The Bologna Children’s Book Fair, to be held April 3–6 this year, is increasingly combining technology and tradition. The 2017 fair has attracted Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo, which will debut a new pen-enabled Yoga tablet computer in the Illustrators Cafe, where aspiring and established book illustrators gather. This is a prime audience for the tech giant, which is keen to show off its eagerness to collaborate with content creators.
The digital discussions—which had a more prominent role last year, having moved to their own dedicated hall—are getting even more glitzy, with members of the Google Play and Google Daydream team scheduled for several presentations about opportunities in virtual and augmented reality storytelling. “We are exploring how we can combine things in this mishmash world and this mishmash industry,” says exhibition manager Elena Pasoli, who adds, “It helps everyone understand each other.”
This type of cross-industry promotion is becoming more commonplace at the fair, which last year began collaborating with Pitti Immagine Bimbo, a prominent Italian children’s fashion fair. The result was the creation of The Extraordinary Library, an exhibition of 100 illustrated books for children and teens about fashion and art, which has been presented at various events around Italy and will be on display at the fair. “This got a great result,” says Pasoli, who adds that now the fair has attracted buyers from high-end fashion stores and design shops, who are sourcing books to sell and are talking with publishers and illustrators about licensing illustrations for T-shirts and other designs.
In addition, a new category in the fair’s BolognaRagazzi Awards was established this year for books on art and artists, with the inaugural award going to Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (Abrams). Arsenault will take part in a panel titled “Children’s Books on Art and Artists,” moderated by New York Times children’s books editor Maria Russo.
Other exhibitions planned for this year include a special display dedicated to the history of pop-up books, as well as the usual illustrators exhibition, which this year features works by 75 artists. “We are very much a fair about books, books, books, and more books,” Pasoli says. “And we are focusing even more on illustration and helping young illustrators advance their careers.”
To this end, the fair has added what it is calling the illustrators survival corner in hall 26. This area will be reserved for young, inexperienced illustrators and will offer workshops on the basics of networking at the fair and working in publishing, including how to set up a portfolio, how to approach a publisher, how to handle portfolio reviews, and more.
Catalonia and the Balearic Islands are the guests of honor and have more than 40 events planned in and around the fair. As usual, the fair will offer world-class networking for publishers, literary agents, illustrators, and licensing executives. The 1,200 exhibits (covering 215,000 sq. ft.) from 75 countries—including, for the first time, Myanmar—are expected to draw 35,000 people, including 20,000 professionals, to Bologna for books, food (gelato, anyone?), and fun.