Monday, March 30 and Tuesday, March 31
BOLOGNA CHILDREN'S BOOK FAIR!
Over 30 countries come to buy & sell rights to literature and digital tools for children. It was enormous and overwhelming and wonderful. The theme of the fair this year was the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Which was especially fabulous for me because that is one of my favorite books of all time.
The theme started before we even entered the building. I thoroughly enjoyed the attention to detail that was put into the event.
As the exhibition was HUGE and we needed to get a small handle on what to expect, our first stop was the International Book Store.
The books were divided by subject, ranging from Alphabet Books to Myths & Fables to books for Young Adults. There were books in English, Arabic, French, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese. If I had an unlimited budget, I would have bought one of everything. There were board books, picture books, books with paper cut-outs, concertina books, pop-up books, novels, and graphic novels.
After our foray into the bookshop, we went into the main hall for the opening reception. The guest of honor this year was Croatia and there was an exhibit of Croatian illustrators works. There was also the Books&Seeds project, which was an extension of the BolognaFiere "Feeding the Planet" initiative. The purpose of the Books&Seeds award is to recognize books that deal with subject matter relating to food, farming, and cooking.
Read more about Books&Seeds here.
Read more about Books&Seeds here.
There was also an Illustrator's Exhibit, which was a juried exhibition. The breadth and scope of the artwork was lovely, and it made me wonder why we don't see more variety in children's books in America.
In addition to the Illustrator's Exhibit there was the Illustrator's Wall (which was more like 6 mini-walls) where illustrators could leave examples of their work and business cards for publishers to peruse. Many of the illustrators had booths in the Media All-Rights hall. Again, the variety of the work as well as the technical skill was just stunning.
As much as I love art, we were there for the books! Over the course of two days, we toured the four halls of publishers. I was keeping an eye out for Spanish-language books and Arabic-language books, given the demographic of the community where I am located. But we also saw lovely books from the Czech Republic, Korea, Lithuania, and the UK.
We did attempt to attend a panel, but they were clearly not geared towards librarians. I think that just seeing the diversity of materials available was invaluable. I would recommend a trip to an International Book Fair to any librarian. It was an eye-opening experience to see what the United States is not getting from the world, and to see what we are contributing to the world. (John Green is all over the place) Having the experience of kind of speaking the language made me aware of what it must be like to navigate through America if English is not your first language. I would like to see more multilingual signage in the States. I also got to experience the frustration of kind of understanding what I am reading (but not totally understanding), which I suspect is what people who are not fully literate must feel every day. I can't imagine going through the world not being able to comprehend all of the environmental print--because let's be honest; in America we love to put up signs about everything. I was also struck by all of the book awards I had never heard of--I know that America is insular, but it was a real surprise (and a delight) to see what the rest of the world thinks it stellar children's literature. I look forward to serving my multilingual community with some beautiful books in the future!