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Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2023 Highlights

By Aimee Haldron, Holly Allwright and Rosie Pinder


Having just run its sixtieth year, Bologna Children’s Book Fair is a staple of the publishing calendar. Each year, over 1,400 exhibitors and over 30,000 visitors flock to the event to experience everything Children's Publishing. This year, the fair ran from 6 to 9 March 2023, and as always, was full of great panels as well as being the hub for new publishing deals. We’ve highlighted some of the great things that happened at the fair.


Events Highlights


Censorship of Books: What is the State of Children's Book Banning Around the World and What is Being Done?


Censoring of books has always happened and the goal is always the same: to control, redact and censor what children are reading these days. Following the recent controversy surrounding the Roald Dahl classics being rewritten for a modern audience, this panel included a whole host of participants including David Levithan, who is according to PEN America the eleventh most censored author in America.


Italian Excellence. Illustrations for Italo Calvino


As a tribute to this incredible author and journalist on what would have been his 100th birthday, this event celebrates his life’s work. Calvino was known for beginning the writing process of every book he wrote with a single image and then building the narrative from there. This exhibit brought in artists from across the globe to create illustrations from Calvino’s books. Now that the Book Fair has finished, this exhibition begins a tour to showcase Calvino’s writing alongside these new illustrations at Italian Cultural Institutes across the world.


PublisHer


PublisHer was an initiative created in 2019 as a reaction to the ongoing gender disparity in the industry. It aims to give an environment in which the women in publishing can collaborate and turn to each other for ideas and support. This year, especially as the fair falls on International Women’s Day, PublisHer was given an area where it held many events showcasing the powerful women of children’s publishing with the highlight being the panel with Italian Children's Laureate, Susanna Mattiangeli.


BolognaBookPlus


BBPlus, an extension of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair which takes place alongside it, was also a big feature this year. Entering its third year, BBPlus takes the fair into the general publishing space, therefore, widening its reach. This year, it featured an exhibition space and many training events on the role of rights, literary agents and scouting among many others. For the first time, BBPlus also nominated a market of honour, which for 2023 was Greece.


Deals/Trends Highlights


Macmillan Children’s Books Signs Six-Figure Deal with Camilla Reid


World rights were acquired for a range of books written by author and Nosy Crow co-founder Camilla Reid that will launch in Spring 2024 followed by further titles in 2025. MCB said the books will combine novelty elements, striking artwork by a range of illustrators and Reid’s “unique authorial voice.”


Graphic Novels Getting a lot of Attention


One of the big trends of this fair was graphic novels with international publishers keen to expand on the growing popularity of this medium. Bloomsbury’s middle-grade graphic novel Pablo and Splash by Sheena Dempsey and Michael Rosen’s and Daniel Egnéus’ picture book, The Big Dreaming are key examples that were getting a lot of interest.


Bluey Summit


International publishers continue to come on board for Ladybird’s Bluey books following the huge roll-out and success of the TV show. Penguin Random House held its first-ever Bluey Summit at the fair to celebrate the success of this new series, inviting existing and prospective publishers. The event even featured a life-sized Bluey mascot!


Moomin Partnership with the US


The Moomin stand was particularly impressive at this year’s book fair following the brand’s recently announced partnership with Barnes and Noble in the US. This marks the brand’s first major step into the US market highlighting its continued growth as it heads towards its 80th anniversary in 2025.


These are just a few snapshots from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2023 that we thought were particularly exciting. It was great that this year things were back in full swing after a reduced fair last year following the continued impact of COVID-19. The fair is a fantastic platform to showcase the diversity and creativity of the children’s book industry and offers a great indication of what is to come in the year ahead across children’s publishing on the international stage.

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