Yes, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is primarily about rights, but that isn’t the only reason people attend—there are also printers, nonprofits, cultural organizations, and authors and illustrators hoping for their big break, among others. PW spoke to five people whose business at the fair isn’t just about buying and selling children’s book rights between countries.
Laura Watkinson, translator
“I’m here to reconnect with people,” says Amsterdam-based translator Watkinson. “I’ve had back-to-back meetings with authors and publishing houses. There’s just a lot of energy here.” Watkinson has translated numerous children’s books and comics into English from the Dutch, German, and Italian, including The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have by Edward van de Vendel, illustrated by Anton Van Hertbruggen (Eerdmans, 2015); Tonke Dragt’s A Letter for the King (Scholastic/Fickling, 2015); and Simon Schwartz’s First Man: Reimagining Matthew Henson (Lerner/Graphic Universe, 2015).
A show like Bologna, Watkinson says, puts the Dutch publishers she often works with in one convenient place. This year, Watkinson even ran into Anna Woltz, the author of a novel she had recently translated: A Hundred Hours of Night (Scholastic/Levine, May), set in New York City during Hurricane Sandy. And the fair also offers Watkinson a chance to check in with her fellow translators: “We’re quite a tight-knit network, really.”
Christopher Cheng, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
“We come to Bologna every second year,” says Sydney-based Cheng, a children book author and co-chair of the SCBWI’s International Advisory Board. “The goal is to promote our authors and illustrators.” There are a lot of them—among its many chapters, the organization has more than 24,000 members worldwide, Cheng notes. “It’s going really well.” One of the regular highlights at the SCBWI stand is a full slate of (sometimes rowdy) dueling illustrator events, which this year featured the likes of Mike Curato, Kelly Light, and Paul O. Zelinsky, among many others.
And because sometimes it does come back to rights, at this year’s fair the SCBWI debuted a new downloadable catalogue featuring dozens of books from its members with rights available in various territories. “We’ve had a couple people picked up already,” says Cheng. At the fair, the SCBWI was also highlighting the recently announced winner of its SCBWI Bologna Illustration Award, which went to Chinese-born and U.S-based artist Rongyuan Ma for a piece called “Daughter of the Dragon.”
Hala Shrouf, Tamer Institute for Community Education
The Tamer Institute for Community Education is a nonprofit organization based in Ramallah, Palestine, established in 1989 to bring educational aid to and provide advocacy for children during and after the First Intifada. It was created “in response to the need of alternative ways of teaching after the closing of the schools,” says Shrouf, coordinator for Tamer’s publishing unit, which was founded in 1993. Initially, the unit published local authors and artists before expanding to translate books from several languages into Arabic, including English, French, Norwegian, Swedish, and German. To date, it has published more than 150 titles, mostly picture books with some books for older readers as well. The goal: “Helping people to learn, and to empower children and young adults.”
“We have been coming to Bologna for a few years,” says Shrouf. “We come to the book fair to make contacts, attend meetings and sessions, talk about children’s literature, and to learn from others. We believe literature is an important way to give children a good life and space [of their own].”
Eric Leone, Kizi Lab Inc.
Kizi Lab Inc., a three-year-old Taiwanese company founded by Sanko Lan, was at the Bologna Book Fair for the first time, with a booth set up in the Bologna Digital Hall, which was new to the fair this year. Kizi Lab is the maker of the Kizipad, a tablet for children ages three to seven that comes preloaded with educational apps, games, ebooks, and songs; it also features controls to let parents track what their kids are interested in and how they are progressing. Currently, the device is only available in Taiwan. “This is our first international fair,” says Leone, foreign language editor for the company. “It’s been a good networking opportunity, and next time we’ll know even better what we need to prepare.”
According to Leone, Kizi Lab came to Bologna for two main reasons: “We’re looking to expand internationally,” he says, with China and the U.S. likely being the first markets the company would move into, “and we’re looking to collaborate. We want to be able to provide both universal content [for the device], as well as local content for each country. We’re working on English content and a cloud-based system, which should help us expand.”
Natasha Harding, Advocate Art
Several illustration agencies are at Bologna each year, attracting attention from editors in town, as well as the throngs of established and prospective illustrators toting their portfolios around the halls. “We’re here to meet with publishers and artists,” says senior agent Harding. “It’s been quite busy.” Advocate Art represents some 150 artists, and the team will next head to London, where the agency is based, for that city’s book fair right after Bologna.
Asked about what publishers seem to be looking for this year, Harding notes an increased interest in maps, crediting books from Quarto’s Wide Eyed Editions as a possible source for the attention; The 50 States published in the U.S. last fall, and a language-focused book with maps and charts, The Hello Atlas, arrives in October 2016, illustrated by Kenard Pak. For her part, Harding has been pleased with the fair this year. “We moved stands, which can sometimes be a negative, but it’s been quite good. We have a nice collection of artists to follow up with after the show.”