A little board book series has grown mighty with just the wiggle of a kid’s finger – or a few million kids’ fingers. Little Finger Puppet Books are 12-page board books with attached plush finger puppets and peek-a-boo die-cut holes. Due this month are the latest additions to the series: Little Horse Finger Puppet Book and Little Monkey Finger Puppet Book. Launched in 2005 with Little Duck Finger Puppet Book and Little Ladybug Finger Puppet Book, the series now includes 33 titles and has sold close to 3 million copies in the U.S. and the UK; those two debut titles, along with 2006’s Little Bunny Finger Puppet Book, are the line’s top sellers.
Little Finger Puppet Books, to which Chronicle holds world English rights, originated in the Netherlands, where ImageBooks first developed the line in 1999. “We had published many children’s books with puppets on the side, and were looking for a new way to integrate a finger puppet in a board book,” said Michael van Tinteren, the company’s CEO and publisher. “Together with our printing partner, we came up with the solution to make a hole in the center of the board book and glue the puppet between the back layers. When you move the puppet with your finger the stories really come to life. All drawings are hand painted, which adds to the charm.”
The Dutch publisher currently has 50 Little Finger Puppet Books titles in print, and has sold rights to the series in 40 countries. Van Tinteren projects that worldwide sales of the books, which are manufactured in China, will reach 12 million copies by the end of 2013.
“We produce around one million books and puppets annually,” he explained. “The finger puppets are produced at various production plants, and we constantly have productions running. It is always a challenge to get the puppets right. This takes a lot of effort from our product developers and our Chinese partners. Nowadays our clients are becoming ever more demanding on safety issues. That's no problem, as our finger puppet books conform to all safety standards.”
Ginee Seo, children’s publishing director at Chronicle, noted that her team works closely with ImageBooks to develop new title ideas. “They will send us suggestions for the next round of books, and we’ll give them feedback about whether we feel it’s a good idea or not,” she said. “We are constantly giving them input.” Spring 2014 additions to the line are Little Dog and Little Sea Turtle books. Little Black Cat Finger Puppet Book will follow in fall 2014, to tie in with Halloween.
Seo said that the series is an ideal fit for the Chronicle children’s list. “We have established a name for ourselves in the area of interactive concept books for babies,” she explained, “and we are constantly trying to innovate and do more along these lines.”
Little Finger Puppet Books sell well in both traditional trade book outlets and in specialty stores, Seo added. “At $6.99, the books are a great impulse purchase,” she said. “They are really portable, and the stories and the puppets are very cute. And they are a good non-device way of entertaining your little one, who probably shouldn’t be messing around with an iPad anyway, at least according to the American Pediatric Association. The series is very reliable for us year after year, and I have every expectation that it will continue to be popular.”
Little Horse Finger Puppet Book by ImageBooks. Chronicle, $6.99 Aug. ISBN 978-1-4521-1249-7
Little Monkey Finger Puppet Book by ImageBooks. Chronicle, $6.99 Aug. 978-1-4521-1250-3