No man may be an island, as John Donne so eloquently wrote, but in the virtual world of Poptropica kids between the ages of 6 and 14 can visit lots of islands and hang out with literary friends. They can stop at Big Nate Island (based on Lincoln Peirce’s cartoon strip, now a bestselling book series) or navigate to Mythology and soon to Wimpy Kid. And with the launch of a Poptropica imprint from Penguin next fall, they’ll also be able to read island-related books.
“We’ve been thinking of books from Poptropica from the get-go,” says Jess Brallier, senior v-p and publisher of Family Entertainment Network, a division of Pearson, which also owns Penguin. “Some people seem to be concerned about the amount of reading kids do because of digital. Yet I think digital encourages reading.” Certainly that was the intent when Brallier, himself an author, and Wimpy Kid creator Jeff Kinney, developed both Poptropica and its predecessor FunBrain, which published Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid online before it moved into print.
By last May, three-year-old Poptropica had become the largest U.S. children’s destination online, according to Quantcast. Although it dipped during the summer, at its peak the site had 10.4 million unique users who visited 35,000,000 times during the month of May, and spent just under a half hour visiting its islands. Brallier attributes Poptropica’s success—it surpassed Disney’s Club Penguin—to the fact that Poptropica is really about stories and not games.
Brallier, who founded the children’s imprint Planet Dexter in 1995, will serve as the Poptropica imprint editor. His goal, he says, is to "carry the DNA," or spirit, of Poptropica over to print. The imprint will launch with a Poptropica guidebook, which will be followed by eight graphic novels that will be released beginning in 2012.