Going to Bologna I didn’t know what to expect. I knew of course children’s books and illustrators but I never imagined the magnitude of the fair. Before this I had only been in my country’s (Colombia) biggest fair — the Bogotá Book Fair (Filbo) — and in Canada I went to the Toronto Book Fair, both wonderful but very different in size and purpose.
When Kristen and I arrived we immediately felt the joyful energy of this Italian city and were surprised to see how dog-friendly it is. As we walked through it, in less than an hour, we spotted 40 dogs. We knew that this was the place to be.
At the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, creative minds get to show their work and their enthusiasm for their craft. Walking through the stands, we viewed books that have been published all over the world. Where the fair began there were halls filled with the artworks of the selected illustrators, each of them with their own distinguishing style. Germany as the country of honour had a special hall exhibiting their illustrators. Work from this country demonstrated different techniques, from laser cut to fine drawings in black and white, or other illustrations filled with elements and a variety of colors.
The fair was huge and I had never been in one of this scale. It had stands for every country; sometimes publishers from a same nationality shared one but in most cases they had their own. As we explored the hallways of the Latin American countries, Chile caught our attention. They produce wonderfully crafted books with talented illustrators, as well as great ideas. The most wonderful surprise was meeting Argentinian publisher Diego Bianki from Pequeño editor, who publishes from the heart and has won prizes at the fair this year and last. Talking to him we saw the passion he has for his craft, which is clear in his books like Tree Book Tree. This is an amazing book that can be planted and a tree will grow out of it. To promote it, he used the motto: books come from trees, today a tree comes from a book.
There were also panels about a variety of topics. We had the chance to listen to some about enriched books and interactive book apps, and how this market has to work to make business model strategies get attention for what they are doing. Now publishers are also creating books with augmented reality. This is a new concept of books that isn’t being used in Colombia but it is a worthy tool that we should be pursuing and discovering. Its possibilities are endless.
The panels weren’t only about technology, and I was especially moved by one about refugees and children’s books. Panelists talked about how stories can help children understand why people leave their countries to live somewhere else and how this feels. It’s not just about understanding but about feeling and evoking emotion. This way real empathy is created and children can start building a better understanding with others. I left this panel with the feeling that these stories are needed all over the world and that they are helpful in all types of environments.
After the panels, we met Verena Pausder from Fox and Sheep, and illustrator Christoph Niemann who had great ideas and advice for Kristen.
I can’t end this blog without mentioning the lovely publishers from Ireland we met who adopted us into their group. They not only make amazing books and have creative initiatives, such as the book clinic, but also have such warm hearts and are very friendly. They truly made this trip to Bologna even better. Children’s Books Ireland, O’Brien Press and Little Island now have a special place in our hearts.
Valeria De La Vega is a final year student at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana where she is studying Communications with an emphasis in Publishing. She is interning at the Curved House Kids to learn about publishing children’s books, help translate the books to Spanish and to assist with the development of visual literacy resources.