Paul Morton went to the Bologna Children's Book Fair together with fellow illustrators
Gary Fabbri and Tita Berredo, and now he bring us an insightful report about the event.
Don't miss the video with their highlights about the BCBF at the end of this article!

Planning for the BCBF is very important, so it's always a good idea to consult some friends. My best move by far was teaming up with fellow illustrators Gary Fabbri and Tita Berredo. We’d met at previous events and vowed to get to Italy together one day. We shared accommodation just five minutes from the fair and we worked as a team over the four days filming and reporting on behalf of SCBWI British Isles' magazine Words & Pictures. This gave us a focus and an authority. We were able to meet people from all over the globe, catching up with them to chat about their experiences.

Paul Morton, Tita Berredo, and Gary Fabbri covering the BCBF for Words&Pictures

Paul shows his books at the Five Quills stand
Paul shows his books at the Five Quills stand

Now, think about a vast numbers of books. Yes I was warned it would be big. It was much, much bigger than I ever imagined! Even the 'Illustrator's Wall' multiplied into around seven or eight different walls, each with a huge amount of cards, flyers, posters, fancy hangings and 3D eye-catching promos. But being an SCBWI member and meeting plenty of others gave me the satisfying sense of belonging. I felt ‘in on this’ even though it was my first time. On that first day we bumped into agents, editors and publishers that we’d met previously at Conference, top-billing picture book illustrators, who rather flatteringly spotted us, and stopped to say hello.

One of the three main halls of publishers' stands
Floating Books corner – just walk in and read
The massive Illustrator's Wall
Illustrators from all over the world share their artwork on the Illustrator's Wall
Post cards and business cards stuck on the wall

I’ve been in the grand bazaar in Istanbul and the Moroccan spice markets. This was just as colourful, just as chaotically busy and buzzing with energy. It’s like plugging yourself into the 'Matrix' and all in the wonderful pursuit of children’s books. We checked out the busy programme and made sure we caught talks and presentations from Sydney Smith, Suzy Lee and Rahele Jomepour Bell, to name just a few.

The various Illustration Exhibitions around the BCBF

A highlight for me was being asked to step in at the last minute for an Illustration duel with Tita. The SCBWI stand organised these ‘sketch-offs’ to raise awareness and there was a decent sized and appreciative audience. The first session featured the two SCBWI scholarship winners. Then Tita and I stepped up to offer alternative spreads (at 90 seconds each!) for The Bear and the Moon by Mathew Burgess and Catia Chien. I think I made a perfect ‘straight man’ foil for Tita’s exuberant performing skills and it was rewarding to hear ‘oooohs and aaaahs’ from the crowd. All this captured expertly on video by Gary, available shortly here in Words&Pictures.

SCBWI International RA Coordinator, Melanie Rook Welfing, reads the prompts
Paul and Tita get their sharpies ready for drawing
The duellers show their artwork. They all won!

Because we opted to stay close to the fair it necessitated hopping on a bus to get into town. This was relatively easy. The timetables and routes are all accurately online and the bus stops confirm the bus number and the direction needed. Paying by swiping a credit card was simple. We did this to get to the SCBWI party at the Trame bookstore in town. This was a blast! Great food, plenty of drink and then, surprisingly, the owner got out an old fashioned record player and started spinning original 45’s to dance to. And dance we did! Making new Scooby friends as we boogied through a great evening.

It was a fantastic time and great to be able to share special moments with friends who were celebrating something in different stages of our careers. I was happy to see my books exposed at the Five Quills stand, to see Gary's work in person whilst being Featured Illustrator at Words&Pictures and to see Tita's picture book featured at the dPICTUS stand for their showcase.

Paul points out his books at Five Quills
Tita interviews Gary about being Featured Illustrator
Gary interviews Tita about her picture book

Top tips from my first ever Fair?

·      Their website is vast and as the time grew nearer new items were added, so keeping on top of this is paramount.


·      Main events sell out quite quickly, but there are loads of available events, reviews and masterclasses that you can just show up for at the time – and these are free.


·      Making appointments ahead of the fair is important. Otherwise, the awe inspiring meandering around the millions of books could almost become depressing. If you have a meeting or two it feels like you’re getting ‘under the skin’ of the fair.


·      Although 5 mins from the boundary of the fair, we were a good 15 minute walk from the front entrance. No signs at the back showed us where the front was, so that took a while on the first morning.


·      Wear comfy shoes  I was told this and went prepared.


·      Don’t sport a cumbersome rucksack on your back. You’re forever putting freebies into it and taking stuff out. Have an easy-access pack on your front or shoulder. The new SCBWI tote bag came to my rescue.


·      Carry your promo cards in the registration wallet, around your neck. So convenient then to post onto the Illustrators Wall, hand them out when chatting in queues. Leave them on publishers stands or post them in the specified ‘letterbox’ areas.


·      See yourself as a professional in the business of children's book creation. You’re not here as a hobby, you’re a working part of the whole. Yes it’s big and it seems like every possible book has already been done, but just think how many new books will be on display next year. Make sure yours is going to be one of them. 


·      Be professional, be sincere and the overriding message from just about everyone we heard – B.U. No-one else can BE YOU – you already have that great advantage.

Watch now an insightful conversation between Gary Fabbri, Paul Morton, and Tita Berredo about the highlights and other tips about the Bologna Children's Book Fair:


*Photos by Gary Fabbri, Paul Morton, and Tita Berredo
*Video filmed by Gary Fabbri, edited by Tita Berredo


Paul Morton runs Hot Frog Graphics illustration and design studio and is the author of Bug Belly – Babysitting Trouble. His second book Bug Belly – Froggy Rescue was published in 2021. Find Paul at Hot Frog Graphics website and on Twitter @paulhotfrog


Gary Fabbri was born in Rhode Island. He has illustrated, written and directed ads, promos and image films for numerous companies as well as as being responsible for the pan-European on air branding and the transition from Fox Kids to Disney. He is now a full time Writer, Artist & Creative Director of his own company – Shed9. See more of Gary's work here.


Tita Berredo is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures magazine.

Find her work at

Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Contact her at


  1. It was my first time at the fair too. I planned it out so that I could as much as possible and I had a great time. It's really influenced my work and view of the publishing world as a illustrator who is new to the scene.

    1. That sounds very practical Angela. Pity we didn't meet yo at the fair.


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.