Middle Grade fiction dominated this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair which wrapped up on Thursday, 29 May.  Both UK and US publishers noted the continuing interest in the sector, with everyone looking for “the next Liz Pichon or David Walliams”, as Hilary Murray Hill, CEO at Hachette Children’s Group in the UK, put it.

“There has been a lot of activity in the past three weeks and Middle Grade is where the action is.  People still want to build there Middle Grade lists and find books to topple the titles dominating the charts.  There is still room for YA [Young Adult], but we are being judicious about buying it.”

Some 1390 exhibitors from 77 countries were at this year’s BolognaFiere exhibition ground, which organisers say is 110 more than 2017, an increase of 8.6%.  More than 26,000 professionals from the publishing industry visited the fair, which is in its 55th edition.

China was Guest of Honour this year and sent a 300-strong delegation from more than 90 publishers.  Its pavilion boasted traditional Chinese lanterns and focused on the theme of ‘Dream’ and how books can take the reader to other places.

Once again the fair awarded prizes for the best children’s publishers around the world.  For Africa, the winner was Jacana Media of South Africa; for Asia the prize went to Japan’s Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers; in Europe the prize went to Poland’s Dwie Siostry Publishers; in North America, Canada’s Editions D’Eux was honoured; in Central and South America, Mexico’s Ediciones Tecolote was honoured; and finally, in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand’s One Tree House received the prize.

Meanwhile, back on the exhibition floor, Harper Collins UK’s head of rights Carla Alonzi, was sounding positive.  “Publishers are saying there is a wealth of Middle Grade, but they are struggling more with YA.  Our properties are selling brilliantly – half an hour in an appointment isn’t long enough to talk about all our books.  People are generally very excited.  In terms of territories, Germany has been good for fiction and Italy is buying a lot in general this year, while French publishers want to see new illustrated books.”