Children’s Highlights from the Frankfurt Book Fair
By Aimee Haldron, Nicole Haynes, Rosie Pinder and Emma Rogers
The Frankfurt Book Fair is the world’s largest book trade fair, making it one of the biggest events in the publishing calendar. With representatives from a huge range of publishers and companies coming from all over the world to buy and sell rights, there are all kinds of exciting deals and announcements made. The fair is also a major cultural event, providing a forum for all sorts of literary ideas.
This year’s Frankfurt Book Fair was held from 19 to 23 October. The event was particularly exciting as it was the first fair held in-person since COVID-19. Now that the action has concluded, we wanted to round up some of the highlights from the children’s publishing side of the fair. From readings to talks and multi-language rights deals, there’s lots to discuss!
Day 1 (19 October)
Frankfurt Kids Conference: Transform Diversity
Renowned writer and literary translator Lawrence Schimel discussed the importance of diversity within children’s books at the Frankfurt Kids Conference with a talk titled “Transform Diversity: Perspectives and Networks.” His presentation emphasised the importance of providing children with diverse and representative books, urging publishers to prioritise inclusion in their books.
Schimel also discussed the fact that, according to The Cooperative Children’s Book Centre, young readers in America are more likely to read a book about an animal than a Black, Latino, Asian or Indigenous character. He added that diversity should be incorporated from the conception of the book, not just as an afterthought or late addition.
Day 2 (20 October)
Reading Images: The Importance of Picture Books in Encouraging Children to Read
Clara Jubete was joined on stage by Justinas Vancevičius (Children’s World, Lithuania), Dylan Calder (Executive and Creative Director of Pop Up Books UK) and Simone C. Ehmig (EU-Read, a consortium of European reading promotion organisations).
This panel of influential figures in children’s publishing discussed how picture books go further than merely teaching children how to read; picture books don't merely help children to develop a love for reading, whilst also improving their social and emotional skills.
What Young Readers Need Today: Children’s Publishing CEOs in Conversation
The topic of conversation at this event was the role of publishers in supporting children returning to school after the COVID-19 pandemic. Scholastic CEO Peter Warwick and Clemens Maier, the CEO of Ravensburger, spoke to Jurgen Boos (President and CEO of Frankfurt Book Fair).
Day 3 (21 October)
Uncomfortable Topics in Children’s and YA Literature
Writers Elia Barceló, Aina Bestard, Rocio Bonilla and Nando López were joined by Almudena Hernández, the Head of Book and Reading Promotion at the Directorate General for Books, in a discussion about the strong relationship between children’s literature and the education system. This relationship has caused some publishers to reject proposals they see as uncomfortable for the market and educational professionals. The writers argued that although some topics may be taboo, it is important for them to be discussed in literature to encourage children to open up and be more accepting of differences from a young age.
The White Ravens 2022: A Selection of International Children’s Literature
The White Ravens is a catalogue which presents outstanding new children’s and young adult fiction. It is published every year at the Frankfurt Book Fair by the International Youth Library.
This year it contained a selection of 200 books from 53 countries, published in 37 languages. Notable books include The Boy from the Mish by Australian writer Gary Lonesborough, Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé and Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Migration, which was written and illustrated by George Butler.
Day 4 (22 October)
Act Now: How Young Readers Can Support Climate Change
It’s a well-known fact that climate change is a huge topic of political debate. The growing focus on the issue is clearly reflected in children’s books. This event explored how introducing climate change to younger audiences can help them relate to global issues, encouraging them to become a part of the solution. The United Nations SDG (sustainable development goals) Book Club for children focuses on sustainability and has been expanding its reading initiative globally.
Day 5 (23 October)
On the last day of the book fair, there were a variety of authors conducting readings of their latest or most well-known books. One of these featured children’s author Marcus Pfister and songwriter Detlev Jöcker, who were celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Rainbow Fish. Marcus read from his classic book while Detlev accompanied him with popular children’s songs from his mini-musical of the same name. Other readings included Marvellous World and The Fantastic Flying Lost Property Office.
It was fantastic to see the Frankfurt Book Fair back to its full glory after COVID-19. There was such a great range of events focused on children’s publishing. Of course, there were many more events that we didn’t cover here, but hopefully our quick round-up has given you an overview of some of the exciting and important discussions that were at the centre of this year’s fair.