As the market for children’s books continues to grow (not surprisingly, China was a big presence this year, with international publishers looking to market their books to the children of the growing middle class there, and Chinese publishers, artists and authors looking for greater exposure) the Bologna awards just seem to keep multiplying. A new prize for books that deal with disability was awarded to the Argentine artist known as Gusti for “Mallko y Papá,” a picture book published by Océano Travesía of Mexico about his life with his son, who has Down syndrome. It will be published in the United States by Enchanted Lion in the spring of 2017. On the final day of the fair, Gusti gave a moving presentation about the book at the Illustrators Café, the central gathering place and stage. As a slide show of his exuberant drawings played on the hall’s big screen, accompanied by a track from the Red Hot Chili Peppers that his son, Mallko, likes to listen to, he spoke about his struggle to accept his son’s condition and his eventual realization that Down syndrome is not a curse visited solely upon his own life, but rather something that happens all over the world. It is “part of our human heritage,” he said.
In the international world of children’s books, it can sometimes seem as if all roads lead back to Bologna. “My wife and I met here at the Bologna book fair 16 years ago,” Gusti said as he talked of the unexpected turns of his life and career, “so in a sense, this book was born right here at the fair.”