Back in 2013, when the inaugural edition of China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair (CCBF) was launched and co-organized by Reed Exhibitions, the goal was to be the premier children’s book event in the Asia Pacific region—the Asian version of Bologna Book Fair, in other words. Starting this year, with BolognaFiere signing on as its new co-organizer, that aspiration is inching ever closer to reality.

Several proven Bologna events are making their way into the CCBF 2018 program line-up. Five new lounges in the Copyright Zone will be set up within the 20,000-sq-m exhibition space at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Centre. These include the BOP-Bologna Prize Lounge, featuring award recipients from 2013 to 2018; the Strega Prize Lounge, focusing on past winners and finalists of the award; the Asia Pacific New Entry Lounge, a collective space dedicated to selected groups of regional publishing houses; the New Literary Agents Centre; and the Licensing Zone.

BolognaFiere is also bringing its popular Illustrators Survival Corner to Shanghai, together with the masterclasses, workshops, and portfolio reviews. Among the renowned illustrators and picture book experts expected to grace the Corner are Kitty Crowther, Suzy Lee, and Maria Jesus Gil.

This year’s fair, running from November 9 to 11, will host more than 350 exhibitors and 30,000 visitors. The presence of international exhibitors has more than doubled this year, jumping from 79 to 160. Conference-wise, a dozen seminars have been organized to cover international publishing trends and children-specific topics such as audio books, digital technology, IP licensing, and marketing. Some of the overseas conference participants include Japhet Asher (of Carlton Press, U.K.), Michele Cobb (Audio Publishers Association, U.S.), Neal Hoskins (Winged Chariot, U.K.), Leonard S. Marcus (U.S.), and Maria Russo (New York Times, U.S.).

The who’s who of China’s children’s publishing industry will be at the event together with those interested in reaching the country’s estimated 370 million children under the age of 18. The double-digit expansion of China’s children’s book retail segment—19.7%, 28.84%, and 21.18% in 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively—is a huge draw. Currently, at least 80% of the children’s books in the country are imported or translated, which means that rights deals remain very much a one-way traffic, and the presence of rights agencies and scouts from countries near and far is par for the course.

Meanwhile, original publications are on the rise, with several events organized around CCBF—the Golden Pinwheel International Young Illustrators Competition and Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Award, in particular—to nurture homegrown talents and provide the necessary platforms for increased interactions and exchanges between illustrators, both domestic and overseas. This year’s Golden Pinwheel competition, for instance, has received 6,600 submissions from 1,320 illustrators based in 58 countries/regions, marking a 141% increase in submissions compared to the previous year.