Iowa City to celebrate children’s literature with festival

Isaac Hamlet, [email protected]

 

No matter how much — or little — you like reading, everyone can remember reading children’s books. But with the exception of heavy weights like Dahl and Seuss, it can be easy to forget each word read and each illustration marveled at had a creator behind it.

This weekend Iowa City will throw a literary festival celebrating such creators and their audience. The three days’ worth of events will feature numerous writers and artists of children’s literature, as well as stories from adolescent writers.

“There are certain things you can’t talk about with kids — 14th century poetry for example,” said author/illustrator Eric Rohman. “But you can still make a children’s book about almost anything.”

Friday at 6 p.m. the Once Upon a Time dinner will be held at hotelVetro, 201 S. Linn St. The dinner will provide a stage for elementary-school writers to read their pieces.

A similar event will take place on Feb. 28 in Macbride Hall. From 1-3 p.m., students in first through eight grades will be recognized for their writing.

“I was initially writing for publications like the *Chicago Tribune*,” recalls author Candace Fleming. “But I’d go to the library with my kids and I’d think, ‘Gosh, I love children’s books.’”

Fleming and Rohman are the keynote speakers for the weekend. The two have produced books such as *Oh, No* and *Bulldozers Big Day* together and sport sizable wells of work separately.

Speakers also appearing at the event include Delia Ray, the author of *Here Lies Linc*, and illustrator Jonathan Sims, creator of the *Floating BunnyHead* comic.

“I hope to help kids overcome any roadblocks in their writing or art,” said Sims of his Comic Book Confidential workshop at Daydream, 21 S. Dubuque St. “It was inspiring [when I was a kid] to meet adults working in the fields I was interested in. I think it’s important to encourage kids to make art and to be something awesome when they grow up.”

For Ray, one of the things she find most exciting about sharing her book with her readers is presenting the historical tidbits she draws from for inspiration.

“Muscatine had a big pearl-button festival in 1946, and the person who had the pleasure of choosing the festival’s button queen was Ronald Reagan,” Ray said. “This was back in his acting days — 35 years before he became president. He chose a woman named Helen Burke, who admitted to a newspaper reporter that she almost fainted when she found out she’d won.”

This is a factoid that spurred her in writing *Finding Fortune*. The book is a mystery set in the fictional town of Fortune on the Mississippi River, inspired by Muscatine.

As much as Ray enjoys sprinkling history like this through her books, she said “the most important thing for a good [children’s book] is to start with a good story.”

It is stories that most excite Fleming and Rohman about the event. Not their stories but the ones written and read by the children.

“You’re always completely surprised by their skill,” Rohman said. “They’ve been telling stories ever since they could understand the language; they tell stories every day. It’s just a wonder when they come up with something you never expected.”

 

WORDS

One Book, Two Book

When: Friday-Feb. 28

Where: Downtown Iowa City

Admission: Free

For a full schedule of events, visit http://www.onebooktwobook.org/saturday-schedule/

 

 

 

 

 

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