At times like this, we all have, at least briefly, the instinct to turn away from the news. Perhaps this would be a good week to get reacquainted with your favorite book while discovering the Arizona Book Festival, set for Saturday, April 5. This is actually the Sixth Annual Arizona Book Festival, and this year it has the potential to become one of the biggest literary events in the country.The day's featured readers include ASU Regents Professor of English Alberto Ríos. The Nogales, Arizona, native's latest book, The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, was nominated for a 2002 National Book Award in poetry. As to why books matter right now, Ríos says, "Art has the power to transform at a time when we're deforming the world around us."
Several other writers will read their works, including Annie Proulx (author of The Shipping News), Maxine Hong Kingston (The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts), Kent Haruf (Plainsong), Judy Jance (author of the Sheriff Joanna Brady of Bisbee murder mysteries), William Kittredge (Western writer and co-producer of the movie A River Runs Through It) and Annick Smith (a founding member of the Sundance Film Festival).
Younger bibliophiles will have the chance to meet Dora from the Nickelodeon show Dora the Explorer, who will make an appearance and take photos with fans. Book appraisers will be available to take a look at any older books you think might add a few digits to your bank account.
History is being written at this very moment. This is your chance to meet some of the individuals who briefly turn away from the news to pick up a pen and record what will become our collective memory of these times.
The Arizona Book Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Carnegie Library, 11th Avenue and Washington. Admission is free. For more information, call 602-257-0335, extension 28, or visit www.azbookfestival.org. -- Maidi Terry
Remember the first time you tasted cotton candy? Impossibly sweet and melting fast, like those days of innocence. Get 'em back Wednesday, April 9, through April 13 at the Maricopa County Fair, where kids rule. Meet 4-H and FFA members showing off their animals, brushed and braided like clients at Camelback Spa. Cheer the locals in the pie-eating contest, paint ball competition and monster truck rally. Spin and scream on the carnival rides, then sample the special: Americana on a stick. Slather on some mustard and wolf it down. The fairgrounds are located at 19th Avenue and McDowell. Adult admission is $6, and kids 6 to 12 pay $3. Younger kids and seniors get in free. -- Kim Toms
The word "pioneer" brings to mind an image of crusty old cowboys riding stagecoach style across the barren plains in search of a patch of dirt to call their own. Pioneers come in many shapes and forms, however, including those who turned a former outpost known as Peoria into one of the Valley's fastest-growing corridors.Celebrate the city's history at Peoria's Pioneer Days from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at Osuna Park, 10510 North 83rd Avenue in Peoria. Festivities include a pancake breakfast, parade, children's activities, live entertainment, food concessions and the "Really Big Yard Sale." Admission is free. For details call 623-773-7198. -- Craig Wallach
Go for the Guster
April 8 is prime time to join the Tuesday-night music club, as Guster blows into Nita's Hideaway, 3300 South Price in Tempe, to preview its fourth album, Keep It Together. Set for a June release, Keep is "not as instantly accessible as our last record," the band writes at www.guster.com. "It reflects a more ambitious and musical band." Ambitious? A curious adjective, considering the turbo-folk-rockers haven't produced an album since 1999.
Nashville's Will Hoge - whose debut, Blackbird on a Lonely Wire, is taking impressive flight - kicks off the all-ages show. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets, $17.50, are available through www.guster.com and Ticketmaster. -- Jill Koch