By Alena Rivers
Just over a week ago I returned from a trip to Bologna, Italy as part of a Dominican University SOIS graduate course on international children’s literature. The course featured attendance at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, an annual fair hosted in Bologna. It was an amazing experience!
This year the fair attracted 35,000 attendees and 1,300 exhibitors from 75 countries. At the fair, publishers have the opportunity to create impressive vignettes to showcase their books. The vignettes are creatively designed to look like tree houses, living rooms and other unique settings. The books were equally impressive. Picture books, in particular, really stand out here with a broad range of topics and illustrations. Given that most of the books were written in other languages, the illustrations were critical to telling stories we might not have otherwise understood.
Speaking of illustrations, the Bologna Illustrators Exhibition showcased a stunning array of work by 75 illustrators representing 62 countries and selected from over 3,300 participants. One of these 75 illustrators will be selected to have his or her work featured as the main branding concept for the 2018 fair. After this year’s fair, the exhibition will travel to other countries including Japan, China and the United States. It provides these new and emerging illustrators with a tremendous opportunity for their work to gain exposure.
Ultimately, this was an incredible chance to view books that, many of which, will never reach the United States due to the inherent challenges in getting books translated, scheduled for publishing in an already competitive environment and finding the best way to market books that may look very different from those we regularly consume. Visiting the fair and discussing the merits of these books has enabled me to see the value in the few international books that do get published in the United States.
In the world of children’s literature, we are struggling to find ways to increase the diverse stories and perspectives from voices within our own country. Expanding those opportunities to include stories and perspectives from those currently living in other countries will continue to prove challenging but equally as rewarding. I encourage new and seasoned librarians to consider including books in translation from international publishers in your collections and make an effort to read them and share them with your family, friends, students and patrons.
Over the last few years, the Butler Center has purchased books from the International Children’s Book Fair. Some of the titles we acquired on this trip are listed below. We encourage you to visit the Butler Center to view these books and others in our international collection.
Un Ticket Pour Shitamachi by Tadayoshi Kajino, Lirabelle (2014) – France
El Camino de Marwan by Patricia de Arias, illustrations by de Laura Borras, Editorial Amanuta Limitada (2016) – Chile, a New Horizons Mention for the Bologna Ragazzi Award 2017
‘45 by Maurizio A. C. Quarello, Orecchio Acerbo (2017) – Italy
Spellbound: Making Pictures with the A-B-C by Maree Coote, Melbournestyle Books (2015) – Australia, a Non Fiction Mention for the Bologna Ragazzi Award 2017
Planète Migrants by Sophi Lamoureux, illustrated by Amelie Fontaine, Actes Sud, Junior (2016) – France