Jim Fox and his daughter-in-law Phoebe

Jim Fox and his daughter-in-law Phoebe in Italy, 2013.

If you know anything about Jim Fox, it’s probably that he was once a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Suns. What you might not know, however, is that he’s also an accomplished watercolorist and that he’s helped his daughter-in-law, Phoebe Fox (sometimes lovingly known by her family as mama Fox), illustrate two of her children’s books.

Phoebe grew up reading, though, as a kid, it was hard for her.

“I was always a slow reader. Picture books are my favorite. My parents read to me every night when I was little, and I still have all of my childhood books in my collection,” Phoebe said.

Before she was an author, Phoebe was a teacher and a librarian. She’s been around books her whole life, but it wasn’t until 2015 that she got serious about writing.

“Back in college, I was a volunteer at the Civic Center Library. One day I picked up a book about writing for children. My husband and I spent a summer in Riomaggiore, Italy, where I studied that book and focused on creating stories,” Phoebe said.

In 2015, Phoebe submitted a manuscript for one of her books, and it won a national contest run by First Edition Project, a program offered through Southwest Human Development that helps promote early literacy nationwide. Phoebe credits that win for kicking off her writing career.

Her newest book – Babies Bond – is the sixth that she’s published. Others include Up Up Up, Starry’s Haircut, Starry Gets Lost, Panda Proud (written to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Arizona nonprofit PANDA) and Babies Nurse, which was illustrated by Jim.

Babies Bond was introduced in late-August, and it highlights the relationship between mammal mothers and their offspring. 

“Animals have always fascinated me, and there’s nothing sweeter than seeing a mama taking care of her baby,” Phoebe said. The book is written in sixteen haiku poems with four pages of animal “fun facts.”

“It is a wonderful learning tool and a gentle introduction to haiku poetry,” Phoebe said. “I’ve always enjoyed writing poetry. It’s rare to find a children’s book written in haiku, and I thought it would be a good way to introduce this form of poetry to young children.” 

Jim has been painting in watercolor for almost 15 years. This book is the third that he’s illustrated.

“When I first started, I wanted to paint everything that appealed to me. Nothing was safe from my brush,” Jim said. “Thanks to Yvonne Joyner, my first teacher, I wanted to attempt portraits, probably because she was so good at capturing expressions. She suggested that I take a workshop from renowned portrait painter Ted Nuttall. After that workshop, I was drawn to portraits, and they are 90% of what I now paint.”

Phoebe is currently searching for a literary agent and hopes to continue sharing her stories with children. All six of Phoebe’s books are available on her website.

For more: mamafoxbooks.com