September 27, 2007

DTQ: Has Anyone Ever Been To The Bologna Children's Book Fair?

pingmag_bologna.jpg via

I just finished a very enticing account in PingMag of the Bologna Children's Book fair, which is held every spring [the 45th installment is coming in 2008.] It's more than a little breathless and boosterish. And as the title suggests, it's more geared to aspiring children's book illustrators, who are encouraged to parade around with their portfolios with promises of "being taken seriously." But the idea of a globe-spanning, artist-friendly book fair sure sounds a lot more interesting than a giant publishing industry frenzy like Frankfurt.

Has anyone ever been to BCBF who can tell what it's like? Do you see cool stuff, or is it just a few rare interesting things amidst a sea of overcommercialized or overcute schlock? Is it progressive and contemporary? Or retrograde romantic? Should the fact that 27 of 92 illustrators in the accompanying juried exhibition last year were Japanese women encourage or scare me? Is there stuff to see or people to meet that can't be seen or found online? Next March, the other kid'll be three months old, not the optimal age to go trekking off to Italy, but not necessarily a dealbreaker, either. I wonder if I should put Bologna on the DT menu.

Finding a publisher at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair [, image: mayalina for pingmag]
Bologna Children's Book Fair, Mar. 31-Apr. 3, 2008 []


I think 3 months old is a fantastic age to go globe trekking! I don't know anything about the book fair but I've been to Bologna a few times and loved it.

I've attended the fair once in 2001 (with the children's publishing house I worked for at the time) and I would say it is a lot like Frankfurt (which I have also attended). Basically it is a place where people go buy/sell publishing rights/translation rights, I'd say it is definitely more work-oriented than your typical book fair for buying books as an individual. In fact only some stands actually sell their books to the public, the rest are just for displaying the new, unpublished titles to potential buyers from other publishing houses. By the way, the aspiring book illustrators are definitely not the center of attention at all: they basically have that big wall you reproduce for posting their work, and if they get lucky enough, maybe a publisher will like their style and later on contact them. But really, work is hectic those days and you barely manage to take a quick glance at the wall. I know that some illustrators are lucky and manage to meet with some publishers directly, if the publisher's heavy schedule permits.
Having said all this, I must say it is a wonderful , thought provoking, extremely interesting book fair, and I love it. It's definitely progressive and contemporary, cool and full of small, incredibly artistic publishing houses from around the globe. I also remember there were readings and conferences, but unluckily, I had no time to attend any. I do remember that they seemed great, though. Of course, being the most important children's book fair, their is also a fair share of boring, commercial, mainstream books as well, but the rest of the fair definitely compensates for this, and you can easily skip those stands.
Bolongna as a city is spendid, one of my favorite in Italy, definitely worth visiting with or without the fair going on. Hope my comment is useful!

[thanks for the info. If I go, it'll be as media, and with the goal of finding the offbeat, interesting publishing houses from around the world, so that's definitely a plus. Given the "actual" rights-related work that goes on at the fair, the presence of roving bands of portfolio-toting artists seems crazy. But interesting. -ed.]

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