Dinosaur Train Still on Track
After two years, books tied to the PBS Kids series Dinosaur Train, produced and licensed by Jim Henson Productions, continue to sell well, with Penguin and Random House both recently renewing their deals. Publications International and Reader’s Digest are also on board.
Together, the four companies have shipped more than 1 million units, according to Melissa Segal, Henson’s senior v-p of global consumer products. “They seem to do very well wherever the books are placed. We’re in the Walmart planogram as well as in trade bookstores.” She credits boys’ love for dinosaurs, crossover girl appeal, and the show’s educational value as among the key reasons for the program’s success. “Boys especially love dinosaur facts and data, and that translates well in publishing,” Segal says.
From the beginning of the program in August 2010 through summer 2013, Penguin’s Grosset & Dunlap imprint has published or scheduled 21 board books, storybooks, and nonfiction leveled readers; Random House has published or scheduled 21 titles, including e-book editions as well as coloring and activity titles and Golden Books. Publications International has four soundbooks and Reader’s Digest 11 novelty titles published or planned.
Segal notes that while the show has consistently ranked in the top 10 among audiences ages 2-5, it has recently moved into the top 10 for kids 2-8. “We think they’re sticking with the property as they’re getting older,” she says.
More than 100 titles have been published globally, with just over half of those being in the U.S. Among international territories, France, Australia, and Portugal have proven especially strong. When Henson renewed its deal with Grosset & Dunlap, it added Penguin’s U.K.-based Puffin imprint to the program.
A Story of the Supernatural
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers’ publishing program tied to Paranorman, the stop-motion film that debuted in theaters August 17, grew out of a Bologna Book Fair meeting that the company’s editorial director for brand, licensed, and media tie-in publishing, Erin Stein, had with a representative from LAIKA, producer of Coraline and Paranorman. “I looked at some concept artwork she had and it was amazing and gorgeous and creepy at the same time,” Stein says. “The movie coming out will generate interest, but it’s also a great story and will appeal to kids as a book on its own. It can be hard [to sell a licensed title to retail] when it’s a smaller movie. That was one reason we wanted it to be a great book on its own merit. We’ve had some success doing hardcover [film tie-in] novels with a little bit more in them than the movie.”
LAIKA allowed author Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, who wrote the Suddenly Supernatural series for Little, Brown, to add some scenes that do not appear in the film. The covers and interior frontispieces feature original illustrations by one of the film’s artists. And, under the dust jacket, the case cover is printed to look like a book the main character, Norman, carries around in the movie. “That’s a little surprise for the movie fans,” Stein says.
In addition to the hardcover storybook, Little, Brown will release an 8x8 storybook and a level-two reader, both with illustrated covers and interior movie stills.
'Dark Knight' Rises, HarperCollins Publishes
HarperCollins Children’s Books continues its longstanding relationship with Warner Bros.’ and DC Comics’ Batman, publishing eight titles tied to the most recent blockbuster film, The Dark Knight Rises. They include a junior novelization, two readers, two 8x8s, an activity book, and a movie scrapbook. Some, such as the readers and 8x8s, feature original illustrations, while others, such as the scrapbook, contain movie stills.
While the film is dark, the books are targeted largely toward children 4-8. “This is our third trip with the Dark Knight,” says David Linker, executive editor, referring to the previous two films in the Christopher Nolan-directed trilogy. “We’ve become expert at figuring out the plotlines that work for this age group.”
Linker notes that Harper’s classic Batman program does consistently well, propelled by television shows and other media vehicles. “It’s an ongoing and all-the-time presence” in retail channels from mass to trade, he explains. “There’s always a Batman section. But with the movie, there’s a big spike in the classic program.” Retailers bring out all the Batman titles and give them premium display space to capitalize on the film, he adds. “It juices the interest.”
Other Dark Knight publishers include Titan Books for the official adult tie-in novelization, Abrams for “art of” and “making of” books, and Insight Editions for The Dark Knight Manual and a coffee table book on the history of the Batmobile.
Nonfiction Author-Illustrator Launches Licensing Effort
While many children’s book authors license their artwork for consumer products, it is relatively rare for nonfiction authors to do so. But Edward Miller, an author and illustrator of 40 nonfiction books, mostly on math and science topics, has begun licensing out his imagery for home decor, apparel, party supplies, and paper goods. His inaugural booth at Licensing International Expo in June led to serious discussions with two potential licensees.
“With the publishing industry as it is today, it seemed like now is the time,” says Miller, known for colorful, whimsical, retro-style images that appeal to both boys and girls. Licensed products will be aimed at children ages 4-8 – the sweet spot for his books as well – and the original artwork being offered for licensing includes themes such as pirates, robots, cats, and outer space.
Miller’s books as author-illustrator range from The Tooth Book to The Monster Health Book, while his illustrated titles include a series of math books with author David Adler, including Fractions, Decimals, and Percents and Fun with Roman Numerals. All of these are with Holiday House; Miller also has worked with Abrams, Henry Holt, Scholastic, and HarperCollins. He is a former associate art director at Random House.
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