Every year - even if I don't have an entry - I look forward to the announcement of the illustrators selected for inclusion in the Bologna Children's Book Fair. Since I wasn't able to make the trip this year I hopped over to the official website to remind myself what I was missing and I have to say, I was surprised. Maybe even disappointed. No, I'll come right out and say it. I was disappointed. And sad.
There's no doubt that all the selected artists are incredibly talented and their illuctrations are quite successful but many of the images just don't seem suitable for children's books. I suppose if we included covers for YA's then, yes, but where were the usual touching but fun and lovable images? Where were the stories? Have things changed so much that kids don't deserve books that have the power to remain fondly in memories for decades? Perhaps the jury members were trying just a bit too hard to push the boundaries and have forgotten what it was like to be child.
Sure, kids grow up so much faster than we did but don't they still need some warm, magical childhood moments. Who among us who were lucky enough to have books as children doesn't smile when they think of Huckleberry Cat and Lowly Worm, Ramona the Pest, Where the Wild Things Are, The Story of Ping, Eloise, Babar, or Peter Rabbit. Where were the new Rackhams, Wyeths, Greenaways, Caldecotts, Carles, Clooneys or Annos? I simply didn't see any of these in most of the chosen art. Most pieces looked far too editorial and cold; too much digital manipulation and not enough heart. Now that I think about it quite a few of the images were so chilly as to be rather devoid of emotion. There was only a very few that I would have liked to climb into; there were certainly no BusyTowns, fields of lupines, or intriguing jumbley jelly cupboards to wander through.
If ever children needed safe places to explore it would be now. So where are they? Wistfully I didn't see many represented in this year's Illustrators Exhibition.
* Just to be clear... I didn't have an entry in this years competition. And I have followed the fair for years. Proof? All the Annuals and memorabilia lining my many bookshelves :0)
**I'm not posting any of the images here due to copyright law and respect for the artists but i do hope you will take a look here and share your reactions.