There is cause for celebration on Publishers' Row. Babar is turning 80, The Phantom Tollbooth has spent five decades in print, and the Magic School Bus has been zipping along for a quarter-century. These are just three of the iconic picture-book characters, modern classics, or popular series that are marking milestones in the months ahead. Here's a sampling of anniversary observances in the works, as well as some marketers' input on making the most of publishing anniversaries.
Releasing anniversary editions of strong sellers is an obvious way to boost sales. "A new edition can give a book frontlist status and gives booksellers an impetus to reorder and reposition the book," says Linda Magram, v-p and director of children's book marketing at HMH. She also mentions the benefit of offering popular books in a repackaged format, as her company did last year with The Complete Adventures of Curious George: 70th Anniversary Edition and will do in the fall with Martha Speaks Story Time Collection, a roundup of this talking dog's original adventures.
Anniversary editions also provide an opportunity to update the look of a book, several publishers observe. "If it is an important book on our backlist, we'll try to do an anniversary edition," says Susan Van Metre, senior v-p and publisher of Abrams Books for Young Readers. "It's a chance for us to refresh the design of a book in hopes it will get more prominent placement on the shelf." Event kits are also a plus, she adds, as "they can help bookstores get behind anniversaries."
The marketing mileage anniversaries provide is somewhat dependent on the number of years being observed, notes John Adamo, senior v-p of marketing and communications for Random House Children's Books. "The big milestones—50, 75, 100—tend to resonate more with retailers and consumers. That, coupled with the nostalgic factor for a beloved book, makes our job much easier." He also points out the advantage of adding extra content—an interview with the author, material on the book's back story—to "add value and create a richer package. This can be a great anniversary hook."
'The Phantom Tollbooth' Turns 50
More than a half-century ago, Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer met while sharing a Brooklyn Heights apartment. They became fast friends and collaborated on a book that has gone on to sell close to four million copies for Knopf. In October, the publisher will release The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition, which includes a preface by Juster; brief essays of appreciation by authors, educators, and artists, among them Philip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, and Mo Willems; an essay Maurice Sendak penned for the novel's 35th anniversary; and photos of Juster and Feiffer, past and present.
Also in October, Knopf will bring out The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, featuring an introduction, notes, and commentary by Leonard S. Marcus; selections from interviews with Juster and Feiffer; and excerpts from Juster's notes and drafts. And to coincide with the anniversary, Knopf will also release Neville, a new picture book by Juster about a boy who finds an unusual way to make friends in his new neighborhood, featuring illustrations by G. Brian Karas.
An 80th Birthday for 'Babar'
Jean de Brunhoff first brought Babar to life in 1931 in The Story of Babar, which was inspired by a bedtime story created by his mother, Cecile de Brunhoff. The creativity remained in the family when their son, Laurent, picked up the pen after Jean's death and continued Babar's legacy. There are currently 10 million copies of Babar books in print in the U.S. alone—a figure that encompasses tales published by Abrams and Random House. On the 80th anniversary of Babar's debut and in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics, Abrams is publishing Laurent de Brunhoff's Babar's Celesteville Games. Due out this month with a 50,000-copy first printing, the book reveals elephants and other animals competing in a host of athletic competitions.
Howard W. Reeves, editor-at-large for Abrams Books for Young Readers, acquired the rights to Laurent's backlist in 2001. "As a child I had been captivated by the Babar stories, and so was delighted to become Laurent's new editor and publisher, bringing the Babar books into the 21st century and to a new generation," he says. Abrams is touting Babar's birthday with a media promotional push and a national bookstore tour of a new Babar costume. In December, the Toy Gallery at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris will host an exhibition of Babar memorabilia and contemporary licensed products.
'James and the Giant Peach' Reaches Half-Century Mark
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, which has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 34 languages. According to his daughter, Lucy Dahl, the novel was inspired by a cherry tree behind her father's writing hut. Allegedly, birds were constantly eating the fruit before it could ripen, so the author hypothesized what would happen if the cherries were allowed to grow bigger. Musing that the inside of a peach would be more fun to live in, Dahl eventually decided to have his main character enter that fruit.
To commemorate the anniversary, Puffin has recently released a 50th-anniversary edition of the novel, which it is promoting with a "Follow That Peach" online initiative, which encourages kids to send a personalized virtual "Peach-gram" to friends, and with a "Peachstakes," whose grand prize winner will land a trip to London for a tour of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.
A Trio of Books Mark ‘A Wrinkle in Time' 's 50th Year
Released in 1962, Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery-winning A Wrinkle in Time currently has 10 million copies in print in the U.S. In January, Macmillan Children's Publishing Group will issue A Wrinkle in Time 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition in both a Farrar, Straus and Giroux hardcover and a Square Fish paperback. The newly designed books, which have respective first printings of 40,000 and 100,000 copies, include an introduction by Katherine Paterson; L'Engle's Newbery acceptance speech; never-before-published photos; and an afterword by L'Engle's granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis. Due in September 2012 from FSG is A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, adapted by Hope Larson.
Among the promotion plans for the anniversary editions are a social media campaign (A Wrinkle in Time's Facebook fan page has nearly 100,000 fans); a new Madeleine L'Engle Web site launch; and anniversary celebrations in bookstores, at 2012 school and library conferences, and at Comic-Con, SF, and fantasy conventions.
Celebrating 50 Years of ‘The Snowy Day'
In 1962, Ezra Jack Keats wrote and illustrated The Snowy Day, which follows a boy as he explores his city neighborhood after winter's first snowfall. Published during the civil rights movement, the book was groundbreaking for its portrayal of a young African-American protagonist, and it was awarded the 1963 Caldecott Medal. This month Viking releases an oversized anniversary edition of the book, which includes eight pages of bonus material about Keats and his work.
From September 9 to January 29, Manhattan's Jewish Museum will host an exhibit, "The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats," which features more than 80 original works by the artist. In January, Penguin plans a marketing campaign that includes an in-store merchandising kit featuring a character standee, a dedicated Web site, a counter display, and activity sheets.
Mr. Men Still Greedy, Happy, Nosey After All These Years
In 1971, while working in advertising, aspiring British cartoonist Roger Hargreaves wrote and illustrated a children's story called Mr. Tickle, allegedly after his son Adam asked him what a tickle looked like. This little book launched the Mr. Men series, joined in 1981 by Little Miss. Titled according to their boldly hued protagonists' personalities, the Mr. Men books have sold a reported 120 million copies worldwide.
To mark the series' 40th anniversary, Penguin's Price Stern Sloan imprint will release Mr. Men 40th Anniversary Box Set (Oct.), which compiles the first 10 Mr. Men books, including Mr. Greedy, Mr. Happy, Mr. Nosey—and of course Mr. Tickle. Due the same month is Mr. Men: 12 Days of Christmas by Roger Hargreaves, illustrated by Adam Hargreaves.
A 30th Anniversary for 'Jumanji'
A jungle-themed board game springs to life in Chris Van Allsburg's Jumanji, which itself has had a vibrant life, winning the 1982 Caldecott Medal and having been adapted as a feature film in 1995. Robin Williams, who starred in that movie, reads the book on a CD that is packaged with Houghton Mifflin's Jumanji 30th Anniversary Edition, due in October. The picture book sports a new jacket featuring a full bleed of charging rhinoceroses, hinting at the adventure that lies within.
"We've jazzed up the cover to give it a fresher look to introduce the book to a new audience of readers who perhaps just knew the film," says Magram at HMH. "And we added the CD for additional appeal and value, since we're offering the package at the same price as the original book."
The Magic School Bus Still on the Move at 25
Written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, Scholastic's The Magic School Bus series first rolled out in 1986 with The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks. Eleven additional adventures about Ms. Frizzle and her class have followed, as well as a television series, which has been on the air for 17 consecutive years and has been viewed in 39 countries. Including media tie-ins, there are more than 58 million Magic School Bus titles in print in the U.S.
Scholastic's celebratory marketing campaign includes a seven-month touring show, "The Magic School Bus LIVE! The Climate Challenge," which will debut in Berkeley, Calif., in the fall and make stops in more than 60 cities; a new "Where Will the Bus Take You" online game; and a Scholastic Media promotion with a quick-service restaurant chain to be announced. In addition, the Young Scientists Club has created four new Magic School Bus Science Kits, available online and in specialty stores, and Scholastic Interactive is launching "The Magic School Bus: Oceans" on Nintendo DS, and a Touch & Tilt book app for iPad, "The Magic School Bus: Dinosaurs."
Jamaica Series Has 25th Birthday
Juanita Havill first introduced the character of Jamaica to picture book readers in 1986, when Houghton Mifflin published Jamaica's Find. That book was named an IRA-CBC Children's Choice selection and won Havill the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. Five additional titles have appeared in the series, which is illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien and currently has almost one million books in print.
"The Jamaica stories were groundbreaking for their presentation of African-American characters in everyday life scenes," Magram notes. "These are not issue books, but simple, beautifully done picture books that teachers especially have embraced." Calling the educational market "the sweet spot for this series," Magram explains that this is the target for HMH's 25th anniversary promotion, which includes ads in Learning magazine, book giveaways, and social media and blog promotions.
At 20, Martha Still Speaks to Kids
Two decades have passed since Susan Meddaugh's Martha ate her first bowl of alphabet soup in Martha Speaks, and the loquacious pup hasn't stopped chattering since. This picture book spawned five additional tales, which have sold more than 850,000 copies across various formats. Martha also appears in a line of books tying into her PBS television show, which attracts more than four million viewers each week.
To celebrate this milestone, HMH Books is issuing Martha Speaks Story Time Collection Special 20th Anniversary Edition, which features a new introduction by Meddaugh and sticker sheets. Due in September, this paper-over-board book has a 100,000-copy first printing. A new Martha Speaks event kit will be available next spring. Martha also stars in an iPhone app that has received more than 15,000 downloads to date, tweets as @pbsmarthaspeaks on Twitter, and has her own Facebook fan page—proving that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks.