Scholastic Rides the Rails

Scholastic has acquired the rights to Chuggington, a train-themed preschool property targeting boys and girls, licensed by Ludorum and airing on Playhouse Disney. “We were excited to come on board,” says Lynn Smith, Scholastic’s director of licensed publishing. “It’s the perfect preschool program for us. We liked the energy, the community aspect, and the fact that one of the ‘trainees’—the fastest one—is a girl.” Scholastic is releasing an 8x8 for the school market this fall, then five titles for retail starting in January 2011, including the same 8x8, a reader, a die-cut shaped board book, a sticker story book and an oversize board book with flaps.

Another new property for Scholastic is Alpha and Omega, a Lionsgate film scheduled for September release. The company will publish a junior novel with insert, a humorous reader, and an 8x8 two-in-one flip book, with fiction on one side and nonfiction on the other, in August. Each will include an introduction by a cast member.

“For Alpha and Omega, it was all about the story,” Smith says, describing the film as sort of a Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending, starring wolves. The property’s other qualities, she adds, include humor that reaches both kids and adults, a not-heavy-handed environmental message, good timing for the school market, and a great cast. Unusually for a property with a core audience aged 6-11, it appeals to both boys and girls. “There’s the romance, but it’s very adventurous and very funny,” Smith explains.

Scholastic is in talks with the licensors and key licensees of both Alpha and Omega and Chuggington about cross-promotions.

Spotlight on Licensing

School and library publisher ABDO Publishing Group launched its Spotlight imprint in 2006 to distribute library editions of licensed graphic novels into the school market, with Marvel its first major partner. It has since expanded to include licensed chapter books and graphic novels based on Warner Bros.’ Scooby Doo, Lucasfilm’s Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Hasbro’s Transformers, NASCAR, and Disney’s Hannah Montana, Princess Protection Program and others. Deals are with the licensor and/or the publisher of the original book or graphic novel content.

“There was a little resistance from the library side when we first launched in 2006, but now they want whatever kids will read,” says Dan Verdick, ABDO’s director of marketing. “We’ve done whatever we can to get rid of that cliché of the seventh-grade teacher confiscating the comic book.”

Recent additions include Scooby Doo, which introduces students to the mystery genre, and the upcoming Star Wars Infinity. “We’re selling Star Wars like crazy,” Verdick says. In some cases, licensors go through their archives to find content, as Lucasfilm did with the 1990s-era Indiana Jones titles.

A Smiley Face for S&S

When Jon Anderson, executive v-p and publisher, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, saw a French edition of a search-and-find book called Where’s Smiley?, he brought a copy back to the office and gave it to an art director, who took it home to his kids. “He had to pry it out of their hands,” Anderson says. “That confirmed my gut reaction. There was just something very appealing about the artwork.” He acquired English-language rights from SmileyWorld Ltd., the licensor of the Smiley brand, which includes more than 1,900 icons and has generated over $1 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise worldwide. S&S is publishing the original book and following that up with two Smiley board books in the fall.

Meanwhile, the company has been happy with the performance of its first tie-in titles to the Olivia 3D-animated TV show. “They’re selling like crazy,” Anderson reports, citing both the original picture books as well as the tie-ins. “Everything has picked up.” Author Ian Falconer’s first new picture book in three years, Olivia Goes to Venice, is scheduled for release this fall.

Digital Novel Launches Licensing Program

The BradField Company, owner of an interactive book series called Inanimate Alice, has retained donna.m.bruschi consulting to license the brand for educational products, trade publishing, and interactive games and devices. Middle school students are the sweet spot for the property.

The story is a 10-episode arc that takes place over eight years. As the protagonist, whose point of view the readers see, ages through college, the story becomes more complex, going from a relatively simple interactive story produced in Adobe Flash to digital video and then to gaming. Four episodes have been completed and the licensor is seeking funding for the remainder.

“It keeps kids engaged because they need to participate to move forward,” says agent Donna Bruschi. The concept was intended as entertainment, but was refocused after educators latched on to it as a multifaceted way to teach art, math, engineering, information technology, geography, culture, and creative writing. BradField is developing curriculum packs, and teachers are creating their own and posting them online for other educators to use. “Without an ounce of money being spent on it, 3,000 schools have downloaded it,” Bruschi reports.

Promotional Round-Up

Books have been the focus of a number of promotional tie-ins in recent weeks. For example, Anchor Bay Entertainment supported the release of its latest Wow! Wow! Wubbzy DVD, Escape from Dino Island, in May with a number of promotional tie-ins, including one in which consumers who purchased a Wubbzy DVD and a package of Joy Cone Company ice cream cones could send in for two of Scholastic’s Wubbzy books, A Tail of Tails and Special Delivery, for $2 shipping and handling.

A promotion for Parmalat Canada’s Black Diamond Funcheez brand featured a giveaway of three customized, limited-edition bilingual Franklin mini-books from Kids Can Press, including Franklin at School, Franklin at Home and Franklin at Play. Three more titles will be released in October and three more in February 2010.

Author Todd Parr wrote and illustrated a new children’s book, Let’s Fix Dinner, for frozen food marketer Stouffer’s, to be released in August. Proceeds from sales of the book, produced by SupperTime Entertainment, will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.

And Chronicle Books promoted The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Weird Junior Edition with a Totally Weird Super Contest on, a video sharing and social networking site. Kids are invited in May and June to upload videos explaining the weirdest, strangest or creepiest thing they can imagine.

In Brief

Bendon recently acquired the Nickelodeon license for coloring and activity, board, story and educational books for dollar stores…. Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrated the 50th anniversary of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish on World Oceans Day, June 8, in partnership with Random House, The Ocean Project and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Meanwhile, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, based on Random House’s The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series, will launch on PBS Kids on September 6.… Borders will be the exclusive retailer for merchandise based on 16 Wishes, a Disney Channel movie from MarVista Entertainment. Products will include books, bookmarks and journals from Ink Media, as well as t-shirts, calendars, necklaces and keychains, a light-up journal, posters, and bracelets. The chain also will host in-store and online promotional events…. Scholastic Media signed Apex Marketing and Bioworld to make t-shirts and backpacks, respectively, for The 39 Clues. The backpacks will be sold exclusively in Borders. It also signed a number of deals for Clifford the Big Red Dog, including with Trevco for t-shirts, Starry Story for original prints and lithographs, Kidz Toyz for musical instruments and Healthy Chocolate for chocolates, mostly organic…. HIT Entertainment signed Topsville as U.S. master apparel licensee for Angelina Ballerina. Products will feature images from Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps, the 3D-animated TV series on PBS Kids. HIT also signed Fisher-Price as the master toy licensee, with a fall 2010 launch exclusively at Target…. Chorion signed Fruit of the Loom (U.S.), Crystal Martin (U.K.), Sahinler Group (France and Germany), Blues Clothing (France), and TV Mania (Germany) for Mr. Men and Little Miss apparel…. Warner Bros. expanded its agreement with Zazzle, an online retailer of on-demand merchandise, adding shops for Harry Potter, DC Comics and other properties. As part of the agreement, Warner granted Zazzle limited-time exclusive access to art from five classic comic books as part of its celebration of DC’s 75th anniversary. Separately, Warner and licensee The Noble Collection expanded their line of collectible Harry Potter wands from 20 to 60…. A raft of book-related digital licensing news: Oceanhouse Media has expanded its range of Dr. Seuss iPhone, iTouch and iPad apps, adding The Lorax, One Fish Two Fish and Oh, the Places You’ll Go!; Capcom Mobile has released a sequel to the Where’s Waldo? Fantasy Journey app, licensed by Classic Media and produced by Ludia, which has sold over a million units since its release in December 2009; school and library publisher Capstone has adapted its first e-book, Finn Reeder Flu Fighter, for iPad, iPhone and iTouch, and is releasing a Nintendo DSi game, Spot It Challenge; and licensor Chorion recently retained interactive consultant AT New Media to look for opportunities for Mr. Men and Little Miss in PC, console, handheld and mobile games and apps.