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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Bologna Part 1: What I’m Learning

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.

More tomorrow!

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.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I was very sorry to hear that your head exploded, Betsy, but I applaud your brave sacrifice in the name of children’s books for those of us left behind in the lingering cold of the US. Please send daily reports (I’m especially fond of hearing about food adventures, chance encounters with interesting characters (I believe Klauss F qualifies in this category), random bits of unsubstantiated gossip, and did I mention food?!) so this stay-at-home writer can feel the sunshine and warmth of another world. Soldier on! Jim

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Ah, Jim you have met Klauss, I see. He is utterly fascinating. I was so pleased that Andrew introduced me to him.

      More soon. I’m just a little sleepified, is all.

  2. The risotto! The risotto!

    I am so glad you got to go to Bologna. Probably the coolest children’s book event on the planet.

    Thanks for reporting back to us here in the states!


  3. Very cool. Thank you for posting about your adventures. I imagine you’re feeling fatigued. Can’t wait to read more!

  4. Why have I not been eating out of cheese bowls my entire life?! Fantastic reporting — we’re loving every vicarious moment!

  5. Thanks for bringing us all along!

  6. I love the cheese bowl! Glad you’re there and having such a fine adventure. Great to hear you on NPR!

  7. Karen Gray Ruelle says:

    Yes, I heard you on NPR! Good stuff. Oh, many the book fair sounds fantastic. My dream is to go there some day (and also eat risotto and gelato and pasta and all that delicious Italian stuff. . . ) Keep the reports coming! Vicarious thrills!

  8. So interesting to read, Betsy! I actually read part 2 before part 1 (and hence missed the exploding part, but I see you’re put back together again). I didn’t know they chose a different country to honor each year, but I can imagine that this year, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys must be an important and wonderful book being discussed there.

    I look forward to reading more of your non-explosive accounts. :) Thanks for being our eyes and ears.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Actually Ms. Sepetys was indeed the talk of the town. Sadly, it took her a while to actually GET to said town. En route to Bologna someone on her airplane flushed a diaper. This caused the entire plane’s toilet system to collapse, and they headed back to America for a different flight. They may have also lost her luggage. Ack.

  9. Hi Betsy,
    I accidently found your review, just now. You write so funny, hihi. And what a super delicious food they have indeed, i understand your spoiledness :) It is nice to refeel the fair again.
    And thank you for linking me. I’m remaking my site, by the way, WITH an English version, so you can understand the text too!
    See you next year maybe?
    Groeten uit Holland!