I was in Book Heaven
Sigh, it was heaven. Anyone who gets excited when they smell the paper and the ink of a new book will understand. Entering those halls filled to the ceiling with pages upon pages of dreams and ideas, of illustrations, of tales that will transport you (and you know they will) is like falling in love for the first time.
I don’t think you really expect to fall in love. Dagnammit, I go there on business! Yes. I want to find new and exciting clients. Yes. I want to see the people I’ve worked with throughout the year. But each and every one of those books has its own appeal. That is what the Frankfurt Book Fair is about. It is about the communal love of literature.
And you go there on business and just magically fall in love… with the books that is.
The Frankfurt Book Fair 2019
The Frankfurt Book Fair 2019 was from October 16th to October 20th this year. I planned my visit for three days, from the 16th to the 18th, so that I not only could visit my clients, but also so that I could have time to go on a book discovery tour (so maybe I did want to flirt with books. Don’t judge me). I also planned to meet with some colleagues, too. That is the fun part about the fair. You get to relax and enjoy yourself, too.
Portfolio Flip-thru 2019
This year, sort of at the last minute, I chose to redesign my portfolio. I don’t know what devil made me do it, but I am glad I did. I ordered a bunch of book binders’ material from Modulor, a wonderful art supply company based in Berlin with overnight delivery and went to work to create a bound interactive portfolio. I made some of the pages with additional flaps, for example to show the front and back covers of my search and find books.
This year I chose to show mostly digital work. In one conversation with a publisher, who liked my website portfolio, she asked me to send her some more analogue work, because that is what the company uses. I am working on that this week, too. If you watch my Instagram account, you will see a small set of images popping up.
Although I really liked my portfolio idea, I was disappointed with the way my printer handled the ink and paper. It was a little pale, but I did get many compliments on its design. The last publisher I spoke to, a woman from England, said my work was very well presented. I can only describe her compliment as going down like butter (a German phrase – „das geht runter wie Butter“). It just made me feel good.
View My Online Interactive Portfolio
I’ve put up an interactive online version of my portfolio for potential clients to download. If you are interested in viewing it, just write me a quick note and I’ll send you the link. Remember to include your company name, too.
What Happens at the Frankfurt Book Fair?
Where do I begin?
Ok. Well, yes, there are the appointments and meetings. And even if you are a person who avoids meetings and appointments, I think you would enjoy these.
As an illustrator, you get valuable feedback on your work. If you are a newcomer to the illustration business, you can try to get a portfolio review at the Illustration Organisation e.V. stand. But you must get there early, because the spots fill up quickly.
If you are not familiar with the Illustrator Organisation e.V. also known as the IO, it is like the American Association of Illustrators. They lobby for illustrators’ rights, offer lawyer and tax consultation connections, if you need them and their members are very supportive with experience and advice.
This year, the Illustratoren Organisation e.V. (known as the IO) thought of a fun way of showcasing their illustrators: with a wall of Urban Sketching, “Frankfurt illustriert” (meaning Frankfurt illustrates). When I’d gotten there on Wednesday morning, I visited their stand (Hall 3.0, Stand ), signed the release form and grabbed a clipboard with sketch paper. It was a nice quality, but unfortunately, I had set it down somewhere and lost it. I was just too busy on Wednesday morning to draw.
But I did atone for that later in the day. During my lunch break I grabbed another board, went to the Reading Tent, which kind of reminds me of a circus tent and drew the crowd seated there, listening to Hung-Chi Liao tell about his trip across the Indian Ocean in a small dinghy. He is an essayist and novelist from Hualien, Taiwan. He is also a VIP driving force in Taiwan’s marine ecology conservation and promotion. Go ahead and read some excerpts of his book Life of Whale.
Meeting up with Roberta Bergman and her Group “Der Kreative Flow”
When you know that the fair is teeming with colleagues, many of whom you know online, you just have to get together with them. And so I did.
I met up with Roberta Bergmann and her Der kreative Flow Facebook group for lunch on Friday. We got to exchange ideas and experiences and were generally very excited for each other’s successes. Networking with fellow illustrators is a good confidence boost and a way to make long lasting friendships.
On My Journey through Book Heaven I met a Cute Little Nope
On my journey through book heaven, in Hall 4.1 I met one of the smartest spiders ever. I had to think of that iconic children’s book, „Charlotte’s Web“* written by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams*. This striped-legged spider had spun her web at the stand which was facing the entry and was not smaller than half my thumb. It fascinated me to see that cute little nope there as I went on my discovery tour. And although she wasn’t there to save Wilbur the pig*, I am sure that she was enjoying the hum and the buzz of the fair.
It wasn’t Cold in Norway
I enjoy visiting the featured country each year to learn about what moves them, their art and about their books – particularly their children’s books. But this year something else struck me. It was an art installation of scents.
Scents can call up memories, some whimsical, like baking cookies at Christmas and some rather extreme.
This installation encouraged the visitors to match the scents to the cards on the table. It wasn’t an easy task. The one that the artist called „Forest“ reminded me more of dried parsley, which I thought odd. When I think of forest, I think of passing by the pines that fell during the last storm, their lingering scent wafting through the air or of the moist and decaying leaves that give way softly underneath your feet.
I also thought some of the themes were bittersweet. This photo shows a mood of sadness, of finality. But the scent didn’t match my own memories. Scents are extremely personal. What scents bring happiness to you? Write me and let me know.
But What About the Books????
There were enough of them to fall in love with, every centimetre of every hall.
Children’s Books on Both Sides of the Pond
Since I live in Germany and work mainly for the German market, I like to see what is going on back home in America and around the world, in fact. (If you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see some of the books I’ve mentioned)
Love at First Sight
I fell in love with My Dad is Amazing* published by Abrams Appleseed. The drawings are so simple, yet so full of energy. The hero of the tale is a magical yeti. Written by Sabrina Moyle and illustrated by Eunice Moyle for the toddler crowd. I love the typography used in the book, it underscores happiness. ISBN 978-1419729614
This Love will Last Forever
Do you have a penchant for pop-up books? I do. I just love seeing books with flaps and surprises. The book Let’s Dive into the Ocean* grabbed my heart. It is an unusual book as that it is not only an book with layered flap pages that are turned vertically instead of horizontally, it also contains search and find tasks, too. Illustrated by Wesley Robins and written by Timothy Knapman. Published by Silver Dolphin Books. ISBN 978-1684123339
Another book that caught my eye was The Mapmaker’s Race*. The cover is beautifully illustrated, an adventure story that even an adult will want to take part in. „Sal, Joe, Francie and Humphrey misplace their famous mapmaker mothers they begin the Great Race to map a rail route through an uncharted wilderness„ „They have twenty-eight days to find and map the best route.“ Authored by Eirlys Hunter this is a great adventure book for school children and available on Kindle, too*. Publisher: Gecko Press, ISBN 978-1419729614.
Lathered with Layers and Activity
One other book that used layering techniques to create a unique reading experience is Der magische Wald* that was illustrated by the New Zealand artist, Ceri Hurst. The German edition was translated by Judith Baer, I am just guessing that is the text on the back of the book, but suffice it to say, you really don’t need to read German to enjoy this treasure. It is a magical forest of fairies, berries, foxes and flora that are finely drawn. Some are already coloured in and have a foil kind of print. And you can color in the the unprinted areas of the book. The other the special thing about this book is that the pages fold out to become a three dimensional forest. It is from Arena Verlag. ISBN 978-3401712666
Lets Science Together
I was repeatedly attracted to three dimensional activity books. „Das XXL-Endecker-Set—Weltraum*“ was one of them. It included 10 models to make yourself, a fun learning book that includes experiments and „cool rocket ships“ for your favorite little scientist.
I actually cannot call it a book per se, but it is one book or model building kit I would have loved to have as a kid. My dad was always showing us science stuff back then. Rob Colson is the author of this whimsically illustrated book . It was originally published by Quarto Children’s Books and the German Edition is from Edition Michael Fischer GmbH. ISBN 978-3-96093-0
Dealing with Strong Emotions
Not all books were craft and activity related books. I discovered a beautifully illustrated book about going to a funeral from a child’s perspective. It is called, appropriately The Funeral* by Matt James who is both author and illustrator. An interesting thing about this book is that on the inside cover Matt James describes his illustration technique. That is unusual, but I am happy he did so.
For the Grown-Ups
As much as I love looking at children’s books, I like to discover stuff for the grown-up in me.
Don’t you just love a good cook book? Cook books seem like little luxuries now-a-days because you can get just about any recipe for free online. Which is why it seemed that the trend is going towards tasting the experience of cooking.
Phaidon had several that I’d buy just to put on my coffee table, er dinner table heck, anywhere. I loved Signature Dishes That Matter* and A Very Serious Cookbook*. Chicken and Charcoal* seemed more like a perusal of an old „Life“ magazine updated with modern illustrations. The photographs in any of these cookbooks make you yearn for a lifestyle of yesteryear.
Often It’s the Design
When I look at books, it is often for the design, not necessarily the subject matter. And it was such, that when I was treating myself to a round in the international book section of the Frankfurt Fair that I discovered a tiny pearl of a publisher, Dundurn PR ltd. I was admiring this title, Red Oblivian*, written by Leslie Shiomtakahara, when the Publisher popped up behind me and we began talking about how beautifully and with what care the covers of his new editions had been designed. ISBN: 978-1459745216
It turns out that he had recently acquired the company and as a former employee of that company decided to give his designers a freer hand in designing the books. I think it was a solid decision. if you look at Father Sweet* by J.J. Martin you see the biblical references that the story will make to you. It is a very elegantly and simply designed book. ISBN 978-1459743960
A third book that Dundurn produced that was so perfectly designed, was Swimming with Horses* by Oakland Ross. It is a murder mystery and on my „to read“ list. It should be on yours, too. ISBN 978-1459743540
One Book, Many Languages
One unique display of books was a display of one book cover in different languages. How to Live Japanese* written by Yutaka Yazawa and Published by White Lion Publishing it leads you on a journey through Tokyo with an insider’s eye for the Japanese way of life. I’ve put this one on the „to buy“ list for my son who is currently fascinated with Japan. (But don’t tell him that!!!). The ISBN is 978-1781317617. The German edition is called (in German, of course) Of Cherry Blossoms, Kimonos and Kintsugi“ (Von Kirschblüten, Kimonos und Kintsugi)* and carries the ISBN Number 978-3772474880.
You see, the Frankfurt Book Fair isn’t just for new books, it is also for marketing international licenses. From a designer’s point of view the discovery of the title was an absolute delight.
And the biggest delight that I got was to see my newest Search & Find book above all the other books at the GeroNova stand. GeroNova is the parent company of Silberburg-Verlag, where both Mannheim wimmelt* and Heidelberg wimmelt* were published. And those books, my friends, is for grown-ups and kids alike. (And you don’t even need to read German, you discover the stories as you go.)
Coming back to Earth
The Frankfurt Book Fair 2019 was a wonderful one for me. I met my colleagues, filled my heart and fell in love with new books, grabbed a lot of inspiration and met old and new clients.
It felt good to do that and I am looking forward to next year’s Frankfurt Book Fair 2020. That will truly be an exciting one, I am sure. It is from October 14th to the 18th, the last two days are open to the general public.
New this year is that you can purchase copies of the books for your own perusal on publicly open days. I couldn’t because I wasn’t there on Saturday or Sunday and in Germany, it doesn’t make a difference because there is a price protection on books that is missing in the US and—as I gathered from some of the publishers—is missing in Canada, too. (That prevents dumping prices on one of our most important and useful resources—books)
Do you plan on visiting the Frankfurt Book Fair 2020? Let me know. Perhaps we will see each other there.
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