Bologna Highlights – part 1

The Bologna Book fair in Italy is a place where artists find their way and publishers discover new talents. And so the day arrives for me on April 1 as I catch the bus ( standing room only) out to the busy venue where crowds and crowds of visitors ( ME) and exhibitors,  (THEM) pass through the doors. It’s truly quite overwhelming, first time round. The program is over four days, jam packed with Masterclasses, Illustrator Cafes, meetings with publishers, lectures, the ABC of Switzerland, booksellers, Red Hall 30, Purple Hall 30, workshops and more! I has set out with specific places to go and marked them on my program.  However, inside all this changed as I squeezed between thousands of passionate onlookers and keen book illustrators letting go of my plans. It was better for me to do this. I wandered around observing, excited, muddled, surprised and confused, a traveller, writer and onlooker to this whole world of children’s books.


Alison Lester posing !


Some Bologna facts! This fair is the biggest internationally and Switzerland is the honour country for 2019. It’s the biggest event in publishing year’s calendar built around children’s content.

26,000 people pass through in 4 days.

It’s the market place for trading rights for publishing and translations.

Silent Books – what are they? Who is Tomi Ungerer? Morris Gleitzman, Australian author of Maybe, Once and After – what title has he been given? The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Awards – who is the winner?

So many questions! So many new faces! So much to learn. I was really happy to meet lovely Mary Hare above left and Gabrielle Wang whose illustrations and books are popular in Australia. Gabrielle and I went to view the Silent Books ( wordless picture books) which are sold well in Europe but not so in Australia. The exhibition was excellent.

Over the three days I visited the Fair, my comfort zone was at the Hello from Australia stand where I met Alison Lester, Ann James, Ann Haddon, Davina Bell, Gabby Wang, Antonia Pesenti, Mark Greenwood and Frene Lessac, Anna Walker and many others. An excellent program ran each day with illustrators showcasing their skills. We were all so proud. Across from Australia, was Tiny Owl publications ( Iranian) Bloomsbury ( London and NY) Scholastic (UK, NZ, USA) Irish storytellers, Pavillion Books, Hachette, Cambridge School of Art, etc. Spread out in huge halls were countries, Poland, Spain, ( Edelvives) Italy, France, Uganda, Tara Pub of India, and too many to name. In a nutshell, there was a sea of imagery, a hub of happiness and perhaps an energy that I have not witnessed.


Vilija Kvieskaite from Lithuania

One of the highlights for me was meeting young illustrator Vilija above. She had published 2 picture books from the Baltic region of Europe. Vibrant, positive and totally engaging, she spent ten minutes talking to me about her process of collaboration with the writer and herself. I was captivated by her enthusiasm and talent.

Her beautiful picture books are about a crow and a squirrel. What a treat!


Tilly a new picture book by Anna Walker

When I saw Australian author and illustrator Anna Walker’s new book called Tilly, to be released later this year, I had to get a photo for my grand daughter Matilda (Tilly)

My days at the Fair started around 8.30am and I usually left about 5.30pm so long, full hours of traipsing around and getting lost, side tracked and bewildered. The welcomed coffee and gelato helped. I brought my own lunch to prevent me queuing and water was essential. For now, I’ll stop, pause and reflect on the next instalment of my time at the Bologna Book fair. Thanks for reading and sharing this with me.


Me, Marg Gibbs near my apartment in the city.

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Sandra Severgnini
April 4, 2019 at 9:22 pm

Brilliant. Thanks for taking us there with you Marg. Love that you are enjoying yourself x

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April 5, 2019 at 7:11 am

Sandra, this is illustrator’s heaven and you would love it.

April 8, 2019 at 4:51 am

Wonderful. Nice to follow you around and see what you look at. Would be a wonderful experience for you. So happy you are enjoying every book and cranny.

M.J. Gibbs
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