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Children's books go global at Bologna

2 May 2005

The recent Bologna Children's Book FairThe Bologna Children's Book Fair or La fiera del libro per ragazzi is the leading professional fair for children's books in the world. has focused attention once again on fast-paced international growth in the children's book market.

Picture books are proving hard to sell and most publishers have cut back their lists sharply to accommodate only the very best titles. HarperCollins UK’s right director said: ‘We still care deeply about them, but have cut back by almost 50%. That said, I have sold everything we’re doing… because it’s stronger.’

There are new initiatives relating to board books for babies, with Bloomsbury launching a new list of baby books in four series at Bologna. Perhaps this greater interest in books for the very young is influenced by the major funding for the brilliant Bookstart scheme. This will shortly involve sending every child in the UK a set of books not just soon after birth, but also at eighteen months and three years. Booktrust, which runs the scheme, produced research showing that it really did help to develop on children’s reading and their interest in books.

Bologna has always been key to the illustrated coedition market, and this year was no exception, with steady business on many deals which will extend the print-run of individual titles and series, making them commercially viable for everybody.

But fiction for older children was where interest was focused. Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother sequence has now been sold into 29 languages, including Hungarian, Finnish and Turkish deals signed at the fair. On Hand of the Devil, the powerful and chilling horror story written by Transworld’s postboy, five international deals were agreed within 24 hours of the fair opening.

US publishers continue to buy strongly from the UK and European publishers were as usual also interested to see the new books on offer from British publishers. Lina Sion of New York scouts Franklin Segal commented that ‘most of the big books of the fair are from the UK.’ Growing markets were Eastern Europe, Turkey, China and the Far East, where children's books are seen as an important element of the drive for better education.

More than ever before the scouts and producers from the big Hollywood studies were out in force, having realised the importance of getting early information about future children’s bestsellers, especially books that will translate well to the screen.

Children’s publishing is becoming increasingly international, as new markets open up. In this ever more global market British writers do spectacularly well, as children’s books from the UK are reckoned by many international observers to be the most innovative and the best.

See  also in News Review:

Boom in children's books

Children's writing hits the headlines