Book Review: ‘A Visit to Lost Otter Farm’ by Cory Christiansen, illus. by Mackinzie Rekers

‘A Visit to Lost Otter Farm’

By Cory Christiansen, illus. by Mackinzie Rekers — Self-published

Every year, the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature offers One Book Two Book, a festival for all kids, from the book character meet-and-greets for your toddler (with unbelievably tolerant folks dressed in full-coverage, big-headed costumes) to the Junior High Writing Jam and the Comic Book Confidential Workshop to entice even your surliest newly minted teen.

The centerpiece of One Book Two Book is its student writing competition and celebration. Students in grades 1-8 from the Iowa City–Cedar Rapids area submit one page of written work (any style) in English, French or Spanish. A team from ACT selects two winners per grade — one for skill (clarity, structure) and one for passion (creativity, expressiveness) — who are honored at the Write Out Loud event on Sunday.

But One Book Two Book isn’t just for kids who already love writing; it’s to inspire all youth and show them what’s possible. There are storytime events and two sessions of storytelling with the maestro, Darrin Crow. And one of the authors reading this year is North Liberty writer Cory Christiansen, who just released his self-published children’s book A Visit to Lost Otter Farm.

Illustrated by Mackinzie Rekers (an Iowa Citian), A Visit to Lost Otter Farm is a charming, personal telling of a family visit to Christiansen’s sister’s home in upper Michigan. It’s a lovely example of how to create a distinct world and draw readers into it. It’s also relatable to young readers, told with a sense of wonder and whimsy.

The real star of the book is the titular otter — not the focus of the text, but gracing many of the spreads through Rekers’ warm, funny, utterly delightful artwork. Wherever the curious creature pops up, Rekers imbues it with a playfulness that shines on the page and elevates the story. The other characters and the landscapes they inhabit are captivating as well.

Some clever turns of phrase ground the narrative (“There are stands of trees with grace and power / And prairies speckled with purple coneflower” is a favorite). But it’s the illustrations that will have you wanting to turn these pages again and again.

One Book Two Book schedule

All events at hotelVetro unless otherwise noted

Saturday, Feb. 22

Comic Book Confidential Workshop for Grades 5-8, 10 a.m.
The Little Engine That Could, 10 a.m.
Storyteller Darrin Crow, 10:30 a.m.
Storytime with Sidekick Coffee and Books, 11 a.m.
A Visit to Lost Otter Farm, 11:30 a.m.
Book Character Meet and Greet, 12 p.m.
Jr. High Writing Jam!, 12 p.m., The Mill
Young Author Autograph Session, 12 p.m.
Storytelling with Darrin Crow II, 12:30 p.m.
Absolute Science, 1 p.m.
Book Character Meet and Greet, 2 p.m.
Storytime: This is Frog by Harriett Evans, 2:30 p.m.
Storytime with Usborne Books &
More, 2:30 p.m.
Performances by Nolte Academy, 3 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 23

Write Out Loud, 1 p.m., Macbride Hall

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Iowa City Book Festival

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A celebration of books, writing and ideas

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