Two Hoots in Bologna

15 April 2016

By Suzanne Carnell

Arriving at the Bologna International Book Fair on the first day, I always have the same feelings of excitement and anticipation as I scrabble for my pass, take a deep breath, and step through the turnstile, looking forward to the days ahead filled with meetings with international publishers, colleagues and agents, chance conversations, and visual overload.  The high point of our year, when the world of children’s books comes together to sell books to each other, to share thoughts and ideas, and to celebrate.

The flags are out, we’re ready to go. And look, no umbrellas . . . it’s going to be a good one!
Like a homing pigeon, first stop has to be the Macmillan stand: always in the same location, but this year we have a new design – fresh, bright and with a pair of delicious red sofas, perfect for resting weary legs. Also available, for those with a Bond-villain complex, a new red gilded chair, as modelled here by Chris Inns, Art Director for MCB Picture Books and Two Hoots, and the man with the vision behind the design of the stand.  What’s he plotting next, I wonder?

It was great to see Two Hoots taking its place on the wall of logos from Macmillan Children’s Books in both the UK and US:

and to see a wonderful array of  our titles on the shelves:

The Rights team, selling our books to international publishers, worked as hard as ever, each with appointments every half an hour, and time for a snack or dash to the loo only when someone is late.

Although conversations with agents are lively and fun, and the portfolios often a joy, I’m always glad of a visit to one of the many illustrator exhibitions at the Fair, including this year a wonderful display of original artwork from Maisie Paradise Shearring’s first book, a version of Oscar Wilde’s Little Prince being published in Spain (El Pr√≠ncipe Feliz) as a result of her brilliant win last year of the International Award for Illustration. 

Beautiful art, and all more exciting for us, because Maisie will soon begin work on her first book with Two Hoots. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, back on the stand on Tuesday morning, the brilliant Chris Riddell, Children’s Laureate and all-round boy genius was hard at work filling the frame at the back of the Macmillan stand.


Which provided the perfect backdrop later that afternoon for the Two Hoots party.
Tuesday was a big day for Two Hoots, beginning in the morning with the delivery throughout the Fair of the Bologna Daily edition of the Bookseller magazine. Recognise that owl on the cover, anyone? It gave us all a kick to see the magazine around the Fair, while the sight of the Bookseller stand itself that morning sent the Publisher herself quite giddy:

It was really happening . . . Two Hoots was launched!
But it was soon down to the business of getting ready for our party on the stand.  Behind the scenes, a certain level of chaos:

But the boxes packed in London had arrived, and macaroons kept fresh in the minibar fridge, had survived the journey:

The only thing we had not brought ourselves was the drink. The bunting was up, the snacks were in their bowls and the glasses lined up . . . but where was the Prosecco? As 5pm drew closer, the supplier was tracked down. They’d cancelled our order. Like a bride at her wedding, the Publisher was kept in the dark as this drama unfolded, but the ever cool and resourceful Lorna wove her magic. The bottles appeared just in time as our first guests arrived, and the party began. 
There were speeches:

photo by Steven Lenton
There were napkins:

photo by Steven Lenton
and a good time was had by all.

The owl’s head was well and truly wetted at what was a very special Bologna Book Fair for Two Hoots.

With very special thanks to Steven Lenton for his photography skills.