We regret to inform you that due to the overwhelming experience of witnessing the full assault of children’s literature advocates from all around the globe, Betsy Bird’s head exploded at approximately 4:00 p.m. on Monday, March 28th, 2011. We are sorry for any inconvenience this might incur. She will be missed.
Well . . . perhaps “exploded” is a bit of a violent description for it. Still, after just a single hour of experiencing the Bologna Book Fair up close and personal, I couldn’t help but come to the unavoidable conclusion that should I find myself with millions of dollars burning holes in my pockets, I would personally make it my mission to send every willing children’s librarian to Bologna to experience what I just went through.
I have little doubt that publishers have a fun time in Bologna. But for them, it’s a working holiday. Those people who are truly passionate about children’s literature and yet lack any and all buying and selling power will have an entirely different experience from their publishing brethren. In short: We can have more fun. I will endeavor to explain.
I arrived in Bologna Sunday night, then proceeded straight to a dinner hosted by Adam Lerner, Andrew Karre, Klaus Flugge (founder of Andersen Press in London) and the Lerner/Andersen publishing crew. Now while Matt and I had eaten in Rome and Florence, I confess to you that until now our meals were not splendid. They were serviceable, certainly, but hardly the kind of eating that folks coo over when they speak of true Italian dining. Our meal was taken this evening in the simple Roma Hotel but what a meal it was! Let us say you have a hankering for risotto like myself. Well . . .
Now THAT is how you do risotto, people. Note the fine use of a cheese. The risotto is being served IN it.
Next day I was up and ready to take a trip over to the fair. Along the way I met a Dutch illustrator by the name of Janna Kool. We were both new to the experience and both essentially clueless, though Janna did alert me straight off to the fact that many up and comers use the fair as their own personal networking site. In fact, the minute you walk in the door you suddenly see this enormous wall where artists are encouraged to put up their posters or flyers or cards or what have you.
Some are a little more creative than others.
Other folks sprinkle their flyers all over the darn fair so that you can hardly miss them. I do not recommend this technique as it annoys the attendees, and the last thing you want to do is annoy prospective buyers from day one. Some publishers also found a way to nip in the bud anyone approaching them for possible publication:
Now in order for any of this fair to make sense you must understand that each year a certain country is the guest of honor. This year, that guest was the country of Lithuania. To properly honor them, the fair would be conducting various interviews with Lithuanian authors and illustrators, and there were magnificent exhibits of thirty-two Lithuanians from three different generations. I’ll discuss what I saw in that space as well as the illustrator exhibition in the next few days. Unfortunately there is too much to put in a single post, so I shall have to resign myself to tackling this a piece at a time. In the meantime, please take a look at the recent PW article on Children’s Publishing in Asia. I think it provides a pretty good encapsulation of some of the things I saw in the course of my day.
Sidenote: I was interview on NPR’s Morning Edition before I left for my trip. The piece Children’s Book Apps: A New World of Learning interviews me as well as the fantastic Philip Nel. He’s actually the whole reason to listen to it.