Superman Goes to School
Stone Arch Books, the fiction imprint of Capstone Publishing, is launching its first licensed book line with a series of chapter books for struggling readers that feature DC Comics characters. The initial January 2009 roster will include six Batman and six Superman books; Wonder Woman will be added in the second season. The total program, distributed in the school and public library market, will include 48 titles over four seasons.
The deal came about when one of DC Comics’ reps, who happened to have two sons who were reluctant readers, noticed Stone Arch’s books and thought that pairing those with DC characters would be a good way to get boys to read. She suggested that Stone Arch contact the appropriate people at DC. “Struggling readers really want to read about heroes,” said Michael Dahl, Stone Arch editorial director, noting that the books will include original illustrations by DC Comics artists. “This license will really get a kid to pick up a book.” The titles, for children in grades 3—6 with a reading level of grades 2—3, will develop vocabulary and reading skills in the context of the well-known action franchise. “We worked very carefully with DC on being consistent with the world of DC Comics,” Dahl adds.
Maryellen Gregoire, Stone Arch’s director of planning, says the company is considering adapting more licensed characters for the school and library market, a relatively new strategy in this channel. She reports that, once licensors became aware of Stone Arch’s deal with DC, more of them began contacting the company. “They tend to talk amongst themselves,” she says. A few proposals for future licensed lines currently are on the table.
Walter Foster Adds Licenses
Walter Foster Publishing has added a number of new licenses to its roster of how-to-draw books, including several preschool properties, among them HIT Entertainment’s Thomas & Friends and Bob the Builder, Sesame Workshop’s Sesame Street, and Universal Studios’ Curious George. “The 4+ segment has been a big driver for us the last few years,” says president Ross Sarracino, who adds that developing how-to-draw books for this age group can require creativity. “It’s not just straight how-to-draw,” he explains; the books often include pads, stickers and a simple storyline, for example.
Walter Foster began its licensing program by doing large initiatives with a few licensors, with Disney becoming its first partner in 1989. It now has a combination of broad efforts—such as Disney with 36 titles and Nickelodeon with 20—and programs encompassing just one or two books. All are targeted at the 4+ and 6—8+ age groups. “The licensors would like you to have a major program every year, but you just can’t do that with every license,” Sarracino says. “You have to really think about how you’re going to present these in the marketplace.” A selection of the company’s recent licenses illustrates the diversity of its roster; they include NASCAR, Garfield, Uglydoll and the marine artist Wyland.
Sarracino points out that it is not difficult to attract licensors to the 87-year-old company: “A lot of the artists at the different licensors grew up with Walter Foster.”
Giddy Up Launches How-To Line with Disney
Giddy Up is launching a new How-To line of tween-targeted craft/activity books this fall, with three Disney-licensed titles tied to High School Musical, Hannah Montana and Camp Rock. It plans to add Nickelodeon’s iCarly to the line later this season.
Giddy Up, a six-year-old company that was purchased by Elmer’s two years ago, combines licenses with unique technology and packaging and is known for its titles featuring color-change and reveal inks. “We strive to create products that are relevant to the licensed property, a good value to the consumer, and just fun to play with,” says Nicole Bigelow, licensing manager.
Disney is a new license for Giddy Up, which holds rights to all of the studio’s Disney and Pixar properties. It also publishes titles based on Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues, Dora the Explorer, Backyardigans, Fairly OddParents, SpongeBob SquarePants and, new this fall, WonderPets, as well as Mattel’s Barbie, Sanrio’s Hello Kitty, Hasbro’s My Little Pony, Sesame Workshop’s Sesame Street, Marvel’s Spider-Man and American Greetings’ Care Bears.
Giddy Up’s books are sold at stores ranging from Target and Toys R Us to airport stores, Avon and Cracker Barrel. There is a large Giddy Up section at Borders, whose corporate headquarters is five minutes from Giddy Up’s in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Martha Speaks the Language of Licensing
The debut of Susan Meddaugh’s Martha Speaks as an animated series on PBS in September opens the door for licensing and tie-in publishing activity. Erica Lindberg-Gourd, president of Lindberg Licensing, plans a merchandising effort to include arts and crafts, puzzles, games and plush to appear in book and specialty stores starting in fall 2009, followed by other products such as greeting cards, party goods, apparel and pet accessories.
Also in fall 2009, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will introduce a line of TV tie-in titles including picture books, readers and chapter books, with four to five books on the initial list, each based on an episode. Formats for younger children may follow. “There’s an emphasis on vocabulary in the show itself, and often the vocabulary is quite challenging,” says senior editor Monica Perez.
This fall, HMH is introducing refreshed versions of the original paperbacks, featuring a mention of the show on the cover as well as added-value items such as stickers or audio. “We want to make sure people are aware there are seven books in the original series,” Perez says.
Book-Based Properties Announce Merchandise Efforts
Three licensors have recently announced licensing plans for upcoming book-based TV shows and films.
Nelvana Enterprises will license Scaredy Squirrel in conjunction with a series of animated shorts and a half-hour TV series that will debut on YTV in Canada in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Kids Can Press, which, like YTV and Nelvana, is a division of Corus Entertainment, will release the fourth book in Mélanie Watt’s series, Scaredy Squirrel at Night, in spring 2009. Mark Northwood, Nelvana’s v-p licensing for the Americas, says merchandise such as plush will be available at book and specialty stores in advance of the TV series, followed by a broader program targeting children (mostly girls) ages 6—11. “This will be one of our premiere brands for 2010,” he adds.
Also coming to television is Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest. The TV series, which comes from Japan, is being translated for the U.S. market by DCI-LA, which also handles licensing. Publisher Scholastic has sold more than 10 million copies of the book franchise, which consists of three seven-book story arcs, worldwide. “The [TV] series is very true to the books,” says Marc Harrington, DCI-LA’s v-p business development. Most licensing activity will be held until after the show is on the air. “It’s a Lord of the Rings meets Yu-Gi-Oh!-type property,” Harrington explains, that will lend itself to figures, role-play toys and other items for boys 7—12.
Finally, on the film side, Darren Shan’s 12-book, 12-million-copy-selling fantasy-adventure franchise Cirque du Freak will be made into a live-action movie by Universal Pictures in 2009. NBC/Universal plans a licensing and promotional program featuring likenesses of the snakeboys, bearded ladies, wolfmen and vampires that populate the movie and books, the latter of which are often used for in-school reading programs to encourage boys to read.
Entertainment Rights, on behalf of Random House, adds a number of licensees to its Little Golden Books merchandise program, including Briefly Stated for juniors sleepwear and loungewear, Giant Merchandising for t-shirts, BioWorld Merchandising for accessories, Cranston for fabrics, and CSS Industries for Halloween costumes.... Big Tent Entertainment signed Parragon Books for a line of 24 illustrated nonfiction titles under the Discovery Kids brand. Formats include reference sticker books, hardcover reference books with stickers and poster, 32-page hard- and softcover readers with stickers, and 224-page hardcover reference books.... Big Tent also licensed Scholastic for an 80-page hardcover for the school market, to be released January 2009, called Domo Unplugged, based on the Japanese multi-platform character Domo.... Chorion grants rights to KODAK Gallery for personalized photo cards, invitations and photo books featuring the designs of Eric Carle, and to Slitherine Strategies for Horrible Histories computer and videogames, the latter brokered by AT Brands.... Paramount Licensing granted Pegasus Hobbies the rights to make plastic model kits based on The War of the Worlds movie.