Statement on Book Challenges in Iowa

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature affirms the right of educators and librarians to make materials available to students, and the right of those students to access materials that share differing perspectives, experiences and ways of life. It also is important for students to see themselves represented, to know that no matter their circumstances, they are not alone. Doing so will make our state a more open, tolerant, and accepting place. We urge lawmakers to reject any attempts to limit this access, and urge their constituents to stand with us in this effort. This aligns with our organization’s mission to build and support diverse communities of writers and audiences through the transformative power of story. Stories that show the world from diverse points of view can help to build empathy that allows us to better understand and celebrate others.

Anna Barker’s next reading project:
10 Days of Balzac’s Colonel Chabert

The Charging Chasseur, or An Officer of the Imperial Horse Guards Charging, 1812, by Théodore Géricault (1791-1824)

After two years of leading community reading projects around The Decameron, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Paradise Lost, War and Peace, and The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Barker has turned her sights to France.”

Get your French berets and baguettes!” she says. “We are off to the land of post-Napoleonic societal collapse, greed, avarice, moral decay and spiritual degradation. FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR! By the end of 2022 you will be begging for lofty skies, luminous eyes, Tolstoy – AND Anna Karenina, which we will tackle in the spring of 2023!

But before we read Tolstoy’s most European novel – we need to engage with a few European novels and acquaint ourselves with Tolstoy’s predecessors!”

This year of French stories begins March 1 with a short novella by Honore de Balzac, Colonel Chabert. Barker will lead “10 Days of Balzac’s Colonel Chabert” from March 1-10. Join the conversation on the Facebook group. Anna will post preliminary notes from March 1-7, with the reading of this short work scheduled for March 8-10.

There is no preferred translation for the book. The Carol Cosman translation is available locally in Iowa City through Prairie Lights Books. The reading will close with a Zoom talk with Anna on March 10.

From there, Anna will lead readers through Stendhal’s The Red and the Black (Spring 2022), Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo (Summer 2022), Hugo’s Les Misérables (Fall 2022), and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (Winter 2023).


Student Writers to be honored at
One Book Two Book Festival

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization’s annual One Book Two Book Children’s Literature Festival will offer outdoor fun for the entire family while also recognizing creative excellence of several area students, Feb. 26-27.

Activities for this year’s festival will be held in person, both outside and inside, on Saturday, Feb. 26. In addition, a special video presentation, “Write Out Loud,” will be shown on Sunday, Feb. 27, featuring the grade-level winners in the One Book Two Book writing competition. Visit for a full schedule.

Saturday events include story times at the Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty libraries, activities at Sidekick Books, and several fun programs on the downtown Iowa City Pedestrian Mall in and around the pop-up shops in Blackhawk Mini Park at the intersection of Dubuque and Washington streets. This will include a visit by book characters Clifford the Big Red Dog, Taco Dragon, Zoom Squirrel, and a Wild Thing. Players from the Iowa Heartlanders Ice Hockey Team – and Dash, their mascot — will be on hand for fun activities. Attendees are invited to donate used books to a festival book drive run in conjunction with the Iowa Heartlanders and Miss Iowa, Grace Lynn Keller, who is touring the state as part of her mission to advocate for children’s literacy. Books will be collected at the Pedestrian Mall location. 

In addition, children can sign up for free workshops. An illustration workshop with Jennifer Black Reinhardt for those ages 9-12 will be held at 2 p.m. at Sidekick Books. Participants will draw their own character and create their own “picture book page turn.” Registration is required. The annual Jr. High Writing Jam with the Iowa Youth Writing Project will be held from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27, at the Iowa City Public Library. This year’s guest author is Chuy Renteria. Registration is required. Visit for more information about how to register for each of these opportunities.

For the writing portion of the festival, students in grades 1 through 8 in Corridor districts were encouraged to submit one page of original writing. These pieces can be stories, poems, song lyrics, graphic novel pages or anything else the students can envision. Those submissions were evaluated by a team at ACT in Iowa City. Grade-level winners were selected in two categories. They are:

  • The Write Stuff, which is judged based on language, clarity, structure, and emotional impact.
  • From the Heart, judged based on creativity, passion, and expressiveness.

These winning students are:
















In addition, the ACT team identified students in each grade whose writing was deemed worthy of honorable mention:

Jasper Hwang, 2, Willowwind
April Xu, 3, Wickham
Alice Gravert, 4, Lemme
Abigail Chen, 4, Wickham
Harriet Wrage, 4, Wilkins Elementary (Marion)
Oceana Zhang, 4, Wickham
Evelyn Ingersoll, 5, Lincoln
Edison Wolterman, 5, Nixon Elementary (Hiawatha)
Phoebe Smart, 5, Penn
Evan Otto Helmke, 6, Willowwind
Ben Sauder, 6, Willowwind
Erin Chen, 7, Northwest
Alma Bhandary-Narayanan, 8, South East
Grace Baker, 8, West Branch Middle School
Briley Kaalberg, 8, West Branch Middle School

The winning submissions can be viewed on the One Book Two Book website,

Creative Cities Network grows by 49; 3 new Cities of Literature designated

UNESCO on Monday announced the designation of 49 new cities to join its Creative Cities Network making for a total of 295 Creative Cities from 90 countries worldwide.

Among these new Creative Cities, three have been designated as Creative Cities of Literature: Gothenburg, Sweden; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Vilnius, Lithuania. There are now 42 designated Creative Cities of Literature from 31 countries across the globe. The UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature extend a warm welcome to their new sibling Cities and look forward to collaborating to promote the power of literature for sustainable and inclusive societies.

“We warmly welcome our colleagues in the newly designated Creative Cities of Literature,” said John Kenyon, executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature and coordinator for the Cities of Literature. “We look forward to working with our new partners as we promote our values, including the need to celebrate and protect freedom of speech and expression. As our network diversifies, adding new cultural perspectives, new languages, and new stories, we strengthen the base from which we do that work.”

No new cities were added from the United States. UNESCO rules dictate that applying cities must be from a country that is a member of UNESCO. The United States is not currently a member, having left in 2018. There are nine U.S. members of the Creative Cities Network, including Iowa City.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created by UNESCO in 2004 and gathers Cities that have positioned culture and creativity as strategic enablers for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Network recognizes Cities from the seven creative fields of Craft and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. Designated Creative Cities place creativity at the core of their development to enhance inclusivity, safety, and sustainability.

Click “Read More” to view the list of cities.

Sidekick Coffee & Books to Host KidLit Festival Featuring Iowa Authors

Sidekick Coffee & Books will host its first ever KidLit Pizzazz Festival on Sunday, November 14, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the store located at 1310 ½ Melrose Avenue. The festival will feature 15 children’s book authors and illustrators from the state of Iowa. Customers will be able to purchase books and have them signed while chatting with the authors and illustrators about their books, creative inspiration and more. Featured titles include fiction and nonfiction works for young children through teenagers. Intersection A Cappella, a Tenor-Bass a cappella group from the University of Iowa, will be performing outdoors at 2pm. As part of the festival, Sidekick will sell special drinks inspired by the authors’ books.

The following authors and/or illustrators will participate: Jennifer Black Reinhardt (Iowa City); Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Mount Vernon); Michelle Edwards (Iowa City); Jill Esbaum (Dixon); Wendy Henrichs (Iowa City); Katherine House (Iowa City); Claudia McGehee (Iowa City); Karen Miller (Iowa City); Lisa Morlock (Urbandale); Norene Paulson (Lynnville); Sarah Prineas (Iowa City); Delia Ray (Iowa City); Dorothia Rohner (Ankeny); Barbara Santucci (Coralville); and Tess Weaver (Iowa City).

“We have so many wonderful children’s book creators in the Iowa City area and throughout the state,” says Katy Herbold, Sidekick’s owner. “I thought it would be fun to bring many of them together for a special day so they could connect with readers and the adults in their lives and vice versa. It’s not often that children can meet the people who write and illustrate the books they read. This event will allow them to do just that, and book buyers of all ages will have an opportunity to get a jump on holiday shopping.”

Sidekick Coffee & Books strives to offer the best-tasting coffee and best selection of books in the Iowa City area. Founded in 2019 by Herbold, a former elementary school teacher, it has established a reputation for its carefully curated selection of books for adults and children and its impressive slate of
activities, including performances, story times, and the 2020 Kids’ Caucus. The name of the store was inspired by Katy’s favorite sidekicks, her three children, as well as her favorite sidekicks in literature, such as Piglet from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books.

For more information about the event, contact Katy Herbold at Sidekick Coffee &  Books, 319-569-1010; Internet:; or Facebook: