Unlike the years where YA dystopian trilogies were the talk of the fair, the nature of the conversation has shifted, according to those who attended this year’s Bologna Book Fair. This year’s trends were easy to discern: books for middle graders, nonfiction (especially those with STEM and STEAM themes), books about strong and inspiring women, and in some cases, books that featured all of the above. We asked a number of U.S. publishers for their Bologna reflections.

Megan Tingley, executive v-p and publisher of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, noticed “a tremendous amount of nonfiction” during her numerous meetings at the fair. “Especially feminist heroines, STEM, and emotional well-being. I saw illustrated nonfiction survey books about notable women at nearly every appointment, and we got a lot of interest in our fall title The A to Z of Wonder Women at our stand.”

She was especially struck by “the number of picture books and even board books on the themes of emotions, mindfulness, yoga, and even sophrology for young children. As a publisher,” she said, “I know there is customer demand for these books, but as a parent I couldn’t help but be sad to see our political climate and universal state of anxiety having such a powerful influence on young children around the world.”

Many U.S. stands were showing books about inspiring women, said Mary Wilcox, v-p and associate publisher, HMH Books for Young Readers, but she said she also saw “intriguing examples” from European publishers. “The publishing world has noted the success of Rebel Girls.”

Tingley also found it encouraging to see books becoming more inclusive, “featuring diverse characters and non-traditional families, exploring gender identity and racial inequality, and celebrating female empowerment, and to see there is now a robust market for these themes.” She noted strong interest in Little, Brown’s novels Tyler Johnson Was Here and Ghost Boys, “which would likely have been a tougher sell internationally just a year or two ago.”

For Francesco Sedita, president and publisher of Penguin Young Readers Group, this Bologna was all about “unicorns and naughty nanas. They seem to have been everywhere.” And though feminist icons abounded on many stands, “I even got offered a book about men throughout history, ‘because men are great, too!’ ”

“This year’s Bologna was abuzz with activity and creativity,” said Mary Pender-Coplan, an agent with United Talent Agency. She observed that though “the appetite for middle grade material continues to be strong,” she also saw a resurgence of interest in YA material. And, she added, “with an increased interest in the family space for film and TV, there was a noticeable uptick in the presence of buyers and representatives.”

Among the trends that Holiday House executive v-p and general manager Derek Stordahl noticed were a wide range of titles “focusing on mindfulness and yoga, books incorporating children with disabilities, and titles featuring diverse characters in multiple markets.” He also reported on “a number of clever novelty books from European publishers, as well as some interesting experiments that attempted to thread the needle between picture book and graphic novel.”

With China as this year’s guest of honor, the country had “a considerable presence,” Stordahl said, “and we met with app developers and ebook platforms from China, and Chinese publishers selling as well as buying rights.”

For Sarah Rucker, director of trade sales at Gibbs Smith, “The strong emphasis on China meant I could broaden my Chinese market by meeting more customers and better understand what Chinese publishers were looking to buy in to complement their lists, as well as how the Chinese market is evolving.” Gibbs Smith has a new series, Little Leonardo, that focuses on each aspect of the STEAM concept, she said, and it “got a lot of attention, not only from China but from every publisher I showed it to. When I show people the Little Leonardo series, they light up because it’s for older kids and has a key learning concept that is being emphasized in every country that I spoke to.”

Kendra Poster, rights director at Algonquin, found that having a Newbery Medal book (The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill) on the corner of the stand brought in more “drive-by” traffic.” She said, “I got to see firsthand the truth of what one agent told me, that publishers are attracted by ‘bling.’ Then they ask what else you have. So it’s helping to raise our profile.”

She reported that middle grade books were “definitely more requested than YA” this year. And she was “happy to have requests from several countries for books about gender identity, feminism, puberty, etc. It makes me feel that amid the world’s political craziness, publishing is still stepping up to provide lampposts to help light the way forward. That sounds corny, I know, but I found it moving to be among mostly like-minded people trying to bring good, encouraging content to kids.”

Wilcox at HMH concurred, saying, “It’s always refreshing to be reminded of what a positive and intellectually curious global community children’s book publishing is.”