What a wild—but educational—trip I had to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, Italy! This past week I traveled with other students in the Dominican University SOIS graduate program to discover a worldwide view of children’s literature and explore Italian culture.
Walking through the giant conference center, I was immediately bombarded with multiple white walls that, as I walked, filled with illustrators putting up pieces of their work, business cards, and small drawings. Viewing all the diverse art and culture first thing in the morning made me understand that I was going to get the experience of a lifetime in the two days we had to explore. Thank goodness for the gelato stand that provided a delicious break between programs, and which I might have visited more than once each day.
This year, Bologna Children’s Book Fair honored the critically acclaimed Korean artist and illustrator, Suzy Lee. Known specifically for her work on wordless, or silent, picture books, Lee is the winner of the 2022 H.C. Andersen Award for her work on Mirror, Wave, and Shadow, known as ‘The Border Trilogy.’ These books are creatively refreshing as Lee uses the book gutter, the center of the open book where the pages are bound together, to act as a barrier between fantasy and reality in each story. It was eye-opening to see how authors and illustrators from around the world are using outside-the-box techniques to depict their stories, which are very different from those in America.
Unfortunately, many of the books present at the fair will never be released in the States, as there need to be publishers open to the book and translators, editors, and booksellers to complete the transition. Discovering the business and political side of publishing during this fair was something I was quite interested in, and was a focus of many programs I attended. Getting to see these diverse books push the boundaries of what we—Americans—think of as children’s books, was astounding, and I’m very lucky that I got to see them.
Not only did I get to discover the fair, but I also got to explore Italy! Visiting Ravenna with my classmates, Verona and Florence with friends, and touring Bologna outside the fair took up most of my trip. I took great advantage of my stay in Italy to see everything, and getting to be a librarian by day and a tourist by night was the best of both worlds. Waking up with the sun in Italy to walk over to a children’s book fair will be one of the best moments that I have as a DU graduate student, and I highly encourage other MLIS graduate students to take the opportunity to travel with one of the study abroad courses.
Arrivederci Italia! (Goodbye Italy!)