Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018

Days 1 and 2

Sometimes it happens that when you hear a lot of positive comments about an event. Your expectations rise, and you get disappointed once you see the reality.

This was not the case of Bologna. I arrived on Monday afternoon. (What a pity! I missed a guided tour of the fair!) Weather was sunny, the city did not seem crowded, the registration went smoothly and…

when I got in…

it was an explosion of colours!

I had heard about the «Illustrators’ Wall» before, but in reality, it is the entire main area that is covered with copies of drawings and paintings.

«So this is the homeland of the creative people!» – I thought.

« Identity and diversity of Latin American illustration »

It was good to see that it was not only the first time in Bologna for me. This year, for the first time, the Latin American creators were given a slot for their presentation « Identity and diversity of Latin American illustration ». This explains the phenomenal size of the panel, all internationally recognized creators.

They presented themselves and their projects, their manner of work. During all these presentations I was trying to guess what they had in common, what could be the Latin American identity in illustration and I could not find the answer. Their works are modern, creative and diverse.

Then the discussion on their common traits followed in the second part of the conference. Some of the countries which they represent came to Bologna for the first time (ex. Peru), or others begun to come few years ago (ex. Uruguay). This is the very reason why they want to forge a common identity. They simply wish to have more weight and be visible in spaces such as BCBF.

This is also why projects such as « Imaquinario » were born – to enable the exchange among the artists, give them recognition and bring them to the international fora.

A common trait of the Latin American countries is also their common problem: their respective markets are all turned towards the outside and they do not see what they, or their neighbours offer.

Diego Bianki spoke about the necessity for the illustrators to emigrate and earn recognition abroad, to be able to become recognized and published in their own countries. This was his case because of the crisis in 2001 in Argentina, but also the case of Sol Undurraga from Chile who currently lives and creates in Germany.

The weakness of the publishing industry and political instability were evoked as the main problems. Issa Watanabe gave the example of Peru where the Ministry of Culture has only existed since 2010 and governments change every 6 months or so, leaving legislation in stand-by mode. The bureaucracy makes it impossible to run a private business and there is no recognition of the work of creators, so few remaining illustrators resign themselves to make some work for textbooks only.

What is the cliché still valid in the Western countries about the Latin America and its creation, is the image of the autochthone communities and their cultures and this is the kind of content and illustrations that the western publishers are looking for while dealing with their Latin American colleagues.

But Latin America is a mixture of cultures and has a greatly diverse population. This is also reflected in the names of the panellists and this is the unique common trait for all of them. (Notes: Stela Barbieri and Issa Watanabe were both pre-selected for 2018 BCBF young illustrators exhibition and competition and Sol Undurraga’s illustrated book “La Plage” which won 2018 BCBF’s prize in the category of Opera Prima.)

So, my guess was corroborated by the experience – the illustration and illustrators take centre stage at BCBF. The central square area which links all main halls is occupied by the exhibition of the young illustrators and Illustrators Café which features discussions, interviews and award ceremonies and this central area is surrounded by the Illustrators’ Wall which serves as an improvised space of contact, a spontaneous window for artists who dream of being discovered and making a living from their passion.

There is also an Illustrators’ Survival Corner in Hall 32 where conferences and workshops alternate with the portfolios reviews.

But, once again, the highlight of my second day at BCBF was a conference.

« Children’s Books on Art, Architecture and Design »

The meeting room was over-crowded! When I arrived, there were people standing all around the room and even outside at the door. Little by little, I made my way through the crowd to the diverse panel of speakers.

The art, design and architecture were a new focus at this year’s BCBF. By examples of their own books, the panellists depicted the difficulty of making the art, architecture and design accessible and interesting for children.

The role of a designer is to make life easier, so this approach was often used by the authors in creation of this type of book – easy to understand and funny to use. The book is a piece of architecture in itself.

The aim of the Children’s Books on Art, Architecture and Design project was to constitute a multicultural library on this topic for children and accompanying them adults. The beautifully illustrated books should open to children the world of imagination and authors have a great responsibility in curation of this early experience in art.

Only a child is capable of opening and reading the same book again and again. It creates a special intimate relationship and play an almost architectural role in a child’s life (in moral and aesthetic terms).

This sense of responsibility is well reflected in the path of Fanny Millard who places space at the centre of her work. After her studies in architecture, she realized the importance of space in everything and that this is the basis of our whole life. She decided to preach this discovery to the public and became an author, then a publisher of three-dimensional books which address the perception of space. As her project was evolving, she created the association Extra ( which closely collaborates with specialists in child psychology and development, with education professionals (and in the end herself became a psychologist).

Sometimes a classic story can be a way of showing something different, in an innovative way. The example is the book “The Three Little Pigs” illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia who uses a real architect house.

The emblematic buildings and constructions already have their story which only needs to be illustrated and the modern cities propose new solutions to give back the public space to children and families. These and other ideas were the basis for books of Didier Cornille.

To be continued…

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