Happy birthday at Bologna Book Fair

At Bologna Book Fair in April 2024, Lerner Books held a special reception to celebrate the acquisition of Gecko Press and its 65th birthday. Below is the hello goodbye birthday speech from Julia Marshall.

Thank you to Rob Sharp for the photographs, taken serendipitously as he was walking in the porticos and thought this looked like an event worth photographing as he passed by.


Tēnā tātou katoa

Warmest greetings to you and us all, in the language of New Zealand.

Thank you for coming to celebrate the 65th birthday of Lerner Books, and to celebrate that Gecko Press has, at the age of 18, left home and moved to her new home in Minneapolis.

I first came to Bologna 20 years ago, with nothing but a card with a gecko on it. Those first two years I met a small core of publishers who were extraordinarily generous with their time.

Markus and Isabelle tell me that I stayed some hours at the stands of L’ecole des loisirs and Moritz; and I found Beltz, Bonnier, Hanser, Alfabeta. These first meetings became the backbone of Gecko Press and these publishers trusted Gecko Press with some almighty good books.

Over the years I found more extraordinary publishers and agents, and the backbone of Gecko Press grew stronger.

Gecko Press has always had support and backing from so many people. Thank you all for being so generous and open, and for teaching me what makes a truly good book.

This is what I have loved, your friendship, all our meetings and also our many good dinners.

Also here this evening are some of the many authors and illustrators who have also entrusted your extraordinary books to Gecko Press – and their translators who are also so necessary and important – thank you! And our sales and distribution partners, Bounce Sales and Marketing and Walker Books Australia, who have supported us so well in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

You are all welcome to New Zealand where Martin and I are building a beach sleepout ready for visitors.

I would like this evening to recognize Rachel Lawson, the new publisher of Gecko Press, magnificently talented and also very steady. It has been a joy these past three months to watch her bring her absolute understanding of the spirit of Gecko Press to the Lerner world, under the dedicated tutelage of Lerner editor-in-chief Andy Cummings.

Rachel has the unequivocal support of Lerner, who are determined to continue what is best with Gecko Press, to continue the international list, focusing on books that are curiously good, and yet adding so many extra opportunities.

Finally, to Adam, of course always supported by Maryann – thank you for embracing Gecko Press. I cannot imagine a better home and future for the small gecko, who may now turn into a dragon.

I tried to think of a really good 65th birthday present for Lerner (not for Adam), and then I realized that Gecko Press is our present — with the additional fantasticness that you chose it yourself!

From Rachel and I, we wish you Happy Birthday!