A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go to the Warsaw Book Fair in Poland’s capital. Despite being one of the lesser-known book fairs, and far smaller than those in Frankfurt or Bologna, I felt it would be a really interesting one to attend. I’m Polish, but I only started working in the publishing industry when I moved to London, so all I knew about the Polish children’s book market was what I remembered from my own childhood – and I was pretty sure that a lot of things have changed since the late 80’s and early 90’s! Needless to say, I was right… but only to a certain extent.
When I arrived in Warsaw, I was greeted by sunshine and temperatures reaching 30 degrees. Not a bad start. Armed with a suitcase full of Nosy Crow books, I headed to the National Stadium, where the fair was taking place, and hit the stands.
In the past 15 or 20 years, a lot has changed indeed: books are much more colourful and illustrations much less traditional than I remembered, but, exactly as when I was little, fiction remains the main focus. Picture books with sparing text are not very common, and I only encountered several publishers who delved into that side of children’s literature. Picture story books, though, are everywhere – books with full colour illustrations on every page, but with lots and lots of text for children to read. I suppose these could be classed as very young, introductory fiction. And indeed, some of them, as well as having an intriguing plot, are explicitly meant to teach correct spelling, enhance vocabulary and so on.
It’s nice to see that there are a lot of small, young publishing companies, pioneering exciting new formats and illustration styles, but I was really happy to discover that the old favourites, too, were doing well: just look at this new edition of Winnie the Pooh! (and, whilst you’re at it, excuse the rubbish photograph.)
All in all, it was fantastic to be able to chat with Polish publishers and see what direction the Polish children’s book industry was heading. Oh, and thank you, Warsaw, for the wonderful few days of summer! It was much appreciated…