Guest Interview: Publisher Prashant Pathak of Wonder House & SCBWI’s Sarah Baker Reflect on Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Cynsations is celebrating its 20th anniversary by switching to a quarterly publishing schedule, featuring in-depth interviews and articles. Thank you for your ongoing support and enthusiasm!

Spotlight image: Elisabeth Norton and Publisher Prashant Pathak in Wonder House Books’s booth at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, photo by Melanie Rook Welfing.

The 61st edition of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair took place April 8 – 11 in Bologna, Italy. Cynsations reporter Elisabeth Norton interviewed Prashant Pathak of Wonder House Books and Sarah Baker, executive director of SCBWI about their experiences at the 2024 Fair.

By Elisabeth Norton

Why did you attend Bologna Children’s Book Fair this year?

Prashant: Our participation in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF) is multifaceted and strategic. The foremost objective of our presence is to negotiate and finalize sales of rights and co-editions for our diverse range of titles. This platform serves as a crucial conduit for expanding our international reach and fostering global partnerships.

Friends of Wonder House attend a reception in the publisher’s booth.

In addition to the commercial aspect, the fair presents a valuable opportunity for us to engage with emerging talent in the field of illustration and authorship. We are committed to discovering and nurturing new voices and artistic expressions. By reviewing the works of promising illustrators and authors, we aim to identify unique and innovative content that aligns with our publishing ethos.

It’s time to say Goodnight by Wonder House Editorial Team Illustrated by Lole Eulalia Rosa

It is our intention to potentially incorporate these fresh perspectives into our imprints, thereby enriching our catalog and offering our readers a broader spectrum of literary and artistic works.

SCBWI member Jacinta Liu, Sarah Baker, and SCBWI Board Member Netta Rabin

Sarah: In the past, SCBWI attended BCBF when we had a booth, and we’ve only had a booth every other year (with a longer pause during the pandemic). This year, we decided to go during a non-booth year, and I’m so glad we did!

Attending BCBF this year gave us the opportunity to spend time all over the fair, meeting SCBWI members, children’s book creators, and industry professionals at all the different areas of the fair. We handed out SCBWI postcards to spread awareness of the organization and scoped out new opportunities for activities and programming we’ll introduce when we have a booth again in 2025. Attending the fair is always a fantastic opportunity to connect with SCBWI members, RT’s (our official volunteers), and industry professionals from around the world.

How was your experience at this year’s fair the same or different from past fair(s)?

Prashant: Each iteration of the Bologna Book Fair ushers in unique experiences. On a personal note, this marked my 15th year attending the fair, while for Wonder House, it was a notable fifth year. We have observed a consistent increase in activity, particularly during the initial three days of the event.

Notably, there has been a rise in unscheduled visits, a departure from previous years when our schedule was predominantly occupied with pre-arranged meetings, and spontaneous exploration by buyers was comparatively minimal.

Elisabeth with Wonder House’s Associate Publisher, Payal Jaipuria. Photo by Melanie Rook Welfing.

This trend of growing attendance and engagement is encouraging. In this year’s fair, Wonder House had the honor of being an official participant in the Fair’s Illustrators Corner.

This afforded us the privilege of reviewing the works of numerous talented illustrators. Such opportunities are invaluable as they allow us to connect with artists whose innovative visions may shape the future of illustration within the publishing industry.

Jo Jo The Orangutan by Denise Turu, illustrated and translated by Juan Scaliter.

Sarah: The energy at the fair was really strong and positive. In 2023, everything was still just warming back up after the pandemic, but this year it felt so bustling and exciting. A constant stream of inspiration everywhere you looked. Also, attending the fair and working from a booth the whole time, versus walking around the fair is a very different experience.

One of many innovative exhibits

This time, I was able to really admire the innovative booth designs, spend more time with the various art exhibits, and experience all the activity at the Illustrator’s Survival Corner, which is such an exciting hub for illustrators at the fair.

When you’re planning to exhibit at an event, it’s so helpful to experience the event from an individual attendee’s perspective, and I think our visit to the fair this year will really improve the SCBWI presence at the fair for 2025 and into the future. Another difference I noticed was that the food at the fair was better this year!

BCBF attendees enjoying a workshop at the Illustrators Survival Corner

What was the highlight of the fair for you?

Prashant: Last year, Wonder House was distinguished with the prestigious Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF) BOP Award, being lauded as the Best Publishing House from Asia. This esteemed accolade has significantly elevated our profile within the industry this year. As a result, our booth has become a nexus for numerous individuals and entities expressing keen interest in forging various forms of collaboration with us.

The prize awards publishers who have most distinguished themselves for professionalism and is designed to foster an exchange of knowledge and ideas across the world.

This surge in visibility and the resultant influx of potential partners truly underscored the fair as a momentous occasion for us this year, highlighting our growing influence and recognition in the global publishing landscape.

Beatrice Y. Lin, Fadua Raba, Jasmine Richards, and Sarah Baker discuss Innovations in Publishing – Female Perspectives

Sarah: Spending time with SCBWI members was the highlight, hands down. We ran into members walking the isles of the fair, at our member meet-up at the Illustrators Survival Corner, and of course at our beloved member/industry party at local bookshop Libreria Trame. Being with members from around the world and bringing our members together with industry professionals is such an important part of SCBWI, and it’s so joyful! I also loved speaking on the panel at the PublisHer booth, where I got to discuss women and innovation with a group of incredible, international women in the children’s book business.

Attendees at the Illustrators’ wall

As a publisher, what advice would you give illustrators/ translators/other creators about attending the fair?

Prashant: As a publisher, my advice to illustrators, translators, and other creators considering attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair would be as follows:

1. Portfolio Preparation: Ensure your portfolio is professional, up-to-date, and showcases a range of your best work. It should reflect your unique style and versatility.

2. Research and Targeting: Familiarize yourself with the publishers and industry professionals who will be in attendance. Tailor your portfolio to those who are most likely to be interested in your style or genre.

Purnam – Stories & Wisdom of Feminine Divine written and illustrated by Abhishek Singh (Instagram @abhiart)

3. Networking: The fair is an excellent opportunity to build relationships. Prepare business cards and a short, engaging pitch about your work. Be ready to discuss potential collaborations and projects.

4. Professionalism: Present yourself professionally at all times. This includes punctuality for meetings, a respectful approach to networking, and a positive attitude.

5. Learning and Feedback: Be open to learning from others and receiving feedback on your work. The fair is a chance to gain insights from industry veterans and peers.

6. Follow-Up: After the fair, follow up with the contacts you’ve made. Send thank-you notes, and if appropriate, additional samples of your work or proposals for collaboration.

Remember, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is not just about immediate opportunities, but also about planting seeds for future growth and partnerships. Be patient, persistent, and keep honing your craft.

Award-winning graphic novels from around the world at the International Book Store.

What advice would you give to children’s book creators about attending the fair?

Sarah: Number one–join SCBWI and stay tuned for our guide for the next fair and all the incredible programming we’ll be doing at the next BCBF (like free portfolio reviews and industry mixers)!

Also, be sure to pour over the schedule, because there are so many different exhibits to see, panels to hear, and workshops to attend.

Make time for the International Book Store, so you can buy books from around the world that you would never see in your home country. Wear comfy shoes, stay hydrated, take breaks to breathe fresh air outside, and be ready to meet lots of new people.

And, make time to explore Bologna, and shop at local independent bookstores there like the wonderful Libreria Trame!

Cynsational Notes

Prashant Pathak is Publisher at Wonder House Books, a distinguished children’s imprint of Prakash Books India Pvt. Ltd. Wonder House has been dedicated to creating and disseminating original, pedagogically sound content tailored for both the local and international markets.

The imprint has been honored twice consecutively (in 2022 and 2023) with the title of Best Children’s Publisher of India at the PVLF Awards, and in 2023, it was awarded the BOP Prize from Asia at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

If you wish to submit your projects to Wonder House you can use this link: or write an email to

Sarah Baker (she/her) is the Executive Director of SCBWI, where she leads the SCBWI staff and works closely with the Board of Directors, the Advisory Council, and the official SCBWI volunteers. She joined the SCBWI staff in 2011.

Sarah graduated from UCSB with a major in Studio Art and began her career in children’s book publishing at Penguin Young Readers Group, where she designed children’s books. Sarah is also a children’s book illustrator, with her debut illustrated picture book coming out in 2026: Becca and Bubbe’s Bucket List, written by Laura Gehl, published by Rocky Pond Books.

Elisabeth visiting Korean Pavilion at BCBF, photo by Melanie Rook Welfing.

Elisabeth Norton is a neurodiverse author and poet. As a reporter for Cynsations, she covers international aspects of children’s publishing. Originally from the US, she lives in Switzerland where she teaches English as a Foreign Language and writes poetry, picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels in verse.

Her poetry for young readers has been included in several anthologies, including Things We Eat (Pomelo Books, 2022) and Imperfect II: poems about perspective: an anthology for middle schoolers (History House Publishers, 2022). She serves as the Assistant International Advisor (Outreach) for SCBWI. You can find out more about Elisabeth and her writing on her website.