Saturday, May 23, 2015

Arthur Geisert - An Iowa Treasure

A Celebration in McGregor, Iowa

One day in 2013, Arthur Geisert launched a recent book Thunderstorm and in the small town of Bernard, Iowa (fewer than 100 residents), he sold over 500 books on that launch day.  In the back of Coe's bar, between the meat slicer and beer cooler he signed each one of them.  At the end of the day he went to his home -- the town's old bank, where he lived in his studio/home of less than 700 square feet.  In a June 2, 2013 interview on NPR he tells all about the event. 

Arthur's Gift to the McGregor Marquette Center for the Arts

Recently Jeni Reeves (another Iowa Illustrator), Lou Wendell (the merchandizing queen and manager in the gift shop at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art), and I traveled to McGregor where we attended a reception honoring Geisert and his gift to the McGregor Marquette Center for the Arts of the complete works of art from his popular Rivertown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books, 1999; op).

During this reception honoring Arthur's Gift to the McGregor Marquette Center for the Arts, the gallery manager paid tribute to other Iowa Illustrators/authors who had participated with Geisert on a panel at an early event at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.  Jeni Reeves was one of these artists, and she posed with one of her books and with Geisert as he autographed a book for her.  Two very talented illustrators.

Iowa is very lucky to have such talent.  The gallery opening was a festive and special event.  When all was said and done we made our way back home to Cedar Rapids, and Arthur Geisert made his way to his  new studio/home in the town of Elkader.   He needed more space and he wanted "a place that was within walking distance of all the services. I looked long and hard, and Elkader was one of the few places that I could walk to everything. It is the county seat with a population of 1,200. My building is within a block and a half of everything from the county courthouse to the pizza parlor. It is a two-story built in 1890 with a full basement. It is a beautiful building.” (quoted from an interview with Amy Meythaler and published on the MackinConnect blog [September 15, 2014]).
His earlier books include:
Oops (2006).
Lights Out (2005).
The Etcher’s Studio (2005).
Mystery (2003).
Nursery Crimes (2001).
Roman Numerals I to MM (2001).
Desert Town with Bonnie Geisert (2001).
Prairie Town with Bonnie Geisert (1998).
Pigs From A to Z(1986).
Oink (1995).

He has published with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for over 30 years.  

If you are interested in inviting an Iowa author or illustrator to your school or library check our our list of local book creators; and a few others as well -- for an author appearance please contact us at McBookwords.  Our illustrators and authors often speak in schools with young readers, and at all types of groups that are interested in literacy and  books.

McBookwords has a dozen or more authors that speak with young readers.  If you would like to investigate having an author visit your school or library -- for an author appearance please contact us at McBookwords.  Each of these authors often speak  in schools with young readers, and at all types of groups that are interested in literacy and  books. 


  1. Thank you for this post about Arthur Geisert. His work is unusual and endlessly fascinating. He creates visually detailed stories using the ancient art of etching and after each illustration is finished, he paints it with watercolor. For anyone not sure what exactly goes into doing an etching, I'd recommend his book for children, THE ETCHER'S STUDIO.

  2. Thank you Sheila for making us aware of this book. It appears that it is out-of-print but sounds worthy of a search in out-of-print dealers. It is a 32 page picture book that has been described by Publishers Weekly as a story that provides a "...portrait of an involving intergenerational relationship [that] is warm and welcome. As the story's narrator, the boy balances a certain maturity and respect for his grandfather's work with typical kidlike thoughts and reactions. Readers are also rewarded with a bit of an education: Geisert provides a precisely labeled illustration of an etcher's studio, as well as a detailed spread explaining, in stages, how an etching is made. "
    Thank you for the comment.