At the end of last July my friend and I ventured down to Iowa City for an evening of veggie burgers and good beer. To our surprise we found several “book sculptures” littering the sidewalks. In particular I remember a Stieg Larsson book and a book of fairy tales and children stories (including Pooh Bear). These large metal books were scattered along the city. (Many of these sculptures were auctioned off in the fall of 2011 in support of local libraries, however a few remain downtown to enjoy).
It turns out these giant books were part of the Iowa City Book Festival – which was in 2011 in its 3rd year. The festival is a result (perk!) of UNESCO naming Iowa City as one of the Cities of Literature (others thus honored include Edinburgh, Scotland; Norwich, England; and Dublin, Ireland).
So when 2012 rolled around I decided to take part in this creative outpouring.
The 2012 Iowa City Book Festival was this past weekend (July 13-15). Saturday morning I drove down to Iowa City to peruse the book sellers and stop in on an author event or two before my volunteer shift began.
I happened in on Amy Stewart discussing 2 of her New York Times best sellers Wicked Bugs and Wicked Plants. She was an amusing and interesting speaker – did you know that in World War II the Germans thought we were going to terrorize them with the Colorado Potato Beetle? – but duty called.
Most of my afternoon I played Children’s Librarian. This was a refreshing and interesting change from my daily role as an academic librarian. I worked with a puppet show, helped volunteers dress up as children’s book characters (including the title character from If you give a pig a pancake) and ran the story time movie hour. The children loved it all and I loved watching their spirited interaction and smiling faces (despite not being much of a kid person … yet).
But my highlight was helping with and attend the Zach Wahls event (the final author event of the day). Zach became somewhat of a celebrity in Iowa and across the country after delivering an impassioned reasoning for why gay marriages were and deserved equal treatment under American law (see it here on YouTube). His book My Two Moms came out this year and Wahls was back to read sections from it and answer questions. His readings and his responses to the questions posed were eloquent and heartfelt and it was amazing to be surrounded in a room that felt so moved by his words.
My day at the Iowa City Book Festival was challenging and fun, interesting and moving. It was all you can ask for from literature.