When singer-songwriter Peter Yarrow finally decided to make "Puff, the Magic Dragon" into a children's book, how did he pitch it to publishers? By strapping on his guitar, of course. Earlier this year Yarrow and his agent, Paula Allen of Screenland Literary Associates, made the rounds of several children's houses, and a singalong of "Puff" took place at every stop.
Sterling was the winning bidder, in what Allen termed "a significant six-figure deal" that has just been finalized. Puff, the Magic Dragon will make its picture book debut next fall, as the first part of a more extensive publishing program with Yarrow. Day Is Done, another Yarrow song, follows in 2008; Puff and Day will each be packaged with a CD, featuring Yarrow and his daughter Bethany. In addition, four themed book-and-CD collections are in the works.
Charles Nurnberg, president and CEO of Sterling, described the pitch meeting with Yarrow as "a sight to behold. All of senior management was sitting there singing 'Puff, the Magic Dragon.' You could see the opportunity once you heard the song." He believes that Puff has the potential to be a #1 bestseller. "It's one of those songs with huge recognition from every age level," he said.
Puff will be edited by Frances Gilbert, editor-in-chief of children's books at Sterling, and will be illustrated by Eric Puybaret, a French artist.
Yarrow, who continues to tour extensively, remarked on the enduring popularity of "Puff," which he co-wrote with Lenny Lipton, and which was a huge hit for Peter, Paul & Mary in 1962. "The fact that generations of children have been brought up to listen to that song and be moved by it is an astonishing acknowledgment of the song's place and its effect on people," Yarrow said. "The book is intended to capture the spirit of the song, and honor the way it has been viewed and embraced." Yarrow, surely a countercultural icon, says he was he's extremely pleased with the home he has found at Sterling. "The spirit in the room was just remarkable," he said. He is not unaware of B&N's corporate ownership of Sterling, but comments, "It's important to me that Sterling sells to bookstores nationwide and around the world."
Puff will have a first printing of 100,000 copies, says Nurnberg.