Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2023
By Niina Bailey, Alice Reynolds and Toby Smollett
In this week’s article, we would like to spotlight the globally renowned Bologna Children’s Book Fair which took place again between 6–9 March 2023. Since 1964, the fair has aimed to create an international space for professionals involved in the creation and publishing of children's books, including the selling and buying of rights. They host a myriad of inspiring events, award ceremonies, talks, masterclasses and presentations which draws publishers, illustrators, graphic designers, literary agents, authors, translators, mobile developers, licensors and licensees, audiobook professionals, librarians and teachers each year alike.
At its birthday, the fair’s slogan this year “still rocking at 60!” encapsulated the vitality this publishing event still holds. Elena Pasoli, Exhibition Manager of Bologna Children's Book Fair, describes how “BCBF is ready to get back to work for the next decade with the same energy and creativity” and honours that “it is also a responsibility and an encouragement to always do more.” She sees their presence abroad and range of activities develop enormously and is excited for what the future of this event holds.
This year hosted meetings on some of the most relevant issues concerning the future and the present of global publishing, including censorship in children’s books, the promotion of reading in disadvantaged areas of the world and the new face of Ukrainian illustration – a tool for both communication and resistance. To celebrate its 60th anniversary, numerous big names in children’s illustration and publishing were invited, such as Albertine Zullo, Beatrice Alemagna, Rotraut Susanne Berner. And, like ever, the major award the BolognaRagazzi Awards will be presented in four categories (Fiction, Non-fiction, New Horizons (for the non-Western world) and Opera Prima (for first works).
On top of celebrating sixty years of the Bologna Book Fair, it is also celebrating twenty years of the translators’ centre. The translators’ centre focuses on translating children’s books and the fair has multiple events centred around translation to celebrate this milestone. One of the main translation events was a conversation between the translators of Italo Calvino, one of the most translated contemporary Italian writers. Another big event is a collaboration between BCBF and the European Council of Literary Translators Associations (CEATL) called Translating Children’s Literature: Juggling Between Boundaries. At the conference, several translators discussed translation practices in Europe and how they transport original ideas into different cultures, from foods to societal norms and political stances. Other events included discussions about translation in certain countries (Argentina and the Netherlands), what goes into selecting a title to translate and right sales and how some titles can become bestsellers in one country but not work in another.
In addition, the thirteenth edition of the translation competition In Altre Parole (In Other Words) will took place. The aim of the competition is to promote young translators of children’s books and make publishers in the area aware of them. This edition of the competition was dedicated to the Japanese language, with the winner receiving €300.
The BCBF also supports the World Directory of Children’s Translators, which was launched with UNESCO’s Index Translationum. It is a database which lists translators who specialise in children’s literature. It hosts an impressive list of languages, including fifty-five minority languages. The fair presents a yearly opportunity to expand the directory.
As we briefly touched upon earlier, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is not only a fair for people to see great writers speak and attend workshops related to the world of children’s literature; it also has its own awards! The most renowned of these is the BolognaRagazzi award, which had six categories this year: Fiction, Non-fiction, Comics, Opera Prima (for unpublished writers and illustrators), New Horizons (for notably innovative works) and the special category, Photography.
At the time of writing, the winners of these awards are yet to be announced, but the nominees are outstanding across the board. According to the official website, 2349 titles were submitted by 644 publishers from fifty-nine countries/regions across the globe. This national diversity shows itself in the diversity of works submitted. Comics reach from prehistory to a sci-fi future and there are non-fiction works touching on issues ranging from teenage angst to global feminism.
The awards celebrate these authors and publishers, but in this way they are also a celebration of the fair itself – it celebrates the variety and livelihood of children’s literature and if any proof were needed that the fair was “still rocking,” these awards prove it. We would strongly recommend looking at some of the winners and nominees.