Bologna Children’s Trade Show Opens: 1,523 Exhibitors

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 61st Bologna Children’s Book Fair opens in an unexpectedly hot week with busy exhibition floors.

Trade visitors, some sitting and more standing, at the opening ceremony of the 61st Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the world’s largest publishing trade show focused on content for younger readers, during a 50-minute event. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

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

‘Precocious and Ambitious’
The administration of the 61st Bologna Children’s Book Fair have smiles on their faces today (April 8) telling Publishing Perspectives that the trade show has opened with 1,523 exhibitors representing as many as 100 nations.

Today’s number surpasses the exhibitor total from last year, when 1,456 exhibitors from 90 countries were on hand.

We’ll be watching now for an attendance figure, when available, once this industry-facing trade show can get a headcount. Last year saw 28,894 professional visitors at BolognaFiere. And certainly—as many are saying in this uncomfortably warm Bologna—the footfall seems heavier than that of last year.

Elena Pasoli, director of Bologna Children’s Book Fair, welcomes trade visitors at the April 8 opening ceremony, following a moving tribute to the late illustrator and designer Katsumi Komagata. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

Not unlike last month’s London Book Fair, there’s a revisitation here of a notably “intense” dynamic to many parts of this three-part trade show. Energy is high, crowding is heavy in many of the BolognaFiere halls, the sound volume at the fair has that pre-pandemic-era note of a joyous roar.

The few drawbacks immediately apparent have to do with those attendance levels. For one thing, it seems that Bologna’s cabbie population has declined drastically from previous years: many trade visitors are reporting challenges in trying to get around town quickly. Monday afternoon saw queues of more than 100 trade professionals waiting for the better part of an hour.

And in another signal of the turnout’s size, several hundred industry players were on hand for the show’s opening ceremony in the Illustrators Café area of the complex’s Service Center. Despite the size of this central part of the exhibitions’ installations, as many as two-thirds of those gathered for the event had to stand, the limited seating being quickly filled.

One brief bit of heckling from pro-Palestinian protestors during the opening ceremony was quickly intercepted by guards who hustled two people from the room, preventing one from what appeared to be a bid for the podium’s microphone.

India, Slovenia, ‘Plus’ and BCBF

Being tested here for the first time: Bologna’s new dual-guest of honor format, with Guest of Honor Slovenia reprising some of its presentation in the same role at Frankfurt in October.

While Slovenia is here for Bologna Children’s Book Fair proper, India is “In the Limelight,” meaning that it has been named the guest-of-honor market for Bologna Book Plus as Taiwan pursues its program as the fair’s key translation focus market.

Last year Greece was “In the Limelight” for Bologna Book Plus, but the fair itself didn’t have a guest of honor as it has this year with Slovenia.

Jacks Thomas, guest director of the Bologna Book Plus brand-extension program, speaks at the opening ceremony, April 8. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

Joining Bologna director Elena Pasoli and Bologna Book Plus guest director Jacks Thomas were civic and political figures, in an expanded roster of upbeat speakers attracted to the moment in part, of course, by the fact that Guest of Honor Italy is building its preparations and expectations for Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20).

Thomas, on being introduced by Pasoli, pointed out that while Bologna Children’s Book Fair has 20 times the track record that Bologna Book Plus does, “BBPlus,” as it’s called has now reached its third year in offering a parallel presence of training, seminars, and exhibition opportunities to those interested in working with the Bologna industry-visitors corps on generalist (non-children’s) content and business.

“Located in Hall 29,” Thomas said, “we are precocious and ambitious,” something attested to by the virtually nonstop programming of the Bologna Book Plus stage running daylong today, Tuesday, and Wednesday adjacent to the large pavilion area of Italy.

Onstage in the Opening Ceremony

A youth brass ensemble performs during the Bologna Children’s Book Fair opening ceremony. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

Also speaking at the opening ceremony with Pasoli and Thomas:

  • Gianpiero Calzolari, president of BolognaFiere
  • Matteo Lepore, the mayor of Bologna
  • Mauro Felicori, councilor for culture with the Emilia-Romagna regional administration
  • Lucia Borgonzoni, undersecretary of state with the Italian ministry of culture
  • Marko Rusjan, state secretary at the Slovenian ministry of culture
  • Katja Stergar director of the Slovenian Book Agency
  • Fabio Del Giudice, director of the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE)
  • Ricardo Franco Levi, president of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP)
  • Karine Pansa, president of the International Publishers Association (IPA)
  • Matteo Masini, director of the consumer goods office with ITA, the Italian trade agency
  • Italian president Sergio Mattarella, through a live video address from the
    via live link-up with the Quirinale Palace in Rome

Not only charming but surprisingly good-sounding, a youth brass ensemble was on-hand to perform with a recorded orchestral bed  Il Canto degli Italiani, The Song of the Italians, a national anthem that’s enviable for its jaunty pride and the smartly propulsive second strand that has earned Michele Novaro’s 1847 composition its nickname, Inno di Mameli, or Mameli’s Hymn after the lyricist.

After getting everyone not already standing to their feet for a first rendition of this—and adding a serene and mellow turn on Beethoven’s Ode to Joy theme—the ensemble followed Mattarella’s video address with a second playing of Il Canto degli Italiani, every bit as welcome as the first.

As the trade show now works its way through the boom and bustle of its three trade centers, myriad awards programs, and whole corridors of illustration exhibitions, those who can keep Mameli’s Hymn in mind—even in the heat of April’s sunshine through glass ceilings—may be the ones smiling most broadly.

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

More on Bologna Children’s Book Fair is here, more from us on children’s books is here, more on publishing and book awards is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs 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 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.