Indigenous creators in demand at Bologna Children’s Book Fair

30/03/2022
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Australian publishing was well represented at this year's Bologna Children's Book Fair, with the Australian Collective Stand showcasing the work of 14 publishers. Two publishers – EK Books and Scribble – were in Bologna on the stand, alongside the ALC Agency.

The stand was managed by Kabita Dhara, a freelance editor and English-language consultant based in Rome. Kabita has over 15 years experience in the Australian book industry as an editor, publisher and bookseller, and shared her reflections on this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair and the response to the Australian children’s books represented.

The Australian Collective Stand at BCBF 2022

By most accounts the 2022 edition of the Bologna Book Fair was a quieter affair than in previous years. However this afforded more time to meet up with old friends and colleagues, and make new acquaintances and connections, all of which led to a tangible feeling of joy and optimism that the industry is returning to some sort of normalcy.

There was a lot of demand for books written and/or illustrated by indigenous writers/artists, and Lisa Kennedy’s mural from Welcome to Country (with Aunty Joy Murphy, Walker Books 2019) that was the backdrop for our stand attracted many photographers! 

Getting ready for meetings on the stand

 

We also had a poster on one wall of our stand showcasing some indigenous writers and their books. While there were two A&U collaborations with Adam Goodes available on the stand, visitors would have liked to see a much greater selection of titles by indigenous authors and illustrators – something for publishers to consider for future years, given the level of interest.

There was also considerable interest in collaborations with Australian publishers, both from international publishers and illustrators, and quite a few queries from Italian booksellers about how to order Australian books for their English language sections. 

As someone who lives in Italy, I can vouch for the fact that most Italian bookshops here try to have English sections, but they are overwhelmingly dominated by Usborne books! Some bookshops have substantial English language sections – while books are predominantly from the UK or America, there is definitely an increasing interest in Australia and Australian books. 

This could be something for Australian children’s publishers to investigate further. Over the last 20 years Italians have started attaching a lot of importance to learning English, both as a way to communicate with the rest of the world but also in order to get better jobs. Even if they don’t learn English themselves, many push their children to learn it, but good children’s books in English are lacking in children’s bookshops and bookshops in general.

It was really important that Australia had a presence at this year’s Bologna Book Fair, despite it being a smaller affair. Publishers, agents, illustrators and booksellers were wholly positive and there was high demand for Australian books, especially from European colleagues.  

The APA would like to thank the Australia Council for the Arts for their continued support of our export programs

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