Slovenia - Guest of Honour Country at the Bologna Children's Book Fair 2021
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1. The significance of the fair and of being chosen as honorary guest at Bologna
The Bologna Children's Book Fair is, beside the book fair in Frankfurt, the international platform at which the greatest number of Slovene publishers from the field of children's and young adult literature are presented, either independently or as part of the Slovene national stand. Due to the great interest from illustrators, librarians and other professional public, the Slovenian Book Agency has for a number of years been arranging organised transport and visits to the fair, further demonstrating the importance of this event for the book sector and interested public in Slovenia.
Bologna is also the most important fair for the sale and purchase of licences or rights in the field of children’s and young adult literature and offers excellent opportunities for establishing long-term international contacts and for becoming informed about trends in the field. The fair in Bologna is a 4-day event intended exclusively for professional visitors (it always takes place from Monday to Thursday in late March to early April). The past three years (2016-2018) were very successful for the book fair with close to 30 000 professional visitors and over 1400 exhibitors from 80 participating countries. The fair was also covered by over 800 journalists from 40 countries and also has a strong presence in digital forms of promotion.
In recent years the Bologna Book Fair is also expanding internationally – in 2016 it took over the New York Rights Fair, a year later the China Shanghai International Children's Book Fair and is adding the Moscow International Book Fair to its network from 2021. It is thus becoming a globally connected platform with a positive multiplier effect.
More so than the book fair in Frankfurt and all other international book fairs, Bologna is engaged in and is developing its focus on (book) illustration. Illustrators submit their work to the annual curated illustrators exhibition with several thousand entries. In recent years representatives from Slovenia have often been selected for the exhibition (2019 – Ana Zavadlav, 2018 – Andreja Peklar, 2015 – Maja Kastelic, before that Peter Škerl, Alenka Sottler, Lila Prap).
In addition to this exhibition, the illustration exhibition of the guest of honour country is an equally important and visible showcase platform and covers an area of 300 m2 in the main exhibition hall.
A total of 20 awards in various categories from best picture book, best illustration, best gift book, best educational book, etc. are also bestowed at the fair.
The appearance of Slovenia as honorary guest is a unique opportunity to focus attention on our book publishing industry and rich creativity and tradition in the field of books for children and young adults. This is particularly relevant as it occurs within the context of an international fair with a permanent and high reputation and guaranteed attention of the publishing and bookselling media.
While the exhibition areas of individual publishers in the exhibition halls primarily function as spaces and forums for negotiating licences and rights, the appearance of Slovenia as honorary guest will function as a complete cultural project presenting Slovene creativity for children and youth, surpassing by far the boundaries of the fair, with its cultural programme also expanding to the town of Bologna itself. As such it also builds the reputation and recognition of the publishing industry, profession and the country.
The organisers of the fair have long recognized Slovenia as a country where authors’ expression in the fields of illustration and literature for children exist at the highest level. In 2017 the Slovenian Book Agency began working to secure a date for Slovenia’s guest appearance and in March 2018 successfully negotiated and signed the contract for Slovenia’s honorary guest appearance at the 2021 fair. The project also represents an important bridge to Slovenia's guest appearance at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2022.
2. Aims of Slovenia’s appearance at Bologna 2021
With Slovenia’s appearance as honorary guest at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair we wish to pursue and achieve the following aims:
- to present current Slovene creativity in the field of children’s and young adult literature from the viewpoint of publishers, authors, as well as presenting the rich illustration scene in Slovenia.
- to encourage more translations of Slovene books for children and young adults into (major) foreign languages.
- to connect the project in a meaningful way with the appearance of Slovenia as a guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2022 and, with its cultural contents, also to Slovenia’s 2021 Presidency of the Council of the European Union, building upon a common aim – prestige and recognisability.
- to present Slovene books, authors and illustrators to the wider Italian audience (with an emphasis on Bologna and its surroundings).
In all the above the emphasis is on the following:
- Exposing the international potential of Slovene books for children and young adults with publishers and agents (the target group is the professional audience)
- Exposing the high quality of illustration in Slovenia, including the related fields of comic strips, graphic novels, animation, film and games (the target group is the international professional audience interested in illustrators and their work)
- Exposing the rich tradition of (also internationally) successful Slovene classics from the field of literature for children and young adults – both in illustration and authorship, from Maček Muri (Muri the Cat) to Muca Copatarica (Slipper Keeper Kitty), from illustrators such as Marlenka Stupica and Ančka Gošnik Godec or Jelka Reichman, to authors such as classical writers for children and teenagers, Kajetan Kovič, Svetlana Makarovič or Lila Prap, and of course the younger generation of illustrators and authors who are already winning international recognition, e.g. Peter Škerl, Polona Lovšin, Jana Bauer and others.
 Participating at this year’s (2019) 56th Children's Book Fair in Bologna, which took place between 1 and 4 April, were 1442 exhibitors from 80 countries, with 28 964 visitors and 820 accredited journalists. Within the framework of the fair, 12 exhibitions were put up with over 1000 illustrations and over 600 events at the fair and in the town of Bologna.
 In 2019: 1 million visits to website, 50 000 followers on Facebook, 36 600 followers on Instagram, 11 000 followers on Twitter, 1800 followers on LinkedIn, 30 000 recipients of web news.
 Over 900 titles for children and teenagers are published in Slovenia annually, representing almost a quarter of all book production.