Pumpkin Island - Geisert’s latest book set in Elkader

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Arthur Geisert has completed a new book that prominently features Elkader.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


The first official day of fall is still more than a week away but elements of autumn—specifically, pumpkins—have been on Art Geisert’s mind for a long, long time.

The children’s book author, who moved to Elkader two years ago, recently finished his latest work titled Pumpkin Island. It’s the story of a small town completely overrun by large orange squash. And featured in the book is not just any town, either—the story is set in Elkader. 

“It’s not important (to the story) that it’s in Elkader but the fact that it is Elkader is way, way cool,” Geisert said.

Another children’s book wasn’t on his mind when Geisert moved to Elkader in 2015. He was set to do a panorama of the Mississippi River. But renovations to the building he purchased, his eventual move and a series of medical issues put the panorama on the back burner.

“My editor and I were enthusiastic about the panorama and I was in the process of working out some details like chartering a boat to go up and down the Mississippi,” Geisert said. “But then I started thinking about what (the project) would take and also I didn’t know if I could add anything significant to the genre. Meanwhile, I kept coming back to this goofy idea about pumpkins taking over a town.”

Geisert’s editor was also intrigued by the idea and gave him the green light to pursue it. He began by making a series of drawings last fall that were ultimately used for the book’s etchings. He used photos by Trish Finley as reference material and also spent weeks studying the Main Street buildings and alleys.

“I spent a lot of time on the bench in front of Turkey River Mall,” Geisert said. He also pulled a wagon filled with art supplies and a chair to other places around town that he couldn’t capture from his Main Street bench.

Like most of his three dozen-plus other words, Pumpkin Island relies heavily on pictures to tell a story. Geisert did add limited text “to fill in the gaps and explain what might not be obvious from the pictures.”

Elkader residents will have no difficulty identifying downtown structures like Central State Bank, Gene’s Place and even the Register building. 

Geisert spent “eclipse day” packaging and mailing his materials to his editor. He received a call the next day telling him that the whole staff was enthralled by his work.

“That’s really something,” Geisert said. “Usually, there’s a person or two that’s not on board but she indicated that everyone thought the work was absolutely gorgeous.”

The book will be available next fall.

Geisert is an award-winning artist and writer whose books have been translated into six languages. He studied sculpting and printmaking at LA’s prestigious Otis Art Institute before moving to the Midwest. He taught at a school near Chicago and then moved to Galena where he lived for 35 years. After a few years of living in the small Iowa town of Brandon, Geisert relocated to Elkader. He bought the former dry cleaning building and had it completely renovated as a studio and residence. His building has a two-story deck overlooking the Turkey River.

“There’s a little pile of rocks that I can see from my building,” Geisert said. “It’s like a little island. That’s where the story originated, I guess.”

In addition to being a best-selling author, Geisert’s etchings—which are true works of art—have hung in the famed Chicago Art Institute, the Figge Art Museum (Davenport), the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, and the Dubuque Museum of Art. He’s also had three cartoons published in New Yorker magazine.

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