Book books books! “The 51st annual Bologna Children’s Book Fair was a wow“, reports Freddy Deane, founder of Smiling Planet and writer+illustrator. His report tells us all about the event and the new great books to come.

“For children’s authors, illustrators, publishers, literary agents, and printers from all over the world, Bologna is an annual pilgrimage to buy, sell, discover, and be discovered. 

The venue is huge and bustling with energy. Last year there were over 1,200 exhibitors from 75 countries, spread over 20,000 square meters of convention space.  with 25,000 professionals attending. Judging from what I saw, this year’s numbers were similar. There was no sign of a publishing crisis in Bologna. The corridors were bustling and packed. The creativity on display was extraordinary: from polished displays in publisher booths, to award winning books, to the unknown illustrators’ wall papered with art from all over the world.

A few things stood out for me:

First, the Ragazzi award winners. The Fiction winner Le Noël de Marguerite is a Christmas story with a comfortable, understated retro feel. The Non Fiction winner Majn Alef Bejs is an alphabet of Yiddish poems with bold graphics. The New Horizons winner La chica de polvo is the book version of an animated film that combines the surreal and the ordinary. The Opera Prima winner (for a debut work) Halens Historie explores a world where humans have tails like animals. The honorable mentions are amazing too. They are all listed on the Book Fair site – take a look. the link is below.

Second, Kamishibai. Kamishibai is a form of story telling from Japan, and it is spreading around the world. In kamishibai, one by one, a series of prints are displayed in a wooden tabletop frame that looks like a theatre stage. The series tells a story with no words, so the kids and the grownups who have gathered tell the story as they see it. It’s a wonderful way to spark imagination and participation.

Third, Korea. I found myself returning again and again to Korean publishers section. The artistry displayed in their illustrated books was profound. I think Korea is poised to have a big cultural impact on the world. Gangnam Style was only the beginning…

Fourth, the panache and style of the Italian books. Several Italian booksellers set up retail stores in the midst of the tradeshow with books spread out on tables that popped with bright colors and cool graphics. They were irresistible. I wanted them all!

Fifth, the illustrators’ wall. There was so much talent crowded on to those walls – so much effort, hope, and potential discovery – that it made me happy to be part of it.

Sixth and finally, Bologna itself. “Bologna, la dotta, la grassa, la rossa… Bologna, the wise, the fat, the red!” The essence of that quote is that the Bolognese know how to live, and I found it true. I stayed in the old city near Via dell’ Indipendenza and Piazza Maggiore, and walked everywhere. Arched porticos run the length of most streets. Beautiful architecture, art, fine shops, and tempting restaurants abound. Book Fair or not, put it on your list of places to go. It was a pleasure.”

by Freddy Deane, Smiling Planet



– The Bologna Children’s Book Fair

– 2014 Ragazzi award winners:

– 2014 selected illustrators pictures:

– Donut Dream by Freddy Deane