Friday Once Upon a Time

The 2019 festival kicked-off Friday evening, February 22 with the Once Upon a Time dinner at the Hotel Vetro Iowa City. “Once Upon a Time” is a magical literary experience created to celebrate stories written and performed by children from each elementary school in Iowa City. 

Keynote Speaker

Claudia McGehee is an American children’s picture book author and illustrator. Her mission is to create art and writings that inspire and connect people, especially children, with their natural world.

McGehee works in scratchboard, a medium that mimics traditional wood-cuts. She scratches out images from an ink-coated board, removing layers and revealing stories.

McGehee is the author/illustrator of three awarding winning non-fiction picture books “A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet” (2004 Midwest Booksellers, Honors), “A Woodland Counting Book” (2006 Gold Moonbeam, Independent Publisher) and “Where Do Birds Live?”, all from University of Iowa Press. In 2007, “A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet” was selected by the State Department’s Meridian International Center (Washington DC) as part of the traveling exhibit “This is Our Land: Discovering America and the World through Original Illustrations from Children’s Books”. Images from “A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet” are also permanently displayed as an eight-foot graphic mural surrounding the rotunda lobby of the Flint Hills Discovery Center, in Manhattan, Kansas.

“My Wilderness, An Alaskan Adventure”, was McGehee’s first author/illustrator historical fiction picture book (Sasquatch Books, 2015). “My Wilderness”, part biography of painter Rockwell Kent, was chosen in 2015 to represent Iowa at the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival in Washington DC. It received Honors from the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute. “North Woods Girl” (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2015, written by Aimee Bissonette), was described as “a celebration of both family and nature with exemplary illustrations” (Kirkus Reviews). “North Woods Girl” received a Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award and the 2015 Midwest Booksellers picture book award. Published in March 2017, “Creekfinding” (University of Minnesota, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin) is an uplifting true story of environmental renewal, about a creek brought back to its former life, a vibrant place teaming with fish and other wildlife. “Creekfinding” is the recepient of the 2018 John Burroughs Riverby award, and the Nature Generation Green Earth Book award, both honoring this picture book’s positive ecological message.

McGehee is a native of Washington state. She graduated from Central Washington University in anthropology and art history, with a focus in archaeology and graphic design. She also studied natural history at Oxford University in England. She lives in Iowa City, sharing a house on a hill with her husband and daughter, and two studio cats.