Children’s Book Rights Roundup: London to Bologna

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

On the off-ramp from London Book Fair and road to Bologna: rights news from Palestine, Italy, Croatia, Finland, the States, and Québec.

Rights trading at the 2023 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Those preparing now for Bologna will remember that this year the program has three rights trading centers: children’s; generalist (non-children’s); and a new trading floor for television and film. Image: BCBF

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

See also:

Looking Ahead to Bologna’s Children’s Book Rights Trading
As many have commented to Publishing Perspectives this week, London Book Fair felt almost “frenetic” at times (the word chosen by several), a dynamic that critic Rosa Lyster from The New York Times captured, writing, “For three days, agents, editors, publishers, scouts, and many other people whose jobs are harder to explain gather in a frenzied fashion.” One major publisher went so far in speaking to us as to describe the feeling of the energy at LBF as “chaos.” Others have talked about it as “feverish”—in a good way, mind you, but frequently “intense.”

Part of this was the compression of the space created by the ongoing redevelopment of Olympia London—a renovation that will continue to impact the size of the show’s footprint both in 2025 and 2026, according to show director Gareth Rapley. The 30,000 attendees the London trade show has reported being there definitely felt the newly tightened space availability.

Nevertheless, while the London fair reported a raft of deals, some book professionals are hoping for and happily expecting a somewhat less “frenetic” experience at Bologna Children’s Book Fair (April 8 to 11) in BolognaFiere, which of course is a far larger than can be found on Hammersmith in London, a sprawling complex with many whole buildings at director Elena Pasoli‘s command and at least a good chance of seeing the spring sunlight of the Emilie Romagna between them.

And as we look ahead now to Bologna as well as to Ospite d’Onore Italia, Guest of Honor Italy, coming October 16 to 20 to Frankfurter Buchmesse, we begin our special Rights Roundup of children’s literature today with an Italian edition of a book that originated in Arabic and was brought to our attention at London Book Fair last week by Silvia Vassena Milano Scouting and Consulting, which is based near Bologna.

Silvia Vassena

Il Profumo della mamma (Mama’s Scent) is by the Lebanese author Sahar Naja Mahfouz, who now lives in Dubai, with the illustrations of the Palestinian artist Baraa Awoor. We’ve asked to be able to #NameThe Translator of the book from Arabic to Italian, and have learned that the translation was created by the author, Mahfouz, Vassena herself, and Lebanese journalist Camille Eid (who now lives in Milan and is an instructor in Arabic).

“The Italian edition,” Vassena tells us, “is considered the master now for all international editions.”

Gaza City illustrator Baraa Awoor receives an award for her work from Sharjah Book Authority CEO Ahmed Al Ameri at the 2023 Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival. The 2024 Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival runs May 1 to 12 this year, preceded by the Booksellers Conference on April 27 and 28. Image: Acoma Books

And Gaza City’s Awoor, Vassena tells us, is safe. Having been honored with an award from Sharjah Book Authority CEO Ahmed Al Ameri at last year’s Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, she was granted a visa to the United Arab Emirates in January. (The 2024 Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival runs May 1 to 12 this year, preceded by the Booksellers Conference on April 27 and 28.) She initially left Gaza to teach an illustration seminar in Amman on October 6, one day before the Hamas attack on Israel. As it would turn out, Vassena says, she has not been able to re-enter Gaza to find her family members and boyfriend.

Reportedly, Awoor’s aging parents are struggling, having been forced to live mostly in the open air since October in northern Gaza. Awoor’s studio has been razed to the ground, her work there lost, and her family members left unable to get out. “The price of getting them out of Rafaa,” Vassena says, “is growing day by day.”

An online fundraising account to help her 12 family members leave Gaza is attracting donations as Awoor works to create a studio for herself outside of Gaza.

With the news today (March 22) of Russia and China veto-ing a new United States-led cease-fire resolution in the United Nations’ Security Council (here is Alan Yuhas’ and Victoria Kim’s report at The New York Times), it’s notable that Awoor is the only Palestinian illustrator, Vassena tells us, whose work has been included in the first tranche of 300 illustrations selected for display at Bologna from the more-than 3,000 entries in this year’s core Illustrators Exhibition competition, making its own 58th appearance at the fair. Here is our coverage of the winners of that competition, which saw submissions from 3,520 illustrators.

And Vassena tells us that the author of Mama’s Scent, Beirut’s Sahar Naja Mahfouz, is expected to be at Bologna where the Acoma Books/Vassena Consulting stand will have the first printed copies of this new Italian edition of the book. You’ll find that stand in Hall 26, at position B-24.

Pre-Bologna Rights Roundup Listings

A detail from the illustrations by Baraa Awoor for ‘Mama’s Scent’ by Sahar Naja Mafhouz. Image: Acoma Books


As in each roundup, we use some of the sales copy supplied to us by agents and rights directors, editing that copy to give you an idea about a book’s nature and tone, but limiting the promotional elements. If you’d like to submit a deal to Publishing Perspectives, see the instructions at the end of this article.


Mama’s Scent
(Il profumo della mamma)

By Sahar Naja Mahfouz
Illustrated by Baraa Awoor

  • Publisher: Acoma Books, Brescia in the new base edition in Italian
  • Rights contact: Silvia Vassena, Acoma Books
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – South Korea: Risio Publishing
  • Simplified Chinese: Beijing Sino-German Intelligence Education Culture Company
  • Arabic: Kiwi Books (Dubai)
  • English/United States: in negotiation
  • Spanish/Mexico and South America: in negotiation

Sahar Naja Mahfouz, left, and Baraa Awoor

“A profound picture book that aims at discovering the strong bond between kids and moms. The scent is the tool of a baby’s recognition and stays in our memory. Also it’s a strong metaphor of belonging and identity. Such true origins teach the language of cosmos.

“One page depicts mom embracing a baby girl in her womb: through her heart can be seen stars, planets, and doves of peace.

The body of mom becomes a window through which the universe is recognized, is not a barrier. And at the end in the encounter of the outside world and relationship, the school, a new life appears: shopping bags and possible towns appear. With the scent of mom inside the body and heart-memory, a new life is possible in the vast horizon of reality.”


Gotta Go!

By Frank Viva

  • Publisher: Astra House/TOON Books, New York City
  • Rights contact: Marleen Seegers, 2 Seas Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Italy: Quinto Quarto

“Will Owen be left high and dry? Owen should have listened but instead he’s now squirming: he’s just gotta go.

Frank Viva

“Luckily for him, Mom and Grampa are there to offer advice and show him silly tricks that can help flush the urge away. Frank Viva, designer and author of A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse and Young Frank, Architect—and an artist whose work has been seen on the cover of several editions of Conde Nast’s The New Yorker—doesn’t mind getting his feet wet as he dives into what can be a scary topic for children and turns it into a hilarious and liberating romp.”


In the Night You Reveal Yourself
(Dans la nuit tu te dévoiles)

By Isabelle Jameson
Illustrated by Sylvain Cabot

  • Publisher: Les 400 coups, Montreal
  • Rights contact: Simon de Jocas, Les 400 coups
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • World English: Orca Books, Canada

Isabelle Jameson and Sylvain Cabot

“‘I feel like everything was fine when I was a child. I smiled easily. It seems like I spent my days laughing.

“‘But lately, I don’t feel like it anymore. It’s like I’m always in the dark.

“‘I’m here with my family, my friends, but not really.’

“Through his love for the stars, a young transgender boy explains his inner journey and how he managed to reveal himself and start shining again.”


Asphalt!

By Salla Savolainen

  • Publisher: Förlaget M, Helsinki
  • Rights contact: Hanna Pajunen-Walsh, Rights & Brands
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Slovenia: Pipinova Knjiga
  • World Czech: Host – Vydavatelství, SRO
  • Danish: BOGOO ApS
  • Estonian: Helios Kirjastus Oü
  • World German” Carl Hanser Verlag
  • Norwegian: Bonnier Forlag
  • Polish: Wydawnictwo Czarna Owca
  • Russian: OOO Izdatelstvo Albus Corvus
  • World Swedish: Norstedts/Rabén & Sjögren
  • Thailand: Nava Publishing

Salla Savolainen

Asphalt! is the first part of the ‘Construction’ series, the ultimate book series for young building enthusiasts.

“Its strong nonfiction narrative is set to teach and amuse.

“The book welcomes readers to the world of cement mixers, diggers, dump trucks and many fascinating gizmos with loads of know-how and action.

“Learning about building roads and how they are constructed has never been so much fun. Other titles in the series are Concrete! and Junk!

“The series has now been sold into 10 languages.”


Cobalto

By Rosa Ventrella

  • Publisher: Giunti Editore, Firenze
  • Rights contact: LeeAnn Bortolussi, Giunti Editore
  • Book info: Read more here (PDF)

No rights sales reported as yet.

“The first psychological mystery thriller for YA readers by one of the most successful international authors writing today.

“It all began when Julie and her family moved to Seattle. Since then, her younger sister, Alice, has been prey to disturbing episodes in which she seems possessed, drawing strange figures and speaking in an odd voice. No one understands what has happened to her. It could be schizophrenia, or some kind of possession, or even, a magic spell or some kind of supernatural power connected to animism.

Rosa Ventrella

“This slow sinking into a nightmarish situation only helps to disrupt the already complicated life of Julie, a melancholy and lonely 16 -year-old who has only one best friend she can really count on and who has not yet known her first love. The only glimmer of light in the darkness of this situation seems to be Grandma Beth, who lives in a cottage immersed in the green of the mountains.

“And there is also Adam, the mysterious and charming boy who lives like a hermit in the hills. However, just as the darkest secrets can be hidden inside families that are seemingly normal, so can evil be concealed within the most beautiful forms of nature, in the woods and forests of the intensely green mountains.”


Dear Past Me, You Will Pay for This

By Andrijana Grgičević

  • Publisher: Ibis Grafika, Zagreb
  • Rights contact: Lina Krnic, Ibis Grafika
  • Book info: Read more here (PDF)

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Belgium: De Eenhoorn
  • North Macedonia: Čudna šuma
  • Slovenia: Sodobnost
  • Italy: Sinnos
  • Serbia: Odiseja

Andrijana Grgičević

“What starts of as a humorous letter-writing exercise that can be attributed to childlike naïveté, turns through each letter into a processing tool for a child going through a traumatic experience and having no one to turn to, or at least feeling like he has no one to turn to.

“The author masterfully coincides the two opposing themes—the humour in the writing with the tragedy of events—to create a novel of rare sensibility that can be read and enjoyed by both children and adults.”

From the text: “The same me here, only from the present. And maybe it’s better to say the future, because that’s the future for you. First of all, I am extremely happy that a time machine has been invented that will finally take my letters to you. Congratulations to both of us. We will benefit greatly from this because, I believe, you are as smart as I am. This is my first letter to you, and there will be more. In them, taught by current wisdom and maturity, I will give you advice and recommendations to make life easier for me, that is, for us. You don’t need to thank me. I’ll drink the juice on your behalf and mine when I see the first of many high fives.”


Submitting Rights Deals to Publishing Perspectives

Do you have rights deals to report? Agents and publishing-house rights directors can use our rights deal submission form to send us the information we need. If you have questions, please send them to Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com

We look forward to hearing from you.


More of our coverage relative to the 2024 Bologna Children’s Book Fair

More of Publishing Perspectives‘ rights roundups are here, and more from us on international rights trading is here.

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.