Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Coming home to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018

The Piazza Maggiore in central Bologna
It was a thrill for me to represent Oratia at the four-day Bologna Children’s Book Fair last week. 

Although it was our first time there, it was a little like a homecoming: my wife and co-director Alessandra Zecchini hails from the next-door province of Modena.
At the opening ceremony on Monday 26 March

The world’s premium event for children’s books takes place in the Bologna Fiere, just outside the historic centre of this city that hosts Europe’s oldest university and a rich gastronomic tradition. As fairgoers enthuse, it’s impossible to eat badly in Bologna.

The PANZ stand, with our assistant Giulia Bondioli ready for business
Oratia joined the Publishers Association of New Zealand stand along with literary agent Frances Plumpton and five other publishers (Black Chook Books, Gecko Press, Millwood Press, OneTree House and Upstart Press). We also represented David Ling’s Publishing superb children’s imprint, Duck Creek Press. 

Opening day: from left Frances Plumpton, Peter, Kathryn Enchmarch (Black Chook Press) and Sophie Siers (Millwood Press)
The stand may have been small, but its location in a busy aisle of the fair’s Hall 25 ensured a prominent showing of New Zealand picture books, junior and young adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as a special display of works by Joy Cowley (who was shortlisted for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award). 

The Hans Christian Award Finalists list; Japan's Eiko Kadono took the authors award ahead of a strong list including Joy Cowley
All present had a steady train of meetings with publishers and agents from many countries, and a good number of walk-ons the stand. Copies of our Bologna brochure, featuring new titles and our children’s backlist, and of the Duck Creek Press catalogue, lasted just till the final afternoon on Thursday 29 March. 
Oratia Books and Duck Crek Press titles on the NZ stand
Oratia Book's 12 Huia Birds on display along with other nominees for the BOP Bologna Prize for Best Childrens Publisher of the Year. OneTree House won the Oceania Award for 2018.
Fair regulars remarked that the fair was busier than in previous years — no surprise given that the exhibitor total of 1390 was up by 8.6% from the previous year. That activity speaks to the good times for children’s and young adult books worldwide, with growing sales and profile despite slowing birth rates in many Western countries. 

Including visiting publishers, authors and illustrators, over 100 countries were represented — with China, as this year’s country of honour, putting up an especially strong showing. 

Peter Dowling with Elena Pasoli, Director of the Bologna Children's Book Fair
The Kiwi presence was well noted, with Fair Director Elena Pasoli telling me it was “a great source of pride to have New Zealand at the fair.” Creative New Zealand not only enabled the stand, but also supported a presentation by Taupo-based illustrator-author Donovan Bixley, and Publishers Association hosting of Sarah Mullen, director of the UK’s Bournville BookFest for children’s books. 

Donovan Bixley with Sarah Mullen of the Bournville BookFest
Links made at Bologna are set to lead to more international distribution, editions and opportunities for our fab children’s writers. Alla prossima, allora!

– Peter Dowling

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