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Strictly speaking, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is a trade event, for publishers to sell (and buy) foreign rights on their newly published kids’ books. Scratch the commercial surface, however, and you will find an intoxicating four-day visual marathon featuring the best illustrated books that the children’s publishing industry (often, the publishing industry tout court) has to offer. While the British and North-American children’s publishing world is often limited by stereotypes of cuteness and politically-correctness, books from the rest of the world offer an adventurous riot of surprising colors and unconventional characters.

Illustrators are the unsung heroes behind such visual delights. The Bologna Children’s Book Fair celebrates them in the Illustrators’ Exhibition, a selection of the most talented, inspiring works. The competition is fierce: 3,190 illustrators participated in the 2014 edition, only 75 were selected to show their work at the Fair. This is my personal selection of the best three.

Maika Hayasaka, Japan

A bit Hieronymus Bosch, a bit Shaun Tan, Maika Hayasaka’s cooks animate a lively, crazy kitchen, each and every inch of which deserves to be savoured and looked at in detail (magnifying glass, anyone?).

 

James Barker, UK

A Central Saint Martins graduate, James Barker has a clean, colorful, child-like style. These images are taken from The Grey Go-Away Bird, published in December 2013 by Cha com Letras and available on Amazon.

Iching Hung, Taiwan

Which kind of a story would feature a little black… insect? among so many yellow… fingers? What is it and what are they, anyway? Suspend your disbelief, as you don’t need to know all the answers in this little voyage of the imagination. Le Visiteur, by Iching Hung, published by Hongfei,  is available on Amazon.