So! Bologna Book Fair. Let’s talk a bit about that. If you arrive and are a mere ordinary librarian like myself, you will instantly be overwhelmed. This is good. It slows you down enough that you simply have to pull out your map, which also happens to contain listings of all the interesting talks in the next few days. Ignore the fact that the thing is bedecked with images of SpongeBob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer. It could be worse. It could be bedecked with Disney princesses.
Flipping to the listing of interesting talks there are a variety of discussions going on at any and all times. Picking and choosing becomes a kind of Sophie’s Choice for the better part of your day. On the one hand, you are going to want to visit the booths. On the other, how could you pass up Italians discussing the surprising worldwide appeal of their Geronimo Stilton (did you know the books were originally Italian?) or something called “ABC African Children Books”. Right off the bat I found myself inadvertently seated directly in front of the Opening of the Exhibition by complete accident. “Illustrarium: Contemporary Lithuanian Children’s Book Illustration” covered the Lithuanian guests of honor and introduced us to some of them.
To my infinite relief, I ran into Junko Yokota right from the start. If you don’t know Junko, she’s a person to remember. A Professor at National-Louis University and Director of the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books, Junko has been active in USBBY (the United States Board on Books for Young People) for years. As a result, she’s attended quite a few Bologna Book Fairs. Right from the start, Junko was able to give me the lay of the land. She told me what to attend, where to find certain booths, all that good stuff. When she was done I felt infinitely more secure in my surroundings than I had when I started. She also told me that unfortunately there would not be a significant Japanese contingent this year, due to the crisis there. I was pleased to see a booth for JBBY (the Japanese Board on Books for Young People) prominent in the front of the conference center, but sad there weren’t more representatives present.
Really, there was nothing more for it at this point than to hit the booths. I experienced the usual conference fever and eventual exhaustion that occurs when you grab everything in sight for the first ten minutes, then slowly become more choosy over the course of the day. I’m utterly baffled as to how publishers navigate the space, though. To the casual observer the place is hopelessly overwhelming. How does anyone even begin to sort through the vast complexity? Perhaps one solution is to simply select a favorite country and find their booths. The only problem with that plan is that not all nations are represented. Every continent is, more or less, but I noticed that there was far more involvement in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia than South America or Africa. Indeed, aside from Egypt, India and Mexico I hardly saw anyone from those two continents at all!
Back on the floor I noticed right off the bat a fair number of books where the first title had been published in America, while the sequels never quite made it. So while Italy has access to all the German Anthony books by Ole Konnecke (sometimes called Camillo, interestingly enough) America has access only to the deeply amusing Anthony and the Girls.
I was instantly thrilled when I saw that Italy had their own translation of Rebecca Stead’s When You Read Me. I almost missed it on a first pass, and probably would have continued to do so had I not been curious about authors and translations at this point in the day. I had hoped that this would be but the first in a long line of When You Reach Me translations encountered over the course of the conference but alas, this seemed to be the only version I could find. In fact, one of the more interesting aspects of the fair is that everything there is so brilliantly new. You won’t find displays of Harry Potter or Twilight or any of that since the rights were already sold years ago. As a result, everything is fresh and new. I did see one Diary of a Wimpy Kid display, but not much else beyond that. It was strangely refreshing.
That isn’t to say that there weren’t older titles out there as well. For example, under the New Title section we had:
Yep. That’s Fortunately by Remy Charlip. Probably my best readaloud in my library. To skip ahead a little in time, I met up with Cristiana, a woman perhaps best known to y’all as the voice behind the infinitely clever Italian children’s literature blog The Tea Box. Cristiana has done guest blogging with Jules on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and when it comes to a native guide there is no one to beat her. Through her I learned that the publisher of this Charlip was Orecchio Acerbo Editore. They’ve done a variety of translations of older titles, like this one of Peter Newell’s very old but still fun The Slant Book.
Charlip currently has an exhibit up of his work in Parma, though alas my schedule wouldn’t allow me to visit it. Still, Cristiana told me that the day before Brian Selznick has spoken about Charlip’s work. We know his love of Charlip runs true. So much so that he put the man in as a model for Melies in The Invention of Hugo Cabret and speak eloquently about his work. I was sorry to have missed that.
This was a motto I could truly get behind:
Sadly I didn’t recognize a lot of their books, though I was intrigued by this comic book biography of the life of Bob Marley. Other biographies appeared to be of Italian political figures, none of whom I could name in my infinite American ignorance.
More soon. Internet is spotty at the moment (at the moment = a bus to Barcelona) but I will endeavor to report at length when I arrive in that new fair city!
Food picture of the day:
A delicious steak with salad and cheese on top. Yumyumyum.