Nurturing youthful humanism

200 Children’s Books Illustrating the Pope’s Words 

The visit to Bologna of Pope Francis in October 2017 – in times marked by an urgent need for a “new Humanism” – prompted BolognaFiere and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair to organize, in collaboration with the Church of Bologna, a far-reaching exhibition dedicated to young readers and their families on major contemporary issues - often raised by His Holiness - in terms understandable to children.

Sponsored by IBBY Italia and the Emilia-Romagna Regional Education Bureau, the exhibition was inaugurated at the Basilica di San Domenico. It was subsequently moved to the Basilica dei Santi Bartolomeo e Gaetano, where it was open to the public until January  2018.

The exhibition comprises 200 picturebooks
selected from the Bologna Children's Book Fair dealing with nine different issues that concern us today. These range from the concept of “joyful sobriety”, unity and dialogue, work and the dignity it affords, through to environmental safeguard, the topical issue of migration, peace and democracy, but also key concerns of the Holy Father like diversability, and education and culture made accessible to all.

Many side activities were planned during the exhibition
. Their primary target were schools. A guided tour using illustrations and words helped children, young adults and teachers discover the books on display and reflect on questions like peace, dialogue, difference, encounters, the environment, our Earth, the world’s different geographies, work as a human right, and the resonance of simple yet profound actions

During the days of BCBF 2018, the exhibition was presented to the international community and after the Fair, it started its world-wide tour travelling first to Rome, Santiago and other cities in Chile.

BolognaFiere’s universally recognized work to promote and disseminate culture for young people – breaking down barriers built by religious extremism and the many short-sighted policies of our day - is well reflected in the broad reach of books from all over the world: the Arab Countries, Latin America, India, Korea, China, as well as the West. The result is a truly multicultural vision and reflects the aim of the exhibition’s Scientific Committee made up of Silvia Cocchi, Ferdinando Costa, Anna Fontana Boni, Grazia Gotti, Don Stefano Ottani, Elena Pasoli and Silvana Sola.

The exhibition’s striking layout comprised nine wooden structures in the shape of a tree - one for each theme - on which the books were displayed – an acknowledgement that “since ancient times trees have been the symbol and expression of life, balance and wisdom” (Jean Giono, The Man Who Planted Trees)

The exhibition was supplemented with a bilingual Italian/English catalogue. Made available free of charge thanks to the collaboration of publisher Giunti Editore, it provided a bibliography of the books in the exhibition listed by theme. 

The publication "Nurturing Youthful Humanism. 200 Children’s Books Illustrating the Pope’s Words" extended the reach and continues the exhibition’s educational goals well after its conclusion. 

In the book each topic wa introduced by short passages from publications or speeches by Pope Francis together with critical appreciations by world famous names: Patricia Aldana, IBBY Foundation President, author Beatrice Masini, Marwa Al Aqroubi, President of the UAE Board on Books for Young People and a key figure for children’s literature in the United Arab Emirates, French writer Pascal Teulade, Argentinean writer and illustrator Gusti, Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Cao Wenxuan, Spanish illustrator Iban Barrenetxea, Kiyoko Matzuoka, curator of Tokyo’s Itabashi Art Museum, Slow Food founder Carlin Petrini, Giuseppe Dossetti, a Catholic priest working with drug abusers and migrants, and last but not least, author Roberto Piumini. 

Gianpiero Calzolari, BolognaFiere President,
 commented on this important event: “BolognaFiere is delighted to welcome Pope Francis. We thank him for the words that gave rise to this project: words whose naturalness and simplicity have - since its earliest origins - been the driving force of children's literature. In over more than a half a century, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair has become a meeting place for contemporary culture and humanism. The publishing industry for children and young readers is first and foremost a community of people who are passionate about childhood and adolescence: a hard-working community that strives to forge citizens for a better tomorrow”.

The immensity of the universe and nature’s infinite secrets open our minds to the wisdom that all cultures have in common in their search for truth and righteousness. There could be no better day than the ‘Sunday of the Word’ on which to open an exhibition of books for children from every corner of the world who want to live in a world without war or false illusions; who wish to see the Earth as it was created – a marvellous garden where the lion lies down with the lamb”. These are the words of Bologna’s Archbishop, Matteo Maria Zuppi.