Horror the new fantasy at Bologna

<p>The Bologna Children&#39;s Book Fair has opened to busy trading, with publishers reporting plenty of international interest and strong sales. But the fair has not gone without a hiccup: a new location on an upper floor for the agents&#39; centre has caused widespread discontent, with a petition now in circulation to get the old position restored for next year&#39;s event.<br /><br />Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page described the first two days of the fair as &quot;very busy, very lively&quot;, while Anne McNeil, publishing director at Hodder Children&#39;s Books, said: &quot;There&#39;s a sense of real enthusiasm, freshness, across all territories.&quot; &quot;People say the aisles are quiet, but I&#39;ve got an awful lot of appointments,&quot; added Sarah Davies of literary agency The Greenhouse.<br /><br />One of the biggest stories of the fair so far is picture books, with author Michael Rosen announcing the <a href="../news/55744-best-new-illustrators-picked.html" target="_blank" title="best-new-illustrators-picked">UK&#39;s 10 Best New Illustrators at a Booktrust Big Picture event yesterday</a> (Monday 31st March). The winners ranged from Greenaway winners Emily Gravett and Mini Grey to newcomers Lisa Evans and Vicky White, and publishers reported strong interest overnight from international publishers in the winning list. <br /><br />Random House also reported plenty of interest for its new picture book talents Katie Cleminson (<em>The Box of Tricks</em>) and Louise Yates (<em>A Small Surprise</em>), having concluded four deals for Cleminson and two for Yates at the fair already. Ann-Janine Murtagh, publisher at HarperCollins Children&#39;s Books, which will shortly publish in the UK the Fancy Nancy picture books series which has taken the US by storm, said it was right that Bologna, &quot;home of the international picture book&quot;, had been the forum for the Big Picture announcement. &quot;We all need to look out for what is going to be the next big picture book - all it takes is one phenomenal hit to reinvent the category.&quot; <br /><br />Fiction, especially series fiction, remained strong. Maeve Banhan, RH rights director, said: &quot;It feels as though there is a definite move away from fantasy.&quot; Instead publishers have been taken by the realism of a contemporary teen story from RH, Keith Gray&#39;s <em>Ostrich Boys</em>, which has attracted strong interest in central and southern Europe, according to publicist Clare Hall-Craggs.<br /><br />At the same time, Hodder reported exceptional translation interest in a futuristic debut novel, <em>The Carbon Diaries</em> by Saacci Lloyd, &quot;a strong fiction title about a time when carbon is rationed, set in south-east London&quot;. Davies said: &quot;Horror is the new fantasy - there is still life in a dark, gothic romance,&quot; adding that publishers were looking for &quot;high-concept, fresh mystery&quot; and strong contemporary fiction for girls aged 8-12. <br /><br />HarperCollins held a one-hour presentation to showcase its ambitious plans for its new Bella Sara property, which combines books, trading cards and a website on a fantasy/horse theme, and by the end had two proposals on the table from major European publishers, said brand and properties director Claire Harding. HC also reported international appeal for its Magic Ballerina series with Darcey Bussell, and for David Walliams&#39; forthcoming novel, <em>Boy in a Dress</em>.<br /><br />A new location on an upper floor for the agents&#39; centre has caused widespread discontent. Agents believe the new set-up feels too exposed, as well as too distant from toilet facilities - no small inconvenience when appointments are tightly scheduled and loo queues are long. A petition has been launched to get the old position restored for next year&#39;s event.</p>