A Visit to the Pet Shop

Scholastic is publishing a range of books tied to the Littlest Pet Shop collectible toy line, manufactured by longtime partner Hasbro. “Pets are always favorites, collectible pets even better,” says Stacy Lellos, Scholastic’s director of licensed publishing. The first three titles, out this fall with a collective print run of 180,000 copies, include a collectors’ handbook, a sticker book and a level 2 reader; nine novelty formats will follow in 2007. The brand is aimed at girls 6—10.

“The editorial focuses on the key attributes of self-expression and individuality, with a little sassiness thrown in,” Lellos says. The books include a mix of lifestyle content (e.g., topics like fashion and friendship), facts and figures about pets, and some fiction elements. “There’s also that collectibility factor,” she adds.

Scholastic’s logo is featured on a cross-sell sheet included in 6.5 million Littlest Pet Shop toy packages shipped this fall—13 million units have been sold since Hasbro introduced the first 80 figures in 2005—and cover art will appear on inserts in additional packages reaching toy shelves for the Christmas 2006 and spring 2007 seasons. The publisher is working with Hasbro on potential distribution opportunities in toy channels.

All channels of trade have embraced the books, Lellos reports. “They’re going in universally, which is a lovely thing for a licensed property,” she says, pointing out that most licenses skew toward mass distribution, such as in Wal-mart and Toys R Us stores, especially when tied to a toy that is sold mainly in mass channels.

Finding Inspiration in Licensing

Simon & Schuster’s Little Simon Inspirations imprint has secured two licenses. The most recent is The Land of Milk and Honey, a property from G Studios, a content development company specializing in inspirational brands. “It’s sweet and whimsical, and the characters are adorable,” says Sonali Fry, editorial director of Little Simon and Little Simon Inspirations, about the property. “It’s a cheerful, sunny make-believe world and a warm, reassuring property.”

The deal authorizes Little Simon Inspirations to publish novelty books. “It gave us the opportunity to explore some unique formats and pull over some formats from Little Simon,” Fry says. The first list, due out in spring 2007, will include two gift sets, a shaped board book with die-cuts and Mylar mirrors, and a board book packaged with a 20-minute music CD. Three more titles will follow later in 2007.

Little Simon Inspirations is trying to increase its presence in both the CBA and gift markets, and Fry notes that the license attracted favorable attention at the CBA show in July. Other Land of Milk and Honey licensees, such as Harvest House and Enesco, already have a presence in Christian stores.

Little Simon Inspirations’ first license was VeggieTales, for which it holds novelty book rights; Simon Scribbles is doing coloring and activity books. Four Inspirations titles launched this fall, including two small, shaped, clip-on board books, a sticker board book with a handle, and a googly-eye board book. Both VeggieTales and The Land of Milk and Honey are preschool licenses, but VeggieTales skews slightly older.

Messages from the Heart

LB Kids, an imprint of Little, Brown, was exploring the cloth book category when it heard that ceramicist Sandra Magsamen was working on a line of infant apparel. The two teamed for a series of cloth books that launched this fall. “The planets aligned and the product was right, and we did a licensing agreement almost immediately,” says Liza Baker, LB Kids editorial director, who previously had worked with Magsamen on a book at Scholastic. “She’s the real deal. She lives what she advocates, this artistic way of life.”

“There are lots of cloth books out there,” Magsamen says. “We got together and decided we would reinvent the category with a handmade feel. And that’s what we did. We stuck to the vision and made it work.” The first two titles under the three-year deal, Baby Love and My Blanket, have won a National Parenting Publications Association Gold Award and an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award, respectively; future titles include Goodnight, Little One and Little Blossom.

Sold under Magsamen’s “Messages from the Heart” banner, the books feature simple inspirational verses for infants and caregivers, a trademark of her work. They also have dual uses—My Blanket can serve as a baby blanket and Baby Love as a crib bumper—and feature several fabrics, plus enhancements such as bells and rattles.

Originally priced at $14.99, the books will retail for $10.99 starting in January. The reduction is due to the large volume of orders and the price point requirements of mass accounts such as Wal-mart and Costco. The initial print run was 50,000 copies a piece, but that figure should grow with the lower price point, according to Baker. The books also are sold in trade channels including Barnes & Noble and Borders.

In Brief

Scholastic Media granted Clifford the Big Red Dog rights to Shutterfly for Internet-distributed, personalized photo books. It is Shutterfly’s first license…. Author Todd Parr and licensing agent SupperTime Entertainment have launched a new brand, My Really Cool Baby by Todd Parr, which is based on Parr’s My Really Cool Baby Book. A new version of the book is planned, along with complementary publishing formats; other categories will include apparel, bedding, gifts and stationery, feeding products and cribs…. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing signed a representation deal with licensing agent Product Lounge for David A. Carter’s Bugs pop-up book series. The companies are looking for licensees in the toy, apparel, school supply, gift, home furnishings, food, electronics and health categories…. Warner Bros. has signed a master toy, gift and specialty products license with NECA for Harry Potter. Products are set to roll out starting with the next film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in July 2007…. Despite the sale of New York’s Toy Center building and its conversion into condos, the American International Toy Fair and Fall Toy Show will continue to be held in the city at least through 2007, at showroom locations and the Javits Center. Dates are October 20—23, 2006 and October 14—17, 2007 for the Fall Toy Shows and February 11—14, 2007 for Toy Fair.