Sharon and GQ

Author Sharon Ritt conducts workshops for children about the Gambel’s Quail and other topics related to the Sonoran Desert.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Ritt


Author Sharon I. Ritt’s background as a teacher is evident in her first book, which follows a Gambel’s Quail as he leaves home to look for new playmates and explore Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.

“GQ, GQ, Where Are You: Adventures of a Gambel’s Quail” (Little Five Star, $15 paperback), is scheduled to be released in June. 

Included in her book are short descriptions about the plants and animals found in the Sonoran Desert and throughout the book, as well as suggestions for activities for parents and teachers to do with children.

It is also comes with a CD featuring a sing-along version to the tune of “Frere Jacques,” as well as quail sounds. On the CD, Ritt is accompanied by Dan Kurek, who directs the choir at Temple Chai in Phoenix; Ritt sings in the choir.

Although this is her first book, it is not her first musical recording. She has also recorded two CDs: “Sing Softly with Sharon: Lullabies from Around the World” — “My first grandchild was coming. I always sang to my children and I wanted them to sing to their children” — and “Sing Silly with Sharon” — “My father always sang silly songs.”

During her 40 years as an educator, Ritt taught ESL (English as a second language) in grades K-6 in Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, and, before that, in Flagstaff, where she and her husband, Len, were among the families who founded Temple Heichal Baoranim; they also spent time as the directors of Hillel at Northern Arizona University.

Throughout her teaching career, she led workshops for teachers and she plans to continue visiting classrooms as an author to read her book, lead activities or talk about plants and animals. “The great thing for me is that then I can go talk about the need to preserve our Sonoran Desert,” she says. 

“I really feel that the children who have a connection with the wild animals and even know about the plants feel more ownership and they hopefully will grow up wanting to preserve things. That’s my ultimate goal.

“The Sonoran Desert is unique ... We need to have each generation know that it’s a treasure that they need to save.”

Ritt’s inspiration for the book came from the quails that have visited her Scottsdale home since she moved from Flagstaff about 18 years ago.

The Gambel’s Quail “was the most unique and the cutest to watch,” Ritt says. (Naturalist William Gambel discovered the birds on a trip along the Santa Fe Trail in the 1840s and named them after himself, according to the book.)

The book is illustrated by Nadia Komorova, also known for her illustrations in “Alfie’s Bark Mitzvah.” 

For the past eight years, Ritt has volunteered at the Desert Foothills Library by doing storytelling and music for young children. “That kept me connected with children and the books that came out,” she says.

“The Sonoran Desert truly is unique as far as the flowers and the plants,” she says. “I learned so much about them when I did the research. And having grown up in Chicago, it’s obviously a very different environment.”

The book will be available at major bookstores, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com and fivestarpublications.com. For more information or to hear an excerpt from the CD, visit gambelsquailbook.com.