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Bologna Book Fair 2012

With a picture book deadline around the corner I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get away to Bologna this year, but thank goodness I did go, it was an excellent Fair. As one of the organisers of the SCBWI Illustrator’s Display Portfolio my involvement in the Fair began several months ago. Just before flying I was interviewed for the Cynsations blog, before putting paint brushes aside and jumping on a plane to Bologna.

Day 1. With Bridget Strevens and Babette Cole during the British Isles Showcase at the SCBWI Stand

I arrived in the middle of the first day of the Fair and went straight from the airport to the SCBWI stand, anticipating the pace would gradually build up during the afternoon. Much to my surprise though the stand was already surrounded by a large crowd of people, from fellow SCBWI volunteers to publishers and other professionals. Bologna was off to a very hectic start! Monday was actually the busiest day for me, as I had a solid afternoon of meetings in quick succession, but Tuesday was also very tightly scheduled, it wasn’t until the third day of the Fair that I really had chance to relax a little and spend time exploring the halls.

SCBWI had a very brisk Bologna, with a full daily programme of events and showcases throughout the Fair. This year we were blessed by the presence of president Lin Oliver, over from Los Angeles, who on Tuesday gave an inspiring talk at the Author’s Cafe hosted by SCBWI International Coordinator Kathleen Ahrens.

Day 2. Lin Oliver at the Author’s Cafe

On Wednesday I and several other illustrators performed sketching duels at the Stand. I was up against worthy opponents Bridget Strevens and Barbara McClintock, illustrating a story by Angela Cerrito, but I also provided an unscheduled acoustic guitar soundtrack to the Paul O. Zelinsky vs Bob Barner duel! It was a lot of fun for all involved.

Barbara McClintock, B&B share and opponent (with Bridget) at the Duelling Illustrators event.

Outside SCBWI the highlights of this year for me were the wonderful display of the Portugese Illustrators in the entrance hall, which I thought far superior to the Bologna Illustrators Show. Not only the illustrations, but the presentation was just lovely. Each red suitcase box was like a doorway into another fantastic world.

Portugal was Showcase country in the main entrance.

Another memorable experience was the Cambridge School of Art stand in Hall 25, surprising not only for the enterprising way an art college pooled together resources to run a stand at the Fair, but also the  quality of the work on show. Under the auspices of director Martin Salisbury post-grad students put on a terrific display of sophisticated dummies and sometimes published works. It was a real shot in the arm for children’s books in the UK – to my eyes the kind of work that should be published in the UK, rather than the all-too often bland selection of commercial titles on show at the stands.

Equally fascinating was the group exhibition Di Mano in Mano (From Hand to Hand 手から手へ), featuring work from artists in six countries, which took place in the centre of town at the Medieval Civic Museum.  All profits were for survivors of the Japanese Tsunami, several old friends from Japan were amongst the exhibitors including Czech-based Iku Dekune, Junko Hayakawa and Kiyo Tanaka.

Then of course there were the parties. Monday night I was at the SCBWI knees-up at Livre Trame bookshop, but I didn’t attend any of the publisher parties this year as evenings were tightly scheduled with dinner get togethers. It was good to be able to spend serious time with some friends and colleagues so I didn’t miss the bigger events, from what I hear though there were plenty to choose from.

Overall I thought it was a great Fair, though perhaps somewhat more sedate than previous years. It seemed many editorial staff left early, in marked contrast to the intensely busy start to the Fair the last day was very quiet, several Stands shutting down early. A sign of the times perhaps?

There were many fine books on display, especially from Korea, which had a significantly enlarged section at the Fair. I can’t pick out any specific titles I was particularly seized by,  but I did like some of the simple graphic books covers from the US, as well as some of the more traditional and heavier work on display in the European stands.

Part of the Korea section

Jana Sedova displayed on one of the Russian stands

I loved this cover of Mabel and Me by Mark Sperring and Sarah Warburton promoted at the Harper Collins stand

Finally my congratulations go out to Peter Sis for winning the Hans Andersen Award! Fantastic news and very well deserved!

I didn’t take quite as many photos as I’d have liked, however there are, or will shortly be, many more photos from my colleagues on Facebook, including the SCBWI Bologna page.

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