personal. This book has four stars and 26 ratings. Cohon writes with Stacia Deutsch. Other books in the series include "Disney's Dream," "Betsy Ross's Star" and "Ben Franklin's Fame."  

Cohon and Deutsch have also written novelizations of films including "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and "The Smurfs.

Author Rhody Cohon Downey has published more than 40 children's books. She has master's degrees in computer engineering and accounting, and never thought her career would take a literary turn.

Lili DeBarbieri

"Sand Dune Daisy: A Pocket Mouse Tale" (2015): The southwestern tale about a pocket mouse lost in the desert introduces readers to a hungry kit fox, a nonchalant lizard and a child sledding down sand dunes. This book has five stars and four Amazon ratings. 

"Sun and Moon Take Turns" (2019): Animals use a cookout and a race to help Sun and Moon decide who should rule the world, rather than taking turns every day and every night. This book has three-and-a-half stars and two ratings on Amazon. 

Sand Dune Daisy — Credit: Courtesy of Lili DeBarbieri

Chris Gall

Chris Gall illustrated all 12 covers of Arizona Highways this year. He sandwiched that between his other projects illustrating and writing books. He is the author and illustrator of the “Dinotrux” children’s books series, which was made into a Netflix cartoon.

"Dinotrux" (2012): Adapted as an animated TV show for Netflix in 2015, the first in Gall's Dinotrux series explores a world where dinosaur-truck hybrid creatures rule the Earth. The first book has four-and-a-half stars and 448 customer ratings on Amazon. 

"Dog vs. Cat" (2014): This book pits these two pets against each other and explores what will bring them together — four-and-a-half stars on Amazon and 93 ratings. 

"Jumbo: The Making of the Boeing 747" (2020): This picture book about the development of the Boeing 747 commemorates its 50th anniversary. The book has four-and-a-half stars and four ratings. 

Gall has way more books to check out. You can do so at his website:

Kristin Gudenkauf

"Grumpaloffagus: He Sure is Grumpy!" (2020): This grumpy dinosaur is learning how to understand the many reasons for a bad mood. The book has five stars and 11 ratings. 

Kristin Gudenkauf is the author of the new children's book "Grumpaloffagus," which she hopes parents can use as a tool to help kids process negative emotions. 

Kathryn Humphrey

"Hector the Loneliest Saguaro" (2018): Through the story of a lonely saguaro in the middle of the desert, Humphrey demonstrates the importance of resilience and having someone to love — plus the plants and animals of the desert. This book has three-and-a-half stars and seven ratings. 

Visit Hector's website to purchase the book. 

Over the course of the story, Hector learns about his role in the desert's ecosystem. 

David Lazaroff 

"Correctamundo: Prickly Pete's Guide to Desert Facts & Cactifracts" (2001): An illustrated adventure through the Sonoran Desert with Prickly Pete the packrat to learn about desert facts. The book has five stars and one rating on Amazon. 

Susan Lowell

"The Three Little Javelinas" (1992): A Tucson take on the Three Little Pigs has javelinas running from a clever coyote. The book has five stars on Amazon and 272 ratings. 

"A Very Hairy Christmas" (2012): The hairy javelinas return to their home for the holidays, but there's still a bad guy to evade. Four-and-a-half stars and 15 ratings. 

Susan Lowell's kids' book "Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella."

Maria Jordan MacKeigan

Jordan Grace MacKeigan, 2, and Ana Maria MacKeigan, 8, read “A Princess Wish,” a book written by their mom for Jordan Grace’s second birthday.

"A Princess Wish" (2016): MacKeigan wrote this story to open up conversations between parents and children about disabilities. This story is about her own two daughters and a Down syndrome diagnosis that made their relationship even sweeter. This book has five stars and 17 ratings. 

Marianne Mitchell

"Maya Moon" (1995): A Mexican folktale that explains why the moon changes shapes. The book has four five-star ratings. You can also find other books or order "Maya Moon" from Mitchell's site

Judi Moreillon

Judi Moreillon

"Read to Me" or "Vamos a Leer" (2004): This board book explores why it's so important to read to kids. The English version has four-and-a-half stars and nine ratings. The Spanish version has one, five-star rating.  

Adiba Nelson

"Meet Clarabelle Blue" (2013): Just because this preschooler is in a wheelchair, doesn't mean she can't have adventures. This book has five stars and 43 ratings. 

ClaraBelle Blue is loosely inspired by Nelson's daughter Emory. 

La Verne Olsen

"If a Peacock Follows You Home: Children's Stories by Grandma" (2007): Written by a Tucson grandmother for her grandchildren, the inspiration for this book followed a day at Reid Park Zoo. After a peacock spent the day tailing Olsen and her grandkids, one of her grandsons asked what would have happened if the peacock followed them home. Thus this story. There are no Amazon reviews for this book. 

Marge Pellegrino

Marge Pellegrino, who is a Writer-in-Residence this summer for the Pima County Public Library, began writing to help cope with the death of her brother.

"My Grandma's the Mayor" (1999): When Annie's grandmother becomes mayor, she no longer has as much time for Annie. Annie is upset at first but soon comes to see the rewards of civic engagement. The book has four stars and six ratings on Amazon. 

For more books by Marge Pellegrino, visit

Guy Porfirio

"Jump" (2012): A jumping cholla takes an adventure from cactus to coyote and around the country. The book has five stars and 27 ratings. 

Porfirio has also illustrated a number of books, including some other holiday stories such as "The Worst Christmas Ever". Visit his website for more. 

Adam Rex

"Are You Scared Darth Vader?" (2018): Take a silly adventure and learn what exactly scares the big, bad Sith lord. This book has five stars and 224 ratings. 

Adam Rex holds up likenesses of Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, left, and a Boov alien from his book.

"Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (2011): This is a New York Times bestseller with silly poems that provides a glimpse into the problems facing the world's scary monsters. The book has 161 ratings and four-and-a-half stars. Think empty pantries and stinky vampires. If you love monsters, check out the followup "Frankenstein Takes the Cake."

If you're a fan of Adam Rex, he has more than a dozen other titles that you can find and purchase at his website

Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford

"Miguel and the Amazing Alebrijes" (2017): A companion to the Disney/Pixar film "Coco," this book includes game cards and stickers. Roni wrote this with her son Aaron Rivera-Ashford. This book has five stars and 148 ratings. 

Author Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford with her book “Miguel and the Amazing Alebrijes.”

"My Nana's Remedies / Los Remedios de mi Nana" (2002): From fear to stomach aches, this grandmother knows all of the traditional treatments for her granddaughter. This book has five stars and 13 Amazon reviews. You can also find the followup book "My Tata's Remedies / Los Remedios de mi Tata." 

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

Prolific storyteller Marjorie Weinman Sharmat.

"Nate the Great" (1977): This is a long-running chapter book series that encourages kids to problem-solve along with boy detective Nate. The series has dozens of books. The first book has five stars and 1,111 ratings on Amazon. 

"Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport" (1990): A boy from New York City faces down his perceptions about what a move out West will be like — four and a half stars and 41 customer ratings. 

Jennifer Stewart

"The Twelve Days of Christmas in Arizona" (2010): Replace the partridge in a pear tree with a cactus wren in a palo verde and read Isabella's letters to her parents about her Christmas vacation to Arizona and all the sights she sees. This book has five stars and 22 ratings. 

"The Twelve Days of Christmas in Arizona" by Jennifer J. Stewart.

"Close Encounters of a Third-World Kind" (2013): When 12-year-old Annie's family spends two months in Nepal on a medical mission trip she meets a local girl and goes on a journey of self-discovery. This book has four-and-a-half stars and six ratings. 

Learn more about Stewart at

Jennifer Ward

"Round" (2020): Take a journey through nature in this book that contemplates all that is round in our world. Think: birds' eggs, apples, raindrops and more. This book has three, five-star ratings on Amazon. 

"There Was a Coyote Who Swallowed a Flea" (2007): A flea is the smallest thing this coyote swallows, with bigger residents of the Sonoran Desert eventually ending up in his belly. This book has fives stars on Amazon and 256 reviews. Ward has similar titles such as "There Was an Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish" and "There Was an Old Mummy Who Swallowed a Spider.

Ward has lots of other well-reviewed books about nature, animals and getting your kids outside. Learn about her other books here:

Shop at these local stores

While these stores may not stock every title or author on this list, they may be able to help you hunt down local finds, if not for Christmas then just for fun.  

Editor's note: A version of this story first appeared on #ThisIsTucson on Dec. 6, 2017. It has since been updated. 

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