Author Rodo Sofranac is passionate about Arizona’s diverse environment, children’s literacy and giving back to his community. Those passions unite in his latest project: the children’s book The Red Tail Tale on the Arizona Trail, which he wrote with his wife, Susan.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part educates young readers about the Arizona National Scenic Trail, the second shares the illustrated story of Rowen’s adventure, and the third saves space for the reader to add his or her own adventure story.
Illustrations by Mark Sean Wilson and photographs by Yvonne Kippenberg combine with Sofranac’s words to showcase the geology, animals, plants and people of the Arizona Trail. Kippenberg, whose photography has been published by Arizona Highways, traveled around the state to capture the sights that make the trail special.
Rowen, the main character, is named after Sofranac’s second grandson. Sofranac said after his son and daughter-in-law selected the name, he researched its origins and discovered it means "redhead" in Gaelic. But he figured the chances of them having a redhead were slim.
“They picked the name, and a couple months later he pops out with red hair and blue eyes. I thought, Holy moly, this is cool,” he said.
With the red-tailed hawk considered the unofficial mascot of the Arizona Trail, Sofranac had a theme going. “I had the red-tailed hawk, and when [Rowen] was born, I had my two redheads,” he said.
His grandchildren's influence on the book didn’t stop there. “My goal was to write with a 9-year-old in mind," he said. "Fortunately, our oldest daughter has a now-going-to-be 10-year-old, so I’d always have Beatrice read it."
Sofranac hopes readers take away three things from the book: an awareness of the importance of the Arizona Trail, a desire to visit and use it, and stewardship of the trail and other lands. “Those are the three things I kept in mind as I was writing, without being heavy-handed about it, but encouraging," he said. "I feel comfortable the book accomplishes that.”
The Sofranacs use 100 percent of the profits from their book sales to produce, purchase and donate more books to schools, libraries and nonprofit agencies working on literacy. For the newest book release, however, up to 100 percent of the profits generated will be donated to the Arizona Trail Association. So far, the couple has worked with more than 110 organizations on four continents.
“We want to help kids get joy out of being able to expand their mind and knowledge of the world," he said. "You’re not going to be able to travel to see everything, but you can certainly read about everything."
To learn more about The Red Tail Tale on the Arizona Trail or Rodo Sofranac’s other published books, visit his website. (The book is also for sale in the Arizona Highways gift shop, at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue in Phoenix.)
— Kirsten Kraklio