Pasoli and Thomas on the 60th Bologna Book Fair Opening

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

With a buoyant mood and a new coalition of new features, Bologna Children’s Book Fair beats its own record for its number of exhibitors.

Bologna Children’s Book Fair director Elena Pasoli speaks at the 2022 Jerusalem International Book Forum, left, and guest director Jacks Thomas in conversation at the 2022 edition of Bologna Book Plus. Images: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Pasoli: ‘The Mood Is Festive’
This morning’s (March 6) opening of the 60th iteration of the world’s most influential publishing trade show based in young readers’ content offers a clearer look at recent years’ adjustments to Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

A total 1,456 exhibitors from some 90 countries are on-hand, Bologna’s director Elena Pasoli says, “That means we’re truly back to normal. In fact, in 2019, which had been our best year ever, we had 1450 exhibitors.”

This year, then, is already a record-setter, and that’s especially impressive, Pasoli points out, “considering the absence of Russia and the understandably continuing low presence of China.

“I’m excited about the new layout of the fair,” Pasoli tells Publishing Perspectives. “It truly represents the concept and integration of our three initiatives.”

Those three initiatives:

Thomas: ‘Publishing Is Back Together Again’

The Bologna Book Plus 2022 Publisher Focus area. Image: BBPlus, Orna OBrien

Probably the initiative that has carried the most surprise for some longtime trade visitors to the show is Bologna Book Plus, frequently abbreviated to “BBPlus.

In Thomas’ jubilant comment, “Publishing is back together again,” you can hear a hint of why, after three years, Bologna Book Plus is still being discovered by many. That’s an effect we can blame, in part, on the coronavirus COVID19 pandemic.

The Plus program first appeared during Bologna’s digital interpretation in 2021—unadvoidably much quieter, of course, than the regular in-person trade show. Then, the Plus program had a conference format. By last year’s fair in 2022, it was modulating in the direction of educational and career-skills events with a seminars format supported by Orna O’Brien—like Thomas, an alumna of London Book Fair‘s management.

And today, what you’ll find here in Bologna, its guest director Jacks Thomas says, is a Bologna Book Plus presence in which “exhibit, training, content are the way forward.

“I guess the theme is ‘rights at the heart of everything’ as we were super-excited to be able to offer general publishing agents and exhibiting professionals access to be located in the Bologna Rights Center, combined with the training events How to Sell Rights and Understand Licensing and Call Your Agent: How to be a Successful Literary Agent. Here’s the Plus area of the Bologna site for this year’s show.

In addition, “As our exhibitors, it makes for a pretty vibrant offering,” Thomas says.

Pasoli: ‘A Really Special Edition’

Like Thomas, Pasoli is picking up on an air of celebration for many, too, as Thomas is, saying, “The mood is festive, full of expectation and enthusiasm. We really couldn’t imagine a better 60th anniversary.”

She’s heartened, she says, to see “many Chinese visitor registrations,” even if that market’s publishing houses may not have their full roster of exhibitors.

“As far as the program is concerned,” she says, “this year is really a special edition. There will be many topics addressed by the various panels—first and foremost censorship.

“And the happy coincidence of International Women’s Day (March 8) has stimulated us to create many events and an exhibition of more than 100 wonderful illustrated books dedicated to the great women of science, sport, fashion, the fight for rights.”

The Italian news agency ANSA, the Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata, of course, is also reporting on those International Women’s Day strikes expected in many parts of Italy in public transport, schools, and the health sector. General strikes could hobble trade visitors’ travels to and from the show, with train lines particularly likely to be targeted by demonstrations against gender violence and discrimination.

As our readership knows from our earlier feature, “We created this whole program with PublisHer, the network founded by Bodour Al Qasimi to promote top roles for women in the publishing industry.

“We’ll present a large PublisHer area full of appointments and networking opportunities.

“And let me tell you,” Pasoli says, “the visual identity of this 60th edition ‘really rocks'”—a reference to the show’s “Still rocking at 60” anniversary slogan this year.

“We involved illustrators from different countries in an international contest to build, with our graphic designers at Chialab Design, a collage of memories and representations of the fair and the city around it that’s truly fantastic,” she says—all played out in the colors of our logo.”

Part of the 2023 ‘visual identity’ work used by Chialab in this year’s livery for Bologna Children’s Book Fair’s 60th anniversary. Image: BCBF

Thomas: ‘A Driving Force’ in Greece

Jacks Thomas then takes up “Your question about our Market of Honor—which is clearly all about rights, as well, and fabulously exciting.”

A Bologna Book Plus Market of Honor program was something “I always hoped and dreamed we’d have, despite the pandemic. My colleagues and I set about bringing the program to life as soon as we could.

“We’re so happy it’s Greece, as the publishing industry there is vibrant, creative, and very deserving of the focus that a Market of Honor program delivers.”

The Greek pavilion and its program have a 1 p.m. opening event today in Hall 29, and Thomas says, “Deputy Minister Yatromanolakis has been a driving force behind this initiative and a complete inspiration.” You can find our feature interview with Nicholos Yatromanolakis here.

Nicholas Yatromanolakis, Greece’s deputy minister of culture and sports, will speak at Monday’s opening of the Market of Honor pavilion at Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Image: Ministry of culture and sports

Pasoli: ‘A Forward-Looking Fair’

There’s a parallel between the messages Yatromanolakis delivers about how “contemporary Greece does have its ow voice” and Pasoli’s description of this year’s 60th-anniversary Bologna and the up-to-date, fast-evolving trade show she leads.

“Just looking across the fair at new developments,” she says, “our Comics Corner,” specifically echoed on an exhibition at the Greek pavilion, “is dedicated to a publishing segment that since last year has sharply increased in production and sales internationally, is really vibrant this year.

“We started working on it during the pandemic, creating as the first step the Bologna Ragazzi Comics Award, followed by the exhibiting area last year. With the 60th anniversary alongside these new additions,” she says. “2023 really sees a forward-looking fair that’s built on solid, historic foundations.”

The 2022 Comics Corner exhibition area at Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2022. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson


More from Publishing Perspectives on Bologna Children’s Book Fair is here, more on Bologna Book Plus is here, more on rights trading in the international book publishing industry is here, our Rights Roundup series is here, more on children’s books is here, more on the Italian market is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on International Women’s Day is here, more on women in publishing is here, more on diversity in the book business is here, and more on PublisHer is here

More of our coverage of the 60th anniversary edition of Bologna Children’s Book Fair:

Bologna’s 60th Edition Draws 28,894 Visitors
Hometown Hero: Bologna Illustrator Andrea Antinori Wins Big
International Women’s Day: PublisHer’s Bologna Stand
The Best Children’s Publishers Prizes of the Year at Bologna
At Bologna: Abu Dhabi International Translation Conference
Elena Pasoli and Jacks Thomas on the 60th Bologna Book Fair Opening
At Bologna: Spain’s Publishers Report Growing Children’s Exports
Nicholas Yatromanolakis on Bologna’s Market of Honor: ‘The Modern Face of Greece’
IPA’s Events Lineup at Bologna Children’s Book Fair
‘AI’ at Bologna: The Hair-Raising Topic of 2023?
At Bologna: PublisHer Will Have Its First Trade Show Stand
At Bologna: The ‘Taiwan Stories Market’ Program
Pre-Bologna Rights Roundup: ‘Buy Ukrainian Book Rights’
Children’s Rights Edition: A 16th Bologna Licensing Trade Fair/Kids
Bologna Book Fair Names Cross Media Award Winners
Bologna Focus: Italy’s €283 Million Children’s Book Market
Rights Edition: Bologna Book Plus’ Rights Programming
Bologna Book Fair: 2023 Ragazzi Awards
Bologna’s 60th Book Fair: Illustrators Exhibition Winners
Greece Is Bologna Book Plus’ First Market of Honor

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.