Bologna Book Fair, a physical and ‘fast’ fair

The world’s most influential publishing fair for young readers didn’t get the green light until January 15.

Jacks Thomas, left, and Elena Pasoli on the eve of the opening of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in an all-physical format. Image: Publishing Insights, Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

“So much programming”, so little time

Ait’s the 59th Bologna Children’s Book Fair opens this morning (March 21) for its first in-person statement since 2019, there’s both excitement and tension, of course.

The excitement is that the world’s largest trade show focused on the book industry for young readers is back on its feet amid the still ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. A popular destination for professionals in the global publishing industry each year, it is a pride that the show progresses beyond a digital evocation of itself, which Bologna was the first to do among major trade shows.

The tension, of course, is that the virus is still a factor. Anyone who enters the BolognaFiere complex without being vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved in Europe will need to be tested in the field, masks are in place and hand disinfection – although it is understood that airborne transmission is the problem – continues to be emphasized.

Even as Rome prepares to lift proof-of-vaccination regulations for public places on May 1 — the country’s main relaxation of spread-mitigation efforts announced so far — public health authorities are pointing out that the number Italian COVID cases are on the rise again, although hospitalizations and deaths remain relatively low. On Saturday March 19, the country reported 75,768 new cases, above the seven-day rolling average of 68,143 per day.

It is therefore essential to be careful, even if the sounds of happy physical reunions with affectionate colleagues prevail.

Asked Sunday, March 20, what had been the most difficult to hold up a show as complex as Bologna for the first time in three years, the director of the show, Elena Pasoli, does not hesitate. “Speed.”

It wasn’t until January 15 that Pasoli and his team received the final green light to produce a physical Bologna, just two months before today’s opening. For those who aren’t working on organizing these huge trade shows, that’s an almost unthinkable amount of time to be in active production.

“But of course,” says Pasoli, “we had so much programming already,” because the company had been working on what might have been needed to be put on as another digital event.

For his part, Jacks Thomas, the former director of the London Book Fair who is now guest director for the first in-person iteration of the new Bologna Book Plus programme, stresses the need for this element of the show not only as the heart of BolognaFiere but also “for those who will only go to one show this year”.

What she means is that the world’s children’s publishing industry, despite being one of the most lucrative and reliable sectors of business for most years, is also, in some ways, so focused on its own sphere that its professional ranks may not be on par with the big generalist shows such as Frankfurter Buchmesse and the London Book Fair.

The Book Plus program’s attempt is therefore to bring the wider issues, trends and discussions of the international publishing community to the children’s book sector. The Book Plus program has its own stage in Hall 29 and a busy enough schedule to offer something at almost any time a business visitor finds he or she has a minute between meetings.

An “extraordinary prize” for illustrator Beatrice Alemagna

Beatrice Alemagna. Image: BCBF, Changyong Shin

True to its unrivaled focus on illustrators and illustration as a hallmark of the show, Bologna will today award an “extraordinary prize” – so named to mark the return to physical production – to Beatrice Alemagna, the illustrator of Vi går to parking lot (We are going to the park) with author Sara Stridsberg.

‘We are going to the park’

The Swedish Institute in Paris is planning a retrospective of the work of Alemagna and Stridsberg, which includes more than 40 books published in at least 25 countries and territories. This show runs from October 15 to January 9, organized by Wanås Konst.

Turns out Alemagna is from Bologna. And the fair took on the new title, a child’s request to go to the park, as an analog of the book fair’s return to physical performance this year.

Several times winner of the prizes of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, she will receive her special recognition this evening during the prize-giving ceremony.

This is the 54th awards report from Publishing Perspectives published within 56 days of the start of our 2022 operations on January 3.


To learn more about publishing and book prices in the international industry, click here. To find out more about the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, click here, and click here to find out more about the world’s publishing fairs and book fairs.

To learn more about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on international book publishing, click here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for CNN.com, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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