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Bulgaria's pavilion covers 64 sq. m.

Publishers, authors and illustrators from 90 countries participate in the International Children's Book Fair in Bologna

A story can be very funny and educational in a very unconventional way, says publisher Dimitar Rikov

Photo: Bologna Children's Book Fair

"Once upon a time in Bologna they built a palace made of ice cream right in the Grand Piazza and children came from far and wide to have a taste" - with these words begins the story  "The Palace of Ice Cream" from the book "Telephone Tales" by Gianni Rodari, one of the most beloved children's writers. 

Today in Bologna you can still get an ice cream in the Grand Piazza, but the palace where children's laughter and imagination reign is outside the city. It is where the world's biggest children's literature fair, the International Children's Book Fair, is held every year. Its 61st edition starts on 8 April this year and runs until 11 April. Nearly 1500 publishers, authors and illustrators from over 90 countries will take part. Among them, Bulgaria will once again present its best children's books and authors of the past year. 

"The Forum in Bologna is extremely large and prestigious," says Venka Ragina, president of the Culture and Literature Association. For the first time, our country will have the opportunity to present itself with a larger pavilion of 64 square metres and an exhibition entitled "Joy, Sadness and Hope. 25 Bulgarian Illustrators of Children's Books", which is one of the most important elements for the full presentation of Bulgarian children's literature. This is actually the second time that our country has participated with its own pavilion, so there will be a proper representation of Bulgarian children's book publishing".

Bulgarian authors have long been neglected in Bulgaria - publisher and translator Manol Peikov admitted to BNR some time ago. Until very recently, in fact, there was an established aesthetic in our country - that of illustration from Russian folk tales and the rather similar Hollywood 3D illustration. The other thing that was very much defining the genre was the prices - it was thought that if it was a children's book, it had to be extremely cheap. 

Manol Peikov
In the last decade, some smaller, enthusiast publishers have started to emerge and publish at the higher end of the children's book market," says Peikov. 

"The children's book is a special kind of beast," says publisher Dimitar Rikov, quoting musician Bruce Dickinson's autobiography. 

"It all depends on the approach. If you ask the former socialist countries, children's books should look one way, our colleagues from the West will have a different vision, for the USA the standards are even different, not to mention the Far East. That's the great thing about Bologna - the different trends in illustration come together, because - and there's no doubt about it - in children's books illustrations are the most important thing. Artists all over the world have their own points of view, which sometimes clash and sometimes dialogue. 

We Bulgarians are interested in a more classical, Slavic style of drawing, closer to the aesthetics of countries like Poland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Ukraine, countries from that region. These illustrations are somehow more understandable, they are closer to the heart of parents. Many of our Bulgarian artists work with foreign publishers".

"What should be the focus of children's book texts in the age of AI? Participants at this year's fair in Italy will discuss this topic. Children today are different from us at their age and seem to prefer more and more new and original stories about the world and everything in it. 

The market demands new encounters with new characters, because children are tired of the familiar old stories where the bad character eats the naughty one who is rescued by the good character. A fairy tale can be very entertaining and educational in a very unconventional way. Children are looking for such books.

The greatest power of a children's book is to bring children and parents together. Children will feel the moral in one way, and parents will find a completely different meaning in the story, but in the end the story will put a smile on the faces of young and old," says Dimitar Rikov. 

Photos:Facebook /Bologna Children's Book Fair, Manol Peikov, Association "Culture and Literature"
Translated and posted by Elizabeth Radkova

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