Threats of military invasion are not new to Bologna Fair attendees; over the last 40 years publishers have flown to Italy for the annual children's book gathering during any number of international conflicts. This year's fair runs from April 2—5, and barring unforeseen circumstances affecting international travel, all the usual participants will be at their stands, greeting colleagues from all corners of the world. As has been the case since 2000, the fair takes place from Wednesday through Saturday, which leaves part of the weekend free for shopping, sightseeing or travel.

Registered exhibitors number 1,064, representing 62 countries. A few new initiatives have been organized. A TV/Film Rights Centre will be devoted to the exchange of rights between the book industry and TV and film producers. It will have an exhibition space at the fair separate from the ever-busy Literary Agents Centre. An online service through the Bologna Book Fair's Web site ( is also available.

A new exhibit, called DOCET, will occupy halls 33 and 34, and is aimed at the Italian educational market.

This year's fair also sees the debut of a Global Learning Initiative, created for professionals in the international educational publishing business. The GLI was developed in cooperation with the Association of Educational Publishers; it will offer an exhibit area focusing on K—12 publishing in all media, and a seminar on April 3 on trends and issues affecting educational publishers internationally (the theme: New Models, New Perspectives). The seminar will have a pre-fair workshop and roundtable discussions on April 1, and a networking lunch on April 4.

GLI will also inaugurate an annual award for educational books, decided by an international jury and presented at the fair. The theme for this year's award is Innovation in Learning. Registered exhibitors for the GLI include Harcourt Education, Pearson Education, Scholastic, Benchmark Educational Publishers, Creative Teaching Press, Rourke Classroom Resources, Teacher Created Materials, and a joint stand for the AEP that includes ABC-CLIO, the International Reading Association and Time for Kids.

Poland is the guest country at the annual Illustrators Exhibition. For the fiction section, 85 artists from 15 countries have been selected, and 41 artists from 11 countries have been chosen for the nonfiction section. Artists were chosen by an international jury, consisting of Lilian Brøgger (Denmark), Ann Bobco (U.S.), Marcus Herrenberger (Germany), Irina Pavluchik (Russia) and Vicente Ferrer (Spain).

Bologna in fact bestows a host of prizes, most notably the Bologna Ragazzi Awards (divided into Fiction, Nonfiction and New Horizons) and the New Media Prize. The Bologna Ragazzi Awards are presented in recognition of overall publishing excellence, and will be given out on April 2.

Six winners will be chosen from the 20 finalists for the 2003 Bologna New Media Prize, and announced during the opening ceremony of the fair. The finalists were chosen from 815 children's interactive media products from around the world. A conference on children's new media, called Dust or Magic Bologna: From Paper to Pixels, will be held prior to the fair, from March 31—April 1.

In place of the opening gala for the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the fair organization, as it did last year, is making a donation to an appropriate cause; this year it goes to Save the Children.

The fair will have a few honored American guests in attendance. Illustrator Kathryn Hewitt and author Lisa McCourt will be attending, having won a competition co-sponsored by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the Bologna Book Fair. And bookseller Alison Morris, children's book buyer at Wellesley Booksmith in Wellesley, Mass., won an essay contest held by the Association of Booksellers for Children, and will be a guest of the fair.

Here's hoping for plenty of spring sunshine as the international community of children's publishers once again convenes in the always-welcoming town of Bologna.