Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From Bologna: the Ragazzi Awards

Every year I am very curious to see who won the Bologna Ragazzi Award, given to 
the best new books in terms of graphic and editorial design. The award categories are
FictionNon-FictionNew Horizons (for Asian, Arab, African and South American books),
 and for the first time this year Opera Prima, acknowledging the efforts of publishers 
promoting new talents. Publishers from all around the world submit their best
 productions, guaranteeing a very high quality of the candidates. Here are 
all the award winners and two of the mentions; on the official website 
you'll find the other mentions and the jury's motivations.

This year's Fiction Award was assigned to De Boomhut, a Dutch book by Ronald Tolman,
 illustrated by Marije Tolman. I really enjoyed reading the jury's motivation, 
so here it is in its entirety: "De Boomhut is a wise, clear, even poetic, example of how 
an established topos of the collective imagination may be revisited with a fresh eye 
to reveal a continued relevance to modern times. Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman
 return to the “house in the trees”. Their house, however, is rich with subtle cultural
 references ranging from symbolist painting to the most refined 20th century graphic art.
 The book’s message is not declaimed, but is conveyed quietly. It pleads for an
 enlightened ecological stance in which an intense awareness that we are part of nature
 does not forego our need for elegance and intellectual enquiry."

Visit Marije Tolman's website to enjoy more of her delightful children's book illustrations,
 like the two above.

Non Fiction winner is the beautiful The Riverbank published by The Creative Company, 
in which Fabian Negrin's illustrations accompany the final paragraph of The origin 
of the species by Charles Darwin. Fabian is a very versatile and innovative 
Argentinian illustrator, who has published many interesting books here in Italy 
thanks to the pioneering work of our friends at Orecchio Acerbo.

The New Horizons Award went to Do!, with text by Gita Wolf and illustrations 
by Ramesh Hengadi & Shantaram Dhadpe. Another extraordinary production 
from our favorite Indian publisher, the luscious Tara Books. For more Tara goodness, 
go to our previous feature on Bhajiu Shyam, and to A Book By Its Cover's posts 

I was so pleased to find out that the Opera Prima Award has gone to Chronicle Books
There was an old lady who swallowed a flyby Jeremy Holmes (watch the delightful-
creepy preview animation here) Not only is the book fun, refined and experimental, 
but the prize also rewards one of my favorite American publishers. In fact, 
Chronicle books was the only exciting US company I saw at the fair this year. 
The whole Anglo-American publishing industry is not much present in Bologna, 
since they have their own very important book fairs, like London and Chicago. 
Mostly, only very large, corporate looking US companies make the trip here, 
one of them our own American publisher, Gareth Stevens. In that context, 
Chronicle's beautifully innovative offerings are a wonderful breath of fresh air. 
I already had a chance to appreciate this book, again through A Book By Its Cover
In fact, thanks to fellow design bloggers, for the first time this year 
I was already familiar with many of the best new titles on show!

Another beloved publisher, Shabaviz, won a New Horizons mention for the poetic 
Two Friends by Hoda Haddadi. Like always, I visited their colorful booth, but this time 
I was less shy than usual and chatted a bit with the beautiful and elegant lady pictured 
on the website. She is seriously fond of cats, and loved Sebastiano's postcards - I would
 have loved to ask her about more serious issues, but only ventured to enquire about their
 internet connection. Unfortunately, I got caught up with other things, and didn't make it
 back to buy some books. This is a shame, because they cost only five euros, and Bologna
 is my only chance to get these collectible copies, with english text pasted by hand on
 each printed page over the Iranian original. Luckily, Two Friends is one of the first
 Shavabiz volumes published in Italy (as Il bosco delle meraviglie), together with 
I misteriosi tatuaggi di mio papà by Neda Azimi, and I am definitely going to buy them both. 
For more Shabaviz beauties, visit animalarium's feature on Azimi's The Cat and the Stars,
 and also check the extensive digital collection at the International Children's Digital Library.

Finally, a peek at another Opera Prima Award winner: Cécile Boyer's onomatopeic 
Ouaf, miau, cui,cui by French publisher Albin MichelAnother great entry for 
the ongoing trend of typographic children's book experimentation!

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