Switzerland was the Country of Honour for the 2019 Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and Swiss illustrators and picture books has been in the spotlight. In the A Swiss ABC exhibition, illustrations by 26 artists were shown: for each letter of the alphabet an illustration and a word that sometimes obviously—and sometimes with a sly wink—refer to distinctive features of Switzerland.
Picture books unite illustrations and the written word in a unique way. The Swiss exhibition in Bologna exemplified this connection. The leitmotiv was the ABC. The alphabet, with its 26 letters, can also be understood as a reference to the 26 Swiss cantons, which stand for individuality and variety and yet come together to form a colourful and vibrant whole.
The 26 words used in the exhibition, beginning with the letters A to Z, come from all four of the Swiss national languages—Romansh, Italian, French and German—and have been translated into English for the international audience at the Fair. Each of these words was matched with the illustration of an artist who was chosen by a jury of experts. The illustrations selected were typical of the work of the individual illustrators and all came from children’s books that are currently available.