by Betty Reid)
Featuring an ecology-minded rabbit, and with a little help from Arizona State University's president, a free book soon will be distributed to kindergartners in Maricopa County schools.
That's about 52,000 copies of "Jeremy Jackrabbit Captures the Sun," which is illustrated by children from around across the Valley, including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Chandler and Laveen. It is the third children's book in a children's series written by Phoenix residents Rodney and Sasha Glassman.
Both are attorneys. Sasha is also a Madison School District governing board member.
Their first book was "Jeremy Jackrabbit Harvests the Rain," and the second "Jeremy Jackrabbit Recycles the Can."
The foreword to the latest book was written by ASU President Michael Crow, as was the one to the second book.
The Phoenix Public Library will host a launch of "Jeremy Jackrabbit Captures the Sun" from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 12, at the Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington St.
Rodney Glassman sat down recently and talked about the couple's new book.
Question: Who is Jeremy?
Answer: My little brother, who is now 28 and getting his Ph.D. in business at Arizona State University ... My little brother had a poster in his bedroom that said, "Jeremy Jackrabbit Juggles Jumbo Jelly Beans." ... My wife and I thought it would be fun because it drove Jeremy crazy if you called him Jeremy Jackrabbit.
Q: How did you get ASU's president to write two forewords?
A: I was at a coffee shop on Mill Avenue and who was sitting at the table right next to us? President Crow. I said, "Hey, President Crow." He remembers me as the guy that is an Eagle Scout, like he is an Eagle Scout. And I said, "We are writing a children's book."
That night, my wife and I tried to figure out who was going to write the foreword for "Jeremy Jackrabbit Recycles the Can." We wanted someone with a tremendous name ID. ... So I wrote Crow, "Fellow Eagle Scout Rodney Glassman writing you, would you mind?" And he said yes.
So the question becomes, who is going to write the next one for "Jeremy Jackrabbit Captures the Sun"? So, honestly, who is cooler than Michael Crow? I set up an appointment with Michael Crow and go to his office and explain to him our problem, which was we got a new book coming out. I told him, "It's on solar. We need you to write another foreword because we don't have anyone cooler than you to write a foreword."
"I'd be happy to do it," Crow told me.
Q: What inspired you to start writing children's books with sustainability in mind?
A: The whole idea for the series started in Tucson at the Tucson Festival of Books. I had bought a book and showed it to my then-fiancee, now wife. She said, "Let's write a book about rainwater harvesting."
My wife, even back in law school, was always very involved in literacy issues and volunteered to read in our local elementary schools. And my background, I worked for a congressman and I have my Ph.D. in arid land-resource sciences, and so we combined our two passions. Literacy and sustainability. That's how we came up with the first book.
Q: When did you begin and finish work on "Jeremy Jackrabbit Captures the Sun"?
A: Last spring, when we released the book "Jeremy Jackrabbit Recycles the Can," donors asked what we were doing next. They were so excited about participating in such a worthwhile and really a broad sweeping project. The fact that every kindergartner in the traditional public schools in Maricopa County was receiving a copy of this book had our corporate partners really excited.
Q: Who publishes the books?
A: My friend in the U.S. Navy has a publishing company.
Q: How do you reach kids who illustrate the book?
A: The Phoenix library prints over 100,000 fliers. The flier drives people to the Phoenix library website. The text that Sasha and I write is on that Web page. It reads, if you have an eighth-grader, you can illustrate this part, if you have a third-grade student, they can illustrate that part and if a first-grader, that part. Teachers who are doing illustration in their classrooms drop it off at the library or kids will do it at their house. During the month of October, the 17 branches become the drop-off locations. Then we collect the drawings. My wife goes through and picks the ones she likes.
Q: What inspired you to focus on solar for the third book?
A: We had already written about rainwater harvesting, we had already written about recycling. And we live in the Valley of the Sun and we have over 350 days of sunlight in the city of Phoenix. It's such a tremendous resource. It was a no-brainer for us.
Q: Were there challenges the third time around?
A: The biggest challenge in writing the story is, you have two 30-something lawyers with two babies, ages 3 and 1, at home. And so, the writing takes place between 9 p.m. and midnight, once the kids are in bed. What makes this project so special is it's something we do together.
Q: Other challenges?
A: We always have to raise the money. When it's all said and done, each book costs us close to $100,000. We do it in $10,000 chunks from each donor. We don't get paid. It's all used for printing. We have a non-profit organization that is our partner and our fiduciary. They hold the money and wouldn't charge a fee. This is the ASU Foundation. They don't give us money. They just hold it for us.
Q: What do you and Sasha gain from the book?
A: It's tremendously fulfilling.
Q: How do you distribute books to thousands of Maricopa County kindergartners?
A: Madison School District Superintendent Tim Ham supports the project. His assistant Chris Wingo gets on the telephone and makes this happen when the books arrive. She distributed 55,000 copies of the books in three weeks last year. We work with Maricopa County Superintendent Don Covey to get the numbers of kindergartners in Maricopa County.
Q: Do you have plans to write a fourth book?
A: Yes. "Jeremy Jackrabbit Saves Every Drop." There are so many ways that water touches kids. They brush their teeth with water, bake with water and swim in pools. Bigger topics such as the Colorado River. We will do an illustration contest next October and in April. We pick April because it's Earth Day month.