Iowa City book festival offers break from the cold for book-loving families

Festival will run Jan. 17-19

One Book Two Book Festival in downtown Iowa City is a three-day festival celebrating children's literature, including ho
One Book Two Book Festival in downtown Iowa City is a three-day festival celebrating children's literature, including honoring student authors.

Curling up with a good book is popular pastime in winter’s cold weather.

Organizers of the third annual One Book Two Book Children’s Literature Festival in Iowa City are taking that notion one step further by offering a whole weekend of indoor bookish fun.

“We know parents are looking for things to do with the kids during cold weather,” says John Kenyon, executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. “The One Book Two Book Festival is an opportunity for them to sneak in some learning while kids run around and have fun on a cold January day. Kids will be picking up a love of reading and creating a foundation for learning.”

The One Book Two Book Festival, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature and sponsored by the Pearson Foundation, takes place Friday, Saturday and Jan. 19 in downtown Iowa City.

Book lovers, young and old, can expect a weekend filled with author presentations, children’s book character meet-and-greets, a book fair, student writing and more.

“Saturday is a phenomenal day for kids,” says Kenyon of the book fair and activities that will be held at the Sheraton Iowa City and the Iowa City Public Library from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All are free and open to the public.

This year’s featured author, acclaimed children’s picture book author and illustrator Loren Long, will speak and sign books at 11 a.m. Long is best known for his New York Times best-selling “Otis” books. He has also illustrated “President Barack Obama’s Letter to My Daughters: Of Thee I Sing,” “Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna,” and the newest edition of the classic “The Little Engine that Could.”

“Many of the kids have read his work and he’s going to be very engaging for them,” Kenyon says.

Several other authors, including Sarah Aronson, Laura Purdie Salas, Brian Farrey and Katherine House, will present Saturday as well.

“The great thing about this event is that you do get to meet authors, hear them speak, have them sign your book, shake hands and ask questions,” says House, an Iowa City author. “You can find out what inspires them or how they got their start. Readers and budding authors can make connections to how work is created. And the organizers have done a wonderful job of getting authors from across many genres to participate.”

House will be presenting and signing her latest non-fiction book for kids, called “The White House for Kids” — which attendees can purchase in advance of its Feb. 1 publication — at 1:30 p.m.

“Everyone is having such fun at One Book Two Book and the enthusiasm for reading is contagious,” she says. “It’s great getting to meet others who share your interests and passions for reading and writing, and come together in the middle of winter to celebrate the creative process and children’s literature.”

During One Book Two Book, kids will not only have the chance to meet with authors, but also present some of their own work. Kenyon says the festival is meant to not only celebrate writing for children, but also writing by students.

The annual “Once Upon a Time” banquet kicks off the festival Friday evening at the Sheraton Iowa City with a keynote presentation by Long, as well as readings by students from each Iowa City elementary school.

“Write Out Loud,” — another celebration of student authors — will wrap up the festival on Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Englert Theatre. Some of the best writing from students around the Corridor will be honored at this new special event.

“We want to celebrate achievement in writing with the same caliber that we celebrate athletics” Kenyon says.

Another goal of the festival is to engage older students, especially boys. On Saturday, Comic Book Confidential, a comic book workshop featuring Eric Gapstur, Aaron Gillespie and Phil Hester, will guide participants through the process of transforming an idea into a comic book. And the Junior High Writing Jam, moderated by the Iowa Youth Writing Project, offers seventh and eighth grade students the chance to get together, share ideas and be inspired.

If you go

  • What: One Book, Two Book Festival
  • When: Friday Jan. 17 through Sunday Jan. 19
  • Where: Sheraton Hotel and Iowa City Public Library in Iowa City
  • Cost: Free
  • More information:

‘Otis’ review

By Zoe Smith, guest columnist

I just read the book “Otis” by Loren Long. Readers will love the main character Otis. He is a talking tractor and a good friend.

His soothing puff-puff makes everything better. Otis lives on a farm and likes to work hard. He makes friends with a little calf who lives on the farm and they have lots of fun playing together.

But then the farmer brings a new big yellow tractor to live on the farm and things change for Otis.

I would recommend this book to kindergarten through third grade readers because it has a great message and the pictures are awesome. Read this book.

Zoe Smith, 7, is in second grade at Horn Elementary in Iowa City.


Of Thee I Sing’ review

By Lila Terry, guest columnist

“Of Thee I Sing,” written by President Barack Obama and illustrated by Loren Long, tells the story of 13 inspirational Americans. It is written as a letter from the President to his daughters Sasha and Malia.

In this letter, he tells his daughters that they share the same traits as the creative, brave, strong and kind Americans who came before them. His examples range from labor organizer Cesar Chavez to the healer Sitting Bull to the artist Georgia O’Keefe.

Toward the end of the letter he says “Have I told you that America is made up of people of every kind? People of all races, religions and beliefs.”

Long, the award-winning illustrator of the book, has always had a passion for art. Before illustrating children’s books, he worked as a freelance artist for magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Readers Digest. Along with other works, he has re-illustrated the classic “The Little Engine that Could,” and written his own stories featuring a tractor named Otis.

In illustrating “Of Thee I Sing,” Long shows that even though this letter was written to Sasha and Malia, it can also be seen as a letter to all the children in America. While his first drawing just shows Obama’s daughters, Long adds in another child with each hero featured in the book.

At the end of the book, Sasha and Malia are standing in a crowd of over 50 children from all different backgrounds.

I like this drawing because it does not highlight any one person as being more special than the rest. It treats everyone as equal. It is a contrast to the final page of the book, which shows Sasha and Malia walking hand-in-hand with their father as he tells them, “Have I told you that they are all a part of you? Have I told you that you are one of them, and that you are the future?”

Loren Long’s artwork brought the loving feeling out of the text for readers of all ages to enjoy.

Lila Terry, 11, is in sixth grade at Willowwind School in Iowa City. 

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