The Bologna Children’s Book Fair, to be held March 30 to April 2, announced the winners and special mention honorees of the inaugural 2020 BolognaRagazzi Comics Award. In addition, BCBF also released details about the Comics Corner, a new exhibition and rights section of the fair devoted to graphic novel publishers.

The jury selected winners in the categories of early reader, middle grade reader, and young adult reader. In addition, the jury selected three special mention honorees in each reader category.

The 2020 Ragazzi Comics Award winners:

Early Reader: Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers (Toon Books, USA, 2015). A celebration of imagination and the creative process as depicted through the vivid drawings and wildly inventive stories of Henrietta, a girl with a brand-new box of colored pencils.

Middle Grade: Imbattable: Justice et Legumes Frais by Pascal Jousselin (Dupuis, Belgium, 2017). Imbattable (or Invincible) may look like a clumsy superhero, but in truth he is the most powerful of all comic heroes because his superpowers stem from his hilariously funny ability to manipulate the visual language of comics—the panels, gutters and word balloons themselves—to defeat the villains.

Young Adult: The Short Elegy by Animo Chen (Locus Publishing, Taiwan, 2019). A beautiful collection of wordless stories from Taiwan centered around loss, Chen’s sequential images are the visual equivalent of poems: exquisitely spare yet multi-textured.

Bologna Children’s Book Fair director Elena Pasoli said the show's inaugural Comics Corner will launch with more than 30 exhibitors when the show opens at the end of March. The section will feature publishers already exhibiting at BCBF as well as first-time exhibitors. The area will feature a digital catalogue of exhibitor publishers and offer tables for meetings.

“Attracting 30 publishers in the first year is a miracle in a traditional [convention] space; it isn’t easy,” she said. Indeed, Pasoli said the total number of publisher exhibitors would likely be far higher because, many of the exhibitors “are collectives comprised of multiple publishers, among them [exhibitors from] the Basque region, France, Poland, Russia, and Taiwan."

Pasoli described the new comics award as a “permanent” category going forward for the Ragazzi Awards, adding that the establishment of the award and Comics Corner was driven by the continuing growth in popularity of graphic novels around the world. “Since 2015, sales of graphic novels in Italy have increased by 300%, with a 43% increase last year, and this is happening everywhere,” she said.

In addition, Pasoli said the show's new emphasis on comics will include panels and programming on the comics medium as well as business trends in the category. There will be panels on rights sales and adaptations from page to screen, including a case history of Luke Pearson’s Hilda, a hit U.K. kids’ graphic novel series (published by Nobrow) which was developed into an animated TV series for Netflix in 2018. And Pasoli said to look for discussions on translating comics and a focus on using comics in schools and education.

Pasoli said that BCBF now has "more than 1,500 exhibitors, new fairgrounds, and 30,000 professionals in attendance. Bologna is growing and changing. In the past, comics publishers did not always see Bologna as a place for them; now they’re starting to add children’s comics to their lists.”

The special mention honorees of 2020 Ragazzi Comics awards are as follows:

Early Reader: Toni: Und Alles Nur Wegen Renato Flash by Philip Waechter (Beltz & Gelberg, Germany, 2018); Ariol: Touche Pas à Mon Veau with text by Emmanuel Guibert and art by Marc Boutavant (Bayard Editions, France, 2019); Dina Sottosopra by Kalina Mohuva (Canicola Edizioni, Italy, 2019).

Middle Grade: Simon et Louise with text by Max de Radiguès (Editions Sarbacane, France, 2017); Les Vermeilles with text and art by Camille Jourdy (Actes Sud BD, France, 2019); Akissi Aller-Retour with text by Marguerite Abouet and art by Mathieu Sapin (Gallimard Jeunesse, France, 2019).

Young Adult: Kahe Heli Vahel by Joonas Sildre (Arvo Pärdi Keskus, Estonia, 2018); Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me with text by Mariko Tamaki and art by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (First Second, USA, 2019); Ninna Nanna a Teheran by Nassim Honarya (Rizzoli Lizard, Italy, 2019).

The jury for the 2020 BolognaRagazzi Comics Awards included British journalist and critic Rachel Cooke, Swiss fiction writer and comics lecturer Christian Gasser, PW senior news editor Calvin Reid, and Hamelin Cultural Association founder Emilio Varrà.