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The Bologna Children’s Book Fair’s Shift Toward Digital

Bologna 2014

By Neila Columbo

BOLOGNA: The 2014 Bologna Children’s Book Fair magnificently concluded late last month with a blush of spring to the delight of attendees. In occasion of this year’s Bologna Fiere, held March 24-27, this charming Italian city welcomed 30,000 trade visitors, including renowned illustrators, writers, and educators, to what is widely considered the most prestigious annual publishing event honoring children’s and young adult literature. Brazil was this year’s guest of honor country with an exhibit titled “Countless Threads, Countless Tales,” to illuminate its honored selection of 55 children’s authors. And while the book fair celebrated its classical vision as a platform for publishers to introduce published and upcoming titles to international markets, this year observed a palpable shift in sentiment toward digital media and its expanding influence on traditional publishing.

A new digital category was added to the prestigious Ragazzi Awards this year.

A new digital category was added to the prestigious Ragazzi Awards this year.

At Bologna 2012, a new category, the Ragazzi Digital Award, was established to recognize achievement in children’s digital applications, and this year introduced a new initiative, Bologna Digital, inviting attention to the emergence of technology studios and start-ups producing applications, products and digital content for established houses. With a series of Digital Master Classes held throughout the week focused on interactive media, including a class “How to Animate Your Children’s Story” led by Italy-based start-up PubCoder, the new program confirms recognition of a maturing digital-era presence as publishers contemplate serious discussion how best to engage with multimedia forms of storytelling for upcoming titles.

In just one example, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, founder of Sharjah-based Kalimat Publishing House, which received a New Horizons Award Honorable Mention for “Do Not Open This Book!” by author Fatima Sharafeddine, spoke about Kalimat’s efforts to develop digital learning applications in the Arab region with a newly launched imprint, Horouf. Sheikha Al Qasimi shared that “Horouf will develop curricula and educational materials in the Arabic language for children with the hope to advance innovative ways of learning beginning at pre-school levels, and as well, to inspire cross-cultural understanding.”

The annual Ragazzi Awards further symbolized the fair’s international sensibility with the second year of the Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publisher of the Year (BOP). Judged by fellow publishers in attendance, awards honor a publisher from six geographic areas of the world considered to have exemplified “creative excellence and outstanding quality in the publishing choices made during the previous year.”

The winners this year were Italian publisher Maurizio Corraini, inspiring many proud cheers upon announcement, Europe; La Pastèque, Nord America; Petra Ediciones, South America; Golden Baobab, Africa; Walker Books Australia, Oceania; and Grimm Press Ltd., Asia.

Winners of the 2014 Ragazzi Awards noted in the following categories are:

Fiction Winner—“Le Noël de Marguerite,” text by India Desjardins, illustrations by Pascal Blanchet, publisher La Pastèque, Montreal, Canada, 2013. The jury noted, in part, “The story of loneliness and melancholy is developed through glimpses of interior and exterior worlds… [t]he central character’s emotional journey is illuminated throughout by gentle shafts of light… [t]he book exudes warmth without ever falling into sentimentality. The excellence of concept, design and execution convinced the jury that this was the outstanding book in the Fiction category.”

Fiction Mentions—“The Promise,” Text by Nicola Davies, illustrations by Laura Carlinn, publisher Walker Books Ltd., London, UK; “Die Katzen Von Kopenhagen,” text by James Joyce, illustrations by Wolf Erlbruch, publisher Carl Hanser Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Munich, Germany; “L’Ombre de Chacun,” text and illustrations by Mélanie Rutten, publisher Editions MeMo, Nantes, France; and “Issun Bôshi,” text and illustrations by Icinori, publisher Actes Sud Junior, Paris, France.

Non-Fiction Winner—“Majn Alef Bejs,” text by Jehoszue Kamiński, illustrations by Urszula Palusiński, publisher Zydowskie Stowarzyszenie Czulent (Czulent Jewish Association), Krakow, Poland, 2012. The jury said, in part, “A stunningly produced alphabet of Yiddish poems, this book instantly united the Jury as the outright winner for the Non-Fiction category.”

Non-Fiction Mentions— “Josephine,” text by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrations by Christian Robinson, publisher Chronicle Books, San Francisco, USA, 2014; “Dottoko Zoo,” illustrations by Norio Nakamura, publisher Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers, Inc., Tokyo, Japan, 2012; and “Mar,” text by Ricardo Henriques, illustration by André Letria, publisher Pato Lógico Edicões, Lisbon, Portugal, 2012.

New Horizons Winner—“La Chica de Polvo,” text and illustrations by Jung Yumi, publisher Rey Naranjo Editores, Bogotà, Colombia, produced by Culture Platform, Seoul, South Korea. The jury noted, “This powerful, silent visual sequence is in the form of the book version of an animated film… The author sustains the same level of intense focus throughout this epic journey, convincing the Jury that this is a work of exceptional creative ambition.”

New Horizons Mentions—“Do not open this book!,” text by Fatima Sharafeddine, illustrations by Fereshteh Najafi, publisher Kalimat, Sharjah, U.A.E.; and “Colleccíon Poesía Illustrada,” publisher Editorial Amanuta, Santiago, Chile, 2012.

Opera Prima Winner—“Halens Historie,” text by Yulia Horst, illustrations by Daria Rychkova, publisher Cappelen Damm, Oslo, Norway, 2013. “The Jury felt that this was an astonishingly mature and culturally literate debut. The book explores the proposal, ‘what the world would be like if we all had tails?’ Every aspect of life and relationships is explored in relation to this theme.”

Opera Prima Mentions—“Voir le jour,“ text and illustrations by Emma Giuliani, publisher Editions des Grandes Personnes, Paris, France, 2013; “The Hair,” text and illustrations by Sooyoung Kim, publisher Somebooks, Seoul, South Korea, 2013; and “Зірки і макові зернята” (Stars and Poppy Seeds), text and illustrations by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv, publisher Vydavnytstvo Starogo Leva (The Old Lion Publishing House), Lviv, Ukraine, 2014.

Fiction Digital Award Winner—“Love, The App,” Original text by Lowell A. Siff, original design and illustrations by Gian Berto Vanni; digital adaption by Gian Berto Vanni and Niño Studio, developer Niño Studio, Caba, Argentina. The jury noted “It was easy to love this app—tremendous digital imagination and inventiveness applied to a book which celebrates the textures and trickery of paper, and the power of vulnerable simplicity and visual poetry.”

Fiction Digital Mentions—“Midnight Feast,” text and illustrations by Lynley Stace, developer Slap Happy Larry, Murrumbateman, Australia; and “Jack and the Beanstalk,” text by Nosy Crow, illustrations by Ed Bryan, developer Nosy Crow, London, UK.

Non-Fiction Digital Award Winner—Pierre et le loup, directed by Gordon and Pierre-Emmanuel Lyet, illustrations by Pierre-Emmanuel Lyet, developer Camera lucida, Paris, France. The jury wrote, “A complete app combining visual storytelling, information and play with music, translated into an extraordinary well-thought visual mix of motion media, animation, typography and graphic design, full of perceptive details and surprising extras.”

Non-Fiction Digital Mentions—“ABC Actions, ” text by Guillermo Krovblit, illustrations by Various Creative Common Sources, developer Peapod Labs LLC, Chicago, USA; and “Double Double,” text and illustrations by Menena Cottin, developer And Then Story Designers, Coral Gables, USA / Caracas, Venezuela.

The Hans Christian Andersen Prize was awarded to Japanese author Nahoko Uehashi and Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello. In noted tradition, Mello will design the cover of the 2015 Bologna Children’s Book Fair catalogue, with conversation already percolating next year’s edition will favor an even greater international reception as Bologna 2015 will introduce by its spring occasion, like the first chapter of a great story—or digital app—the May opening of Expo 2015 in Milan.

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