Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Posted on: April 8, 2012

I’ve just come back from Italy – a trip to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which was amazing.  I’d never been to a book fair before – imagine huge exhibition hall after huge exhibition hall all full of stands of different publishers from all over the world, the stands jammed with amazing children’s books of all types, and the whole place packed with people.  It’s very much the business end of publishing – a place where publishers and agents do deals with other publishers and agents – selling overseas rights to books, having meeting after meeting, being very busy and very important.  But I spent most of my time at stand of the Australian Publishing Association which is a bit different – APA isn’t a business so much, but an organisation aiming to support Australian publishers and to raise awareness of Australian work.  For the past few years its stand at Bologna has included a display of work by Australian illustrators, and has organised different illustrators do demonstrations of their work for a few hours at a time.  One of my illustrations was included in this year’s exhibition, a picture from The Night Before Mother’s Day, written by Doug MacLeod and illustrated by me.  And I did three demonstrations of my drawing – in a kind of fumbly, rub out and start again way.

Ann James and Ann Haddon, those great stalwarts of Australian Children’s Picture Books, are the organisers of the exhibition,  and were there looking after it every day and talking to fairgoers about Australian work.  As well, there was a number of other Australian writers and illustrators including Nick Bland, Lucia Masciullo, Isobelle Carmody and Jeanette Rowe and others.  Quite a few Australian ‘creatives’ in fact, and it was great fun hanging out with them, talking about our work and about picture books.  Most of us work alone in a room all day so there’s lots to say when we suddenly have ‘colleagues’.

There was a point near the beginning of the four days of the Fair where I was so overwhelmed with the sheer number  and quality of children’s books from all over the world, I began to think that there was no point in me adding to this pile – there were far too many wonderful books already.  So many that perhaps making more was even a bit irresponsible.  But eventually this feeling did wear off, more or less, and was replaced by a feeling of some pride in being part of an industry/activity that is so big and rich and varied.  Which is lucky, as I’ve come home full of ideas for new picture books to create, and it’s a dreadful shame to throw ideas away.

(A huge thanks to CAL for the grant from the Creative Industries Cultural Fund that got me there.)


  1. MiniCreative , says:

    Hello Judy
    Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
    I will focus on my portfolio!
    Have a nice sunny day

  2. MiniCreative , says:

    Hi Judy!
    I found this comment of yours by searching the web to know if this fair worth it as a beginner.
    I am just starting drawing and writing books for children (I want to do the book from A to Z) and wondering if it’s a good idea to go? Always good to be immerged in fool creative surrounding, but I’m afraid to come back home devasted as you described.
    My portfolio is not finish yet.
    Is it a good place to get first impressions from editors about your work? to get advices? to get contracts on first impressions from them on your beginner work?
    Thanks in advance for your sharing

    • judy horacek , says:

      Hi MiniCreative, The Bologna Bookfair is really more about publishers and agents talking to each other than it is about illustrators and editors meeting each other. I don’t think you would get to talk to many editors if you went, I don’t think many editors even go to the fair. And there isn’t really anyone to give advice. From my impressions it really is about the business side of children’s picture books. It’s great to give you an idea of the industry and what people are making, but it isn’t a creative space, nor a space for the creators. I am not saying don’t go, that depends on how far you might have to travel to get there and how much money and time you have, but I don’t think you would advance your career very much. Far better to work on finishing your portfolio and then present it to publishers, according to their guidelines. There are a number of professional bodies who give advice on portfolios, for a fee of course, it’s their work and they can’t do it for nothing.



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