Ah! I should make it clear that I am not yet back in the States. Yes, I have left Bologna but at this moment in time I’m staying with my buddy the incredible penciler David Baldeon who is probably one the finest comic book artists you could ever hope to meet. Right now he’s working on Marvel’s Zombie Christmas Carol and it is magnificent. 500% better than that gn adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I can tell you. Anyway, Matt and I will be holed up here in Spain for a little while longer, mooching off of David’s internet, as I continue to tell you more about the Bologna Book Fair.
Now let us look at the differences between big publishers and smaller publishers at the Bologna Book Fair. Big publishers with their name recognition and their budgets manage to grab booths that are sometimes three to four times the sizes of their neighbors. There you will find the booths filled with little tables where your Scholastics, your Penguins, your Simon & Schusters, etc. will hold court with fellow attendees and potential business partners. To the librarian visitor, these are intimidating places to visit. You cannot really look at their wares without slithering past all these suits with their rights talks. Far better to relegate yourself to the smaller pubs then.
One smaller pub, Lerner, had been kind enough to feed me the night before. In their booth I had the perfect opportunity to look at their wares, and find interesting things.
Example A: A new Monkey With a Toolbelt title!
Example B: The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson. Now I don’t know how many of you remember this book, but back in the day it was quite the thing. Originally published in the 80s, this was dystopian children’s literature at its finest. The concept, as I recall, was that one day everyone over the age of 12 in the world just up and dies. Our heroine then takes on the mantle of leadership to bring order to the masses. Think of it as a kind of Ayn Rand for kids. We’ve a copy in my library branch that circulates to an enormous degree often, I suspect, with children of the 80s who remember it. One such child of the 80s is now in the movie business and apparently intends to turn this into a film. A clever Hunger Games film follow-up, no? Of course, in the movie they’ll age the characters a tad, making it that everyone over the age of 16 who has died, but that’s not too surprising. Lerner will be republishing the book as well and has every intention of changing the cover, thank the heavens above. So keep an eye peeled for that.
Random: Here is a Smurf title that I will avoiding with all my might. When I was a child I watched an episode (or maybe a movie) of this period of Smurfs and it terrified me. The horror . . . the horror . . .
Back to reality. Sometimes I noticed smaller pubs that would join together in one big booth for the purpose of meetings. One such booth somehow managed to contain Charlesbridge (and its rumored pregnant employee, whom I never managed to meet), Holiday House, Gryphon House (that’s a new one on me), Eerdmans, Magination Press (an offshoot of, and this is true, the American Psychological Association), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (did you know they made their own books for kids?), Peachtree Press, National Geographic, and Publishers Weekly. Under the single banner of Children’s Books USA, there they sat.
At some point, however, I tired of American and sought to see the world. To do so I headed towards Australia and its wonders. Once in their booths I saw a most coveted item. By now I am certain that you all heard that the winner of this year’s Astrid Lindgren Award was none other than the much deserving and utterly splendid Shaun Tan. I was present at the announcement (more on that later) but before I even knew about his new success I was drooling with great slobbery bits of goo over a book going by the name Sketches of a Nameless Land: The Art of the Arrival. The book offers a behind-the-scenes look at how Tan went about creating The Arrival in the first place. Insofar as I can tell Arthur A. Levine has not published it here in America, and if I were to harbor a guess I would suspect that he will not do so. It’s a bit of a specialized title, and may only appeal to Tanophiles like me that coo over every pencil line and coherent thought. Be that as it may be, should I ever get my hiney over to the land down under, you know what’s going in my shopping basket Day One. While in the Aussieland, I also noticed that someone actually made a picture book version of the song Waltzing Matilda. The book, however, is very tied into the history and politics surrounding sheepherding in the region. Not something we’ll see Stateside anytime soon then, I guess.
Speaking of books I’d like to see published in America but that probably won’t be, check out Pleine Lune by Antonio Guilloppe.
Here you have a book that uses infinitely gorgeous cut paper and silhouettes to tell its tale. Sadly, just by flipping through it I could mentally figure out the sheer cost of such a book. We might be able to convince a specialty company like Phaidon or some such to take a chance on it, but I suspect the pubs without gobs of money wouldn’t traipse so close.
Random Question: Is there any particular reason American has never attempted to publish the Asterix comics for kids? Are they too Gallic? You can be honest with me.
Without any real set goal in mind I tried more booths of folks that don’t deal with the English language. It was in this way that I was struck by the impressive collections and catalogs of the Estonians. I mean this truly when I say that the Estonian Publishers Association presented one of the strongest booths in terms of interesting eclectic content I’d seen all day. Prior to my visit I don’t think I could have told you if the Estonians even did that many books for kids. Clearly, however, they do and they’re good at it. Learn something new every day.
Of course none of this conversation would make any sense at all without a peek into the Butenburg Castle. I’ve discussed the International Youth Library before in the past. Heck, I once even interviewed Sara Hudson, a woman who had spent a significant amount of time there. Just to refresh your memory, though, when I speak of this castle it is precisely that. A castle. One that is full of books for children. If you read their literature it is an actual working library that just happens to contain books from 13 languages (German, English, French, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Spanish, and Turkish). And someday, dear readers, I will make it there. Don’t know how, don’t know when . . .
Then you get the odd bits of weirdness found at any conference. For example, recordable stickers? Yup.
That, as I see it, is just a tiny glimpse of the conference floor. Do not doubt that there is much much more to see, though. I’ve taken only the barest snippet of a glimpse into the world you may find. However, if you are a librarian then the floor is nice but the real lure lies in the exhibits and the discussions. In my next few posts I’ll give you a taste of what those consisted of in 2011. Be warned and be wary: You ain’t heard nothing like these before.
In other news, I did manage to get out of the center to see the city itself. I discovered far too late Carter’s comment in my Florence piece about the fact that there is a children’s bookstore in the main piazza called Giannino Stoppani: Libreria per Ragazzi. This is all the more painful since I spent quite a bit of time in the piazza. Walking there I stumbled on these statues of what look to be female fauns afraid of harmless critters like snails and frogs:
You can tell the boy fauns are being total jerks about it too. But have you ever seen a female faun in any form before?
In the piazza itself was a Moomin display! Moomins everywhere! Whodathunkit?
And that brings us to the end of today. Join me tomorrow as I delve a bit more into the talks, discussions, and displays going on all around the Book Fair. Most exciting indeed.