In that photo you can spot me, Philip, translator of the Kevin books Saskia Martens, publisher Philippe Nuyts, publicity's Jente Lambrechts and our editor Gaëlle Cooreman. And below, you can see the lovely shiny books - Het Verhaal van Kevin and Kevin op de Vlucht - and one of the team modelling the Kevin shirt!
They even had these cool little biscuit boxes for display, Philip and I were well chuffed. Interestingly, several people came up and mentioned how glad they were to come across the book's message of body positivity - Kevin's a very roly-poly pony, but he's happy and great at flying - so that was good to hear.
Here's the books' translator Saskia Martens, who came along to the fair with her family. It was great to meet her; so much of the success of the book depends on her writing skills!
Here's the desk where we did a signing session, and taught people of all ages how to draw Kevin.
(If you missed it, there's a step-by-step tutorial here on my website.) Here's Jente with her drawing, and a whole bunch of the children's drawings:
Antwerp's Boekenbeurs is different to a lot of other book fairs I've been to, in that it's so wonderfully family-friendly. Monday was a bank holiday, and there were loads of children browsing books and taking part in the many available activities. And all the books were for sale, so it was like one big awesome bookshop.
There was so much to look at! The Ballon team let us go off and browse after our signing event, and it was wonderfully inspiring, seeing all the amazing art and graphic design on display.
Many of the books were translated from other languages, but I was excited to see work by more local artists such as Emma Thyssen, Carll Cneut, Peter Goes and Noëlle Smit.
I first came to Antwerp in 1997, when I was working at The Moscow Times and needed to go out of the country to renew my Russian visa. The thing I best remembered was the station, the fanciest I'd ever seen - so I was thrilled to get to revisit it:
Here's our editor Gaelle, who collected us from the train and took us by tram to Antwerp Expo for the fair. Huge thanks to everyone at Ballon for publishing our books, bringing us out to Antwerp, and looking after us so well! It was great to meet you all, and thanks for a lovely dinner, Philippe!
The person you can't see in the photos is Regina Irwin, the foreign rights manager at Oxford University Press who introduced the Ballon team to our books - thank you, Regina! Early the next morning, Philip and I made a mad dash into town to see as much as we could before we had to catch our train home. Here's the lovely book fair poster. (You can see from the dates that it's quite a long fair - we were there for the very last day.)
Going to Antwerp was a great excuse to stop first in nearby Brussels to see two of my very best friends of a couple decades, Manoëlle and Mags. They put us up and we went for a beautiful autumnal walk in the grounds of the Rouge Cloitre Park.
And we had raclette! (This DIY meal is very Belgian and very yummy.)
Philip and I got to have a stroll on Saturday around Brussels' old city centre, with its lovely Art-Nouveau architecture:
The Grand Place, which I remember well from a summer homestay programme when I was fifteen:
Light coming through the beautiful modern stained-glass windows at St Nicholas's church:
On Sunday's walk, we passed the striking 1960's former Axa building in Watermael-Boitsfort:
And of course we visited the Palaid des Beaux-Arts (trendily rebranded 'Bozar')...
...where the Bruegel paintings are absolutely unmissable.
Philip drew this lovely study of a detail of a 1510 painting by Harri met de Bles:
A great trip! Thanks again to Ballon Media and Mags and Manoëlle for putting us up! Merci beaucoup and veel dank!