A ‘wacky’ journey through the pages of Arizona history

They met in 1999 when south Tempe resident Conrad J. Storad was promoting his award-winning children’s book, Don’t Call Me Pig, at Border’s Books & Music in Mesa.

Lynda Exley, also a southTemperesident, was the store’s public-relations manager, and they struck up a friendship.

When Exley left Border’s, the two went separate ways for more than 10 years until Storad signed on with a new publisher, Linda Radke of Five Star Publications, who suggested that he partner with an award-winning freelance writer and editor she knew to help him write a children’s book celebrating Arizona’s 100th birthday.

And that’s how Exley and Storad came to form a writing collaboration that resulted in two official Arizona Centennial Legacy Project books: Arizona Way Out West & Wacky and Arizona Way Out West & Witty: Library Edition, which just won recognition as a 2012 OnebookAZ for Kids as declared by Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

Beginning in March, the Onebook program will encourage children in communities across the state to read Arizona Way Out West & Witty, and to participate in discussions and programs centered on its contents.

“If Arizona gave out Academy Awards for children’s books, earning (the Onebook award) would be its equivalent,” says Exley. “I can’t imagine a greater honor.”

The book is a humorous children’s history and activity book designed to make learning enjoyable for grade-schoolers. It deliversArizonahistory with a side of fun by including gross, interesting and wacky stories and facts about the state, as well as crossword puzzles, games, recipes, crafts and other amusements.

Ideal for teachers and homeschoolers, the book also contains a curriculum guide for additional suggestions. In addition, schools and libraries that order a minimum of 30 copies receive a “Copies for Life” certificate of permission that allows them to copy pages from the book for official school use. Personal use and sharing copied material is prohibited.

The major difference between Way Out West & Witty and Way Out West & Wacky is that Wacky has coloring pages and does not contain a curriculum guide.

“We wrote Wacky first,” said Radke. “Librarians fell in love with it, but they were concerned children would write in the book. So at their urging, we redesigned Wacky specifically for libraries. Arizona Way Out West & Witty: Library Edition still has a ton of fun activities. It just discourages children from marking in the book.”

Beginning in January, Storad and Exley will travel the state, visiting schools, libraries and other facilities to teach children about Arizona History through presentations, activities and readings. At times, they will be accompanied by Johnny “JR” Ringo, Arizona’s state mammal mascot, a full-sized ringtail and costume character.

Arizona Way Out West and Witty: Library Edition, and Arizona Way Out West & Wacky are endorsed by Official Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble. They retail for $11.95 each and are is distributed by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Pacific Four Sales and are available at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com and bookstores and gift shops across the state.

Additional information about the books and the authors is posted at www.AZWOWW.com . To book the authors and “JR” for a school visit or other event, contact Five Star Publications at 480-940-8182 or info@FiveStarPublications.com .