Although many of the deals arising from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair have yet to be signed (or in some cases, negotiated), Canadian publishers returned home calling the fair a success. Andrew Wooldridge of Orca Book Publishers said he thinks “it’s getting better all the time. It’s a much more important part of our business than it used to be.” Margie Wolfe, owner and publisher of Toronto’s Second Story Press, said the book fairs in Bologna, London and Frankfurt are vital because the rights business is still largely about building and maintaining relationships. “People who trust you, who trust how your books will perform, will, to some degree, trust your judgment.” Here are some of the books that Canadian houses say attracted the most attention at the fair.
Groundwood Books, nominated in the North America regional category for a new Bologna prize for best children’s publishers of the year, reported that The Camel in the Sun, a first picture book written by Griffin Ondaatje and illustrated by Linda Wolfgrube, which will be published this fall, attracted broad interest from publishers in countries such as Germany, France and Australia. It was particularly gratifying to see interest from Arab countries for the book, said publisher Sheila Barry, because it is based on a Muslim hadith. “It is a beautiful book and very sensitively done, but you would expect that they would have their own versions of these hadiths, stories of the prophet, so it nice to see that they are interested in Griffin’s version.” The story tells of an abused camel pouring out his sorrow when he meets the prophet; his tears fill the dreams of his sleeping master, causing him to repent of his cruelty.
Barry said that Jane, the Fox and Me, written by Fanny Britt and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, got a favorable reception as well. The graphic novel tells the tale of a girl who is being ostracized by her classmates and who finds consolation by reading Jane Eyre. The book was originally published in French by Quebec publisher La Pastèque, but Groundwood, which will be publishing it in North America this fall, has world English rights and strong interest from both the U.K. and Australia.
Annick Press was the other Canadian publisher among the five North American nominees for the Bologna award for best children’s publisher. Sales and rights manager Gayna Theophilus said Annick’s recently released War Brothers, a graphic-novel adaptation of Sharon McKay’s 2009 novel about child soldiers in Uganda, now illustrated by Daniel Lafrance, was a “big attention grabber” with strong interest from Korea and interest from Germany and France as well.
The Man with the Violin, a picture book written by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Dušan Petričić, got an “overwhelmingly positive” response, according to Theophilus. Based on renowned violinist Joshua Bell’s experiment of playing in the subway and his observation that those who stopped to listen were mostly children, the book tells story of a boy’s struggle to get his mother to slow down enough to hear the music. Annick will publish the book this fall 2013 with support from Bell himself, who wrote a postscript and will make the book available at all of his concerts. Sony Music is providing a web link that will be printed in the book, so that readers can hear the songs Bell played in the subway.
Owlkids Books sold Korean rights for Why Do We Fight? Conflict, War and Peace by Niki Walker, which is scheduled for September publication. Publisher Karen Boersma said it attracted attention from other regions as well. “The book aims to provide a launch pad for understanding global conflicts by using real-world examples from kids’ lives at home and at school to teach kids to recognize the structures, factors and complex histories that go into creating conflicts, whether it's a fight over the remote or a clash between countries,” she explained. Interest in the book was generated by a pre-Bologna email campaign, and Korean rights went to Darun Publishing via the Amo Noh Agency following an auction.
And although it didn’t happen at Bologna, Boersma said Korean rights have been sold, as well as French Canadian rights, for Oddrey, a picture book that Owlkids published in fall 2012. The book was selected as one of 20 books on the Texas xX2 Reading List for 2013, and author-illustrator Dave Whamond received a Reuben Award nomination for his illustration of the book. Owlkids is reprinting and publishing a companion title, Oddrey and the New Kid, this fall.
Second Story Press publisher and owner Margie Wolfe said the newly published novel The Colour of Silence by Liane Shaw was a big draw at the fair. The strongest character in the book, she said, is “a teenage girl who cannot communicate but who has an amazingly rich internal life, where she looks at the world and doesn’t expect pity.” A spring nonfiction title Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington was also a standout for Second Story, according to Wolfe. The book, which is a mix of historical research, first-person accounts and individual stories, details Nazi persecution of homosexuals, and Wolfe said it is the first book on the subject aimed at mature young readers. Both books attracted interest from eight or nine countries, she added.
Orca Book Publishers saw a lot of interest in its fiction series called Seven by Eric Walters, who dreamed up the idea of seven authors writing seven linked adventure novels that would all be released simultaneously. Writing, editing and publishing the series was a logistical feat that was rewarded at Bologna, according to publisher Wooldridge; so far he has a French offer and another for the Indian subcontinent.
The nonfiction Orca Footprints series also drew attention and an offer from Korea, said Wooldridge. The books have an environmental focus but aren’t overly didactic, he said. The first two books published are Pedal It: How Bikes are Changing the World and Down to Earth: How Kids Help Feed the World, which examines the food system around the world and ways that kids interact with it. The next books will focus on sustainable energy and water. Wooldridge noted that Korea and Scandanavia continue to be the strongest foreign markets for Orca, but he sees a growing market in China.
Adrienne Tang, rights manager for Kids Can Press, told PW that she noticed a stronger presence from both Brazil and Turkey at the fair this year. Their picture book Virginia Wolf, by author Kyo Maclear and illustrator Isabelle Arsenault, attracted lots of interest, particularly from Italy, said Tang. She noted that the fact that the book won the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Award for illustration last year may have bolstered attention. Another stand-out title was Nicholas Oldland’s fall 2013 picture book Up the Creek, the latest in his Bear, Moose and Beaver series.
Vancouver’s Simply Read reports that its Cozy Classics series by Jack and Holman Wang promises to be a hit internationally as it has been in North America. The board books abridge classics such as Moby Dick and Pride and Prejudice using only 12 “child-friendly” words and 12 needle-felted illustrations. So far, Simply Read has seen particularly strong interest from Italy.