The Iowa City Downtown District is excited to announce the return of the Downtown Iowa City StoryWalk®. Kids and families are invited to take a walk through Downtown and the Northside Neighborhood to read and interact with two new books by local authors and illustrators. The July StoryWalk begins this Friday, July 2nd, and will be on display through Saturday, July 31st giving the community all month to get outside and read the stories through downtown storefront windows.

Both of the books were selected by the local bookstore Prairie Lights, Jan Weismiller, the owner of Prairie Lights said, “Prairie Lights is thrilled to partner with other downtown businesses for the July StoryWalk. We love the idea of children getting to know these beautiful books by local authors as they follow the stories appearing page-by-page in downtown store windows. These books are yet another highlight of our storied City of Literature.”

The Downtown story hosts 20 stops and features the book Begin with a Bee, a brand new children’s book written by Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and Phyllis Root and illustrated by Iowa-native Claudia McGehee. The Northside neighborhood book features Fishtastic!: A Tale of Magic and Friendship, written and illustrated by Iowa-natives Tess Weaver and Jennifer Black Reinhardt, with 12 stops. Both books are for reading levels 4-11 years old and are available for purchase at Prairie Lights. Each route is approximately 1 mile long and will take about 30 minutes to complete. Attendees can enjoy each story at their own pace while stopping inside businesses for a little shopping or to grab a bite to eat.

When asked about Fishtastic!: A Tale of Magic and Friendship, author Tess Weaver said, “As I brainstormed various ideas, I kept coming back to thoughts about friendship and kindness. I’ve always been so surprised by that fun twist of fate that sometimes occurs when I’m out doing something for a friend and end up receiving a very unexpected benefit myself. Once I began imagining Etta and her friends Marvel and Bloop, I knew that I wanted to write a story about an act of kindness unlocking some very important magic.”

Jennifer Black Reinhardt, the illustrator of Fishtastic! commented, “Creating a visual story, and bringing characters to life in a picture book is always something that I love to do. Illustrating Fishtastic! was a unique and special opportunity to work with my dear friend, Tess Weaver, to celebrate and promote the arts in our community through Hancher Auditorium’s creative outreach. I hope that everyone who reads Fishtastic! experiences the magical power of friendship!”

Claudia McGehee, the local illustrator of Begin with a Bee noted, “…it’s a great day when I receive an invitation to read a manuscript, especially when it’s written by Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and Phyllis Root, three authors I admire on so many levels. I was taken immediately with Begin with a Bee‘s environmental focus, the flowing language, the inspiring educational content, and most of all, the strong female lead role in the story! … I hope that the StoryWalk® brings readers closer to the special natural habitats and wildlife at hand around Iowa City and beyond.”

Starting at the Iowa City Public Library for the Downtown route and r.s.v.p. for the Northside Neighborhood route, participants can pick up the StoryWalk map detailing each participating shop and the correct path to follow. The map can also be downloaded and printed at home. The Downtown Iowa City StoryWalk® is interactive with the map including fill-in-the-blanks for kids to find missing words or items that can be found on the pages displayed at each location. After completing the route, kids can turn in their map at either of the end locations (Prairie Lights Bookstore or John’s Grocery) for a chance to win a copy of one of the books and a prize.

As a way to help promote reading and exercise, the StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT. It was developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library. Ferguson offers the StoryWalk® concept for other communities to use and mentioned that it is becoming more and more popular. Over 1,000 libraries across the nation have introduced the event to their community within the last year.

Check out the ICDD Facebook page for updates and more information!