By Scottsdale Pinetop —
In 1965, U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater led a citizen initiative to save Camelback Mountain. Over 55 years later, the fight continues in Paradise Valley.
And one Paradise Valley family has found a new, creative way to help preserve the beloved mountains.
The Story of Camelback Mountain is a new children’s book that tells the untold story of Camelback Mountain, an iconic Arizona landmark. The story is co-authored by long-time Paradise Valley resident Pam Hait and her granddaughter Estelle Cohen from Connecticut with brilliant illustrations by nationally recognized local artist Sebastien Million, who is also a Paradise Valley resident.
It started as a family story that has been passed down from generation to generation. The legend stars a young princess who is given a baby camel by her great grandfather. As the princess and camel continue their long journey together, they face many challenges as the princess continues to protect her camel and ultimately recruits “the People Who Care” to join her efforts.
All proceeds from the sale of the book go to benefit the Paradise Valley Mountain Preserve Trust (PVMPT). The purpose of the PVMPT is to acquire, maintain, protect, and preserve the natural landscape, desert plants, wildlife, and scenic beauty of the “mountain preserves” in the Town of Paradise Valley. The “mountain preserve” identifies all property included on Mummy Mountain, Camelback Mountain and Phoenix Mountain Preserve area within the Town’s boundaries.
The official launch of The Story of Camelback Mountain occurred at the Desert Botanical Gardens in February and is available in various locations throughout the Valley and online.
We had the chance to talk with co-author Pam Hait about the inspiration for the story and how the book came to be.
What inspired the story? How did the story evolve?
“When my grandchildren from Connecticut would visit our home in Paradise Valley, we were living at the base of the north slope on Camelback Mountain. They would ask me about the mountain and how it came to be. I would show them the camel and over time made up the tale.
As a long-time conservationist, I understood that Barry Goldwater had saved Camelback Mountain decades ago. However, new technology changed that.
When our neighborhood realized that some of the last “unbuildable lots” were now in peril, my husband and I joined our neighbors to try and save Camelback Mountain.
So when our grandchildren visited again from Connecticut, I embellished the original story and added a new “chapter” that the camel was upset about building creeping too high on its back and would stand up to shake off the structures. It just continued to evolve over time.”
How did you decide on being a co-author with your granddaughter? How was it working together?
“That part was easy. My granddaughter Estelle Cohen is a talented writer and artist. She grew up visiting us and loving Camelback Mountain. I thought it would not only be fun to write with her, but that young children would like hearing a young voice as a co-author.
She was a dream to write with. She’s creative, smart and a very fast writer. She drove much of the storyline and helped choose Sebastien who is the amazing illustrator.
We wrote the story in one evening when she was visiting with her Mom (my daughter) and her twin brother, Marcel.”
What was it like to do a book reading at the Desert Botanical Gardens?
“The Desert Botanical Gardens was a fabulous venue. Their staff was so excited about the book and on top of every detail. We had two readings on President’s Day, with standing room only at the Binns Wildflower Pavilion filled with both children and adults.
Ken Schutz, Executive Director of the Desert Botanical Gardens, introduced the book. We were extremely honored to have Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego who came to the book signing with her son Michael. Councilwoman Julie Pace was a great help at both readings and explained the importance of the Paradise Valley Mountain Preserve Trust.
We sold out of all the books we brought in the first reading and had to call my son to bring the remaining books in my garage for the second reading. I have written other books and had several book signings, but this one was the BEST.”
Why did you decide to have all of the proceeds from the book go to benefit the Paradise Valley Mountain Preserve Trust?
“My husband and I were residents of Paradise Valley for 46 years and lived in our home at the base of the mountain. We all love seeing the mountains that surround Paradise Valley. Camelback Mountain is an icon for our entire state.
So, when Sheila Zuieiback overheard me telling the story, she suggested that The Story of Camelback Mountain could become a children’s book and even offered to sponsor the first printing. I was immediately thrilled and honored to contribute to the cause. I am a committed conservationist and former Deputy director of the Arizona Office of tourism. I also serve on the board of the Grand Canyon Trust.
We need to complete the work that was started in the 1920s by Claire Booth Luce and others to save South Mountain, continued by Barry Goldwater in the1950s and 60s to save Camelback Mountain, and amplified in the 1970s and 1980s by former Mayor Margaret Hance and her team of dedicated women to save the Phoenix Mountains.
It’s our turn to step up and finish the job. Contributing the sales to the PVMPT is one way we can help achieve that.”
Where can someone purchase the book?
“We have sold over 1,000 books. Locally, it is available at Sibley’s West in Chandler, Camelback Pharmacy at 44th Street and Camelback and at The Desert Botanical Garden’s gift shop. The book is also available online at Amazon Prime. We are in the process of getting it into more stores.”
What has been the most rewarding part for you and your granddaughter in creating the story?
“My granddaughter is now 15 and she has always been committed to saving the world. She’s an activist on many fronts — environmental, political, and human rights.
I know that she is very proud of the book and has loved being part of the team. I’m sure she would agree that getting to know Sebastien Millon has been a highlight of this project. Not only is he an extraordinary artist, he shares all our concerns about saving the planet and encouraging children to honor nature. Sebastien brought our story to life with his beautiful and charming drawings. He hand-lettered the entire book! Which was his idea of course.”
For more information or to purchase the book, contact Pam Hait at firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will personal deliver the books you purchase. Enjoy a fun and positive story about the iconic mountain that Arizona celebrates.