There’s significant movement—on-page and in sales—at Denver-based Accord Publishing, a division of Andrews McMeel. In Bee & Me, an October 2008 release written by Elle J. Mcguinness and illustrated by Heather Brown, a bumblebee appears to fly, thanks to a moving-image technique the publisher calls AniMotion. Featuring additional animated images and an environment-themed story about a boy who overcomes his fear of bees after meeting a talking bumblebee, the book has taken flight. Accord has sold 150,000 copies and has just returned to press for an additional 50,000. Due in April is the second AniMotion title, Mcguinness’s Baby Turtle’s Tale, illustrated by Romi Caron.
Developed by Jeff Cole, Accord’s in-house paper engineer, with help from designer Heather Brown, the animation technology of AniMotion (patent pending) is based on a technique first patented in 1919. Yet, explains publisher Christopher Navratil, “The specific construct used in our books, where five or more images run beneath an acetate window creating the allusion of animation, was completely developed by Jeff and enhanced by Heather’s design.”
Though the animation in Rufus Butler Seder’s bestselling Gallop! and Swing! for Workman offers a different variation on the original 1919 patent, Navratil notes that the Accord titles are the first books to incorporate full color into the animation. He emphasizes that the AniMotion series exemplifies the company’s mission of using novelty components to enhance books’ narrative structure and illustrations. “Searching out innovative formats and materials is the focus of our children’s list, but we are always interested in substantive text and art to accompany the novelty elements,” he says.
Navratil reports that sales of Bee & Me (which appears on PW’s February 16 children’s bestseller list, as do Gallop! and Swing!) are almost evenly divided among markets. He says that the book “has sold well in all channels,” including independent and chain stores, gift stores and mass market outlets. Accord’s editions of Bee & Me and Baby Turtle’s Tale have also had strong sales in Australia and New Zealand, he adds. Not surprisingly, stores in locations near sea turtle habitats, including Florida and Hawaii, have placed impressive advance orders of the second AniMotion volume.
Meghan Goel, children’s book buyer at Book People in Austin, Tex., expects her store will do as well with Baby Turtle’s Tale as it has with Bee & Me, which “has been very popular,” she says. “The moving image concept has really caught on and, coming on the heels of Gallop!, Bee & Me has sold well for us. The floor display got a lot of attention and brought the book front and center.” Goel adds that the book has also done well at the local school book fairs supplied by her store: “It’s definitely a kid buy. They are really drawn to those moving images.”
At Main Street Books in St. Charles, Mo., owner Vicki Erwin makes a similar observation. “Bee & Me is a book that really catches a kid’s eye and really sells itself,” she says. “It has movement, color and a strong ecological story, too.” Erwin explains that she quickly sold out her floor display and placed a reorder. As an added bonus, Bee & Me has helped keep peace in her store. “This is one of those books that I always use to entertain kids when they get fussy,” she says. “They look at the moving pictures and they always giggle.”
Accord has created a 15-copy floor display for Baby Turtle’s Tale, which has a 75,000-copy first printing,and plans to promote the book through outreach to aquarium stores. Spreading additional word about the series and its technology is a video about the creation of Bee & Me, currently posted on a dedicated Web site and on YouTube. A subsequent video will focus on the third AniMotion book, Lights Out, Nights Out, about nocturnal animals, due in fall 2009.