Bologna Book Fair: Illustration Roundup

Want to see what children’s book illustrators are doing around the world?

As I mentioned in my last post, illustration is the main course of the Bologna fair’s visual feast. Here’s where you see, more than ever, that a great cover is a book’s best friend. The photo above is from the posting wall at the Fair, where illustrators are invited to leave their cards in the hopes that they’ll be noticed.

Here is one of my favorites, from illustrator Daisy Hirst:

I love the fun, playful quality of her work.

In addition to the posting wall and the many booths of books, there’s a yearly exhibition of top talent and a spotlight on a “guest of honor” country—this year, Portugal. I was so inspired by the showcase winners and by so many other illustrators whose work was on display. Check out the exhibition artists here.

Some links to blogs by/ articles about my favorites from the exhibition:

Alejandra Barba of Mexico

Jo Suna of Korea

Fereshteh Najafe of Iran

Anja Reiger of Germany (Berlin)

Katrin Stangl of Germany

Gerry Turley of England

Just as when I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair, I was struck by how many different styles of artwork there are across world markets. There’s so much exciting stuff going on in Spain, Korea, Holland, Iran, you name it.

I’d love to see some American publishers translate some of these books and/ or work with some of these illustrators. Most foreign book rights sales go the other way (English into other languages) but we’re really missing out on some fabulous stuff.

American publisher Front Street, back in the day, brought Dutch and French titles to the US market (A Day, A Dog, The Yellow Balloon, Little Bird’s ABC —all of which I love). But since Front Street’s passing, somebody needs to take up the torch. Is there a publisher out there doing this that I just don’t know about?

It was also interesting to talk to some European illustrators about where their work fits in best. One I spoke to had been told her work would sell best in Eastern Europe. Another had been told his would do better in Latin America or Asia. I’d love to see a map of what kind of illustration fits where.

Would you like to see more international books brought to the US market? There’s some dispute that Americans just don’t buy these books, but can our taste really be that monolithic? What do you think?

Bologna Children’s Book Fair

I recently got back from Bologna, where I attended the International Children’s Book Fair. It’s a yearly event where publishers and agents from all over the world meet to show off their wares and to sell foreign rights. Illustrators also come to show their portfolios to prospective publishers.

As an author, I was there mainly as an observer. Like the Frankfurt book fair I went to in 2010, there are miles and miles of books, but at Bologna, it’s all children’s, all the time. Since it’s such a visual venue, the picture books are really the stars, but there’s lots of buzz about novels, too.

SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) hosted a booth with lots of activities, including regional showcases and publishing-related consultations. It was fun to connect with SCBWI-ers who came from all over. I met up with people from Germany (Kirsten Carlson, Angela Cerrito, Andrea Offermann) and other parts of Europe but also with people from as far away as Australia and Israel. Especially enjoyed hanging out with writers Julie Hedlund and Sarah Towle and meeting writer/ illustrator Suzanne Bloom.

I was thrilled to see all the gorgeous illustration going on around the world. More on that soon and a peek at Bologna itself.

Hands down the highlight of the trip was the SCBWI dinner/ dance party at Libreria Trame. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like dancing to 45s in an Italian bookstore with a bunch of children’s book peeps. I must be dance-deprived, because I seem to jump at any chance to bust a move.

One of the most informative events I went to was a talk by Kristen McLean, CEO and founder of Bookigee. She is also the editor of a Bowker study about e-book usage among children and teens and was summing up the most recent survey . Fascinating.

Teens and children are starting to use e-readers more, but the cost of the devices is still a barrier, among other things. And funny, the number of YA e-book sales doesn’t correspond to the numbers of teens actually using e-readers (the sales are higher than the usage), which means the buyers of said e-books are probably adults reading young adult fiction.

Another interesting finding: teens by and large prefer the multi-use platform (and cachet) of Apple products. This is really a no-brainer—now that I think about it, I can’t really imagine teens clamoring for a kindle, but it hadn’t occurred to me. Teens want to be able to do everything with a tablet, not just read books.

So it will be interesting to see what happens next, because obviously it won’t be long before the teens who want iPads will be adults able to buy their own devices.  It reminds me of the race to the top of the video recorder market in the early 80s. Does anyone remember Beta? Yeah, probably not.

What about you? Do you use an e-reader? Which platform do you prefer? If you have kids, do they use an e-reader?

Amsterdam, the Espresso Book Machine, and Thoughtful Children’s Apps

Last weekend I had the chance to attend a conference in Amsterdam hosted by the Netherlands chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

The event was packed with interesting speakers and attendees from England, France, and Germany as well as the Netherlands. Highlights: writing workshops by Erzsi Deak and by fellow Vermont College alum Sarah Blake Johnson, a demo of the Espresso Book Machine, and news from the Wild West of app development for children and young adults. Here’s a write up of the conference by Mina Witteman, Dutch author and brave conference organizer. Thank you, Mina, for all your hard work!

The Espresso Book Machine is a new concept available in just a few locations, where you can print out high-quality paperback books on demand. The American Book Center in Amsterdam offered a demonstration to us.

As you see above, the machine itself looks like a computer attached to a very fancy printer with clear glass sides. It smells strongly of ink and glue. A video demo of it is viewable on the ABC website here (look down the right column for “ABC’s EBM in action”). In addition to printing the double-sided pages, the machine also trims and binds them and adds a cover. The result is very like what we call a trade paperback (high-quality-not-newsprint pages, with varying trim sizes).

The inside pages are all in black and white, but covers are printed in full color. If I recall correctly, there’s a 15 euro charge to use the machine and the books themselves cost around 15 euros a piece.

I wasn’t able to stick around long enough to hear much about the various applications of the machine. It’s a vehicle for self-published authors as well as traditional publishers and those seeking out-of-print books. It will be interesting to see how it fares in the current market, with all the changes going on in publishing.

What do you think? How would you use the EBM? Can it compete with e-books, or is it trying to? Is its target market the same or different from e-books?

I was also really intrigued by the work of the app developers who attended the conference. Apps for children weren’t something I had given much thought before. I thought apps in general were video games and personal organization tools, with maybe some room for animated children’s books.

Taking a look at the work of Omar Curriere and Sarah Towle gave me a whole new insight into the medium.

Omar’s company, OCG Studios, approached American illustrator Roxie Monroe with the idea of creating an ipad (and later iphone) app based on her intricate maze books. Ms. Monroe spent months creating original, hand-done artwork, and a team of six programmers spent three months developing the app. The result is frankly stunning. It’s part maze, part treasure hunt, part ABC game with a little car you can move with your finger—so cool! Check it out at the address linked above. There you’ll also find one of Roxie Monroe’s books turned into an app, which is a lot more intense a project than it might sound. It will be exciting to see what else OCG comes up with.

The other app developer I met was Sarah Towle, whose company, Time Traveler Tours, specializes in travel apps for students and their families or teachers. Her first offering, Beware Madame La Guillotine really blows my mind. It’s part book, part interactive travel guide, part scavenger hunt. I didn’t know an app could do all that. It definitely offers something that I have to admit the printed book can’t. I can’t wait to see what comes up with next.

Slowpoke Update and Skype Author Chat

Slowpoke has gotten a couple more positive reviews, from Booklist :

“Pearce’s succinct text will amuse emerging readers with her only slightly exaggerated references to the hectic pace of modern life. Ritchie’s fluid, cartoon-style illustrations are equally adept at conveying the story’s speedy absurdities…and its more relaxing moments”

and from School Library Journal (scroll down after clicking on the link).

Also, I just found out that Slowpoke now has an Accelerated Reader test (you have to enter the title into the search feature to see it).

Last week, I did a Skype author chat with Carver Elementary School in Florence, SC. It was really fun. The students are third-graders and had all read Slowpoke ahead of time. Their teachers helped them compile questions about the writing process. I missed being able to interact in person with the kids, but it was a good experience. The learning goes both ways with these kinds of things, and it’s always great to hear from readers. I’d like to do more of them in the future. For tips on hosting a Skype author chat, check out this article. If your school wants to host me, please contact bettyasmith (at) bellsouth (dot) net and put “author visit” in the subject line.

The picture above is me on the big screen in Carver’s library. Special thanks to librarian Debra Heimbrook for working with me on this inaugural Skype chat.

The Frankfurt Report

Every year Frankfurt, Germany hosts the largest international book fair (Buch Messe) in the world. Last week, I took the train down to Frankfurt to see what all the excitement is about.

In the picture above, taken by Sarah Johnson, my gracious host and guide, I’m in the Boyds Mills Press booth, where Slowpoke was displayed (way down in the corner to my left). Yeah, my expression is strange. Just to my right the BMP foreign rights rep was having a meeting, so I guess I was feeling a little silly posing for a shot right beside them.

This book fair is all business. Whereas at librarian and teacher conferences  the booth folk are very chatty, here they are all booked from morning til night with business meetings. There are few authors or educator types or average joe book customers, and the books aren’t sold individually. The idea is to show them to foreign publishers who might want to buy the rights and re-publish in another country/ language.  Like this:

The hall for German publishers is a little different, with readings and cookbook demos and tv interviews going on all day. It had by far the most traffic of all the halls. Interestingly, the BMP booth was located in this hall, not with all the other American and British publishers in another hall.

American friends who had been before all told me to wear walking shoes. Now that I live in Germany, all my shoes are walking shoes. It was good advice, though. My shoes held up fine, but I was definitely sore from walking for hours and hours.

It was fascinating to see the books being written and published in countries all across the world. Even though I’m living overseas, I often still forget that the U.S. is just one market, just one place people make and read books, and English is just one language of many. The picture book artwork really stood out to me—-so many fresh and fabulous images.

Some of my favorite covers:

Signature : Patterns in Gond Art

kenta-och-barbisarna

Those top two covers are both from Kalandraka,  a Spanish language children’s publisher that produces gorgeous books. The third book is from Indian publisher Tara Books. They sell handmade, hand-printed versions of their books as well as “regular” ones. More info about Tara books at this blog post. The fourth cover above is from Swedish publisher Raben & Sjogren.

Below is a display of Steig Larrson’s book covers. The Swedish author’s trilogy has been translated and read all over the world, and each country has its own cover art. I’m currently reading book the second book in the trilogy, with the trade paperback British cover (which I have to say is not my favorite—the cover, that is—the book is awesome).

There were a lot of digital tools around at the fair. I find the whole digital publishing front intriguing, but I was struck by the overwhelming beauty of the actual books in contrast. Especially picture books. A screen just can’t compete with paper. I guess I’m a paper-lover, always have been.

Speaking of paper-loving, I also really enjoyed the booths full of German art books. I’m talking about hand-printed, limited edition books from independent presses. The ultimate rebellion against the digital age. Made me want to start cranking out my own again.

My Very First Easy Reader: WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY OWN WAY?

Unearthed recently from the ESP archives, this is my first easy reader, written sometime during my first grade year. I’m posting it today to celebrate the release of my new easy reader, Slowpoke! Enjoy.

"No, this one."

"I am." / "I am."

"This."/ "This." I believe that's a couple of dodge balls vs. a jump rope.

"You can't," (says the mom). "I will," (says the kid).

Slowpoke: Great Review from Kirkus!

Great news! Kirkus likes Slowpoke. The review isn’t posted on their site yet, so I’ll be good and wait to link to the complete version next week. But here’s an abbreviated preview:

“This entertaining early reader features Fiona, a girl who really, really likes to stop and smell the roses. …A clever early reader with challenging vocabulary and some food for thought to boot.”

Kirkus

So excited. Hope to share more interesting things soon. We’ve been busy with back-to-school madness and visiting family.

Slowpoke Available for Pre-Order!

Hi everyone

You can now pre-order my easy reader, Slowpoke, through amazon. Please do! It’s the story of a slow-moving girl whose fast-paced family gets fed up with her. Click here or on the picture above to get to the appropriate page.  The picture of the cover is not on amazon yet, but don’t let that deter you. I appreciate your support.

Slowpoke Has a Cover!

Now that it’s official, I can finally share with you the cover of my upcoming easy reader. That’s Fiona there in the middle, taking time to smell the roses. Slowpoke is the story of a slow-moving girl and her impatient family.

I still don’t have a pub date on it, but it looks like it’ll probably be Fall 2010. My daughter is just now learning to read, so it’s exciting to think that she may be able to read it herself by the time it comes out. I’ll keep you posted.