Two familiar media personalities are publishing picture books this month with Penguin’s Celebra Children’s Books. TV host and actor Mario Lopez has written Mario & Baby Gia, featuring art by Maryn Roos, about young Mario’s close rapport with his toddler cousin and other family members. And celebrity blogger Perez Hilton has penned The Boy with Pink Hair, illustrated by Jen Hill, an anti-bullying tale that centers on a “special boy, different from the rest,” who uses his talents to make a difference in the world.
The Boy with Pink Hair, with a 75,000-copy first printing, and Mario & Baby Gia, rolling off press with 50,000 copies, are only the second and third children’s books (following 2009’s Mud Tacos, written by Lopez and his sister, Marissa Lopez Wong) to be released by Celebra Books. The imprint was launched in 2007 to publish adult and children’s books by mainstream Hispanic leaders in various fields, including entertainment, politics, health, and business. Well-known names on Celebra’s adult list include Geraldo Rivera, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Jorge Perez, and Lopez and Hilton, who have also published adult nonfiction titles with the imprint.
Raymond Garcia, Celebra’s publisher, explains that "the same mission fuels" Celebra’s adult and children’s publishing programs. "Celebra Books is first and foremost a celebrity-driven imprint with a specific focus on mainstream Hispanic authors who write books that resonate with the general public as well as with Hispanics," he says. "It’s very important to us to maximize our authors’ potential in both markets, and not pigeonhole their books as Hispanic titles. ‘Celebra’ is a Spanish word that means ‘to celebrate,’ which speaks to our goal of heralding Hispanic industry leaders with bestselling publishing programs."
The imprint releases approximately 12 adult titles and one or two children’s books annually. Noting that the adult list is exclusively nonfiction, Garcia remarks, "It’s a lot of fun for us to work on these children’s fiction books. It’s endearing to see where the authors’ inspiration comes from for these stories. The books are truly passion projects for them, and it becomes a labor of love for all of us involved."
As examples, he points to both Lopez and Hilton’s most recent efforts. "Mario & Baby Gia and The Boy with Pink Hair both embody values that these authors feel very strongly about," he observes. "Both picture books have a strong and clear moral to them, and it’s evident that these are very personal books and that the authors are writing about things they hold dearest to them. “In large part that’s what will make these books mean a lot to readers and be successful."
Both titles garnered considerable pre-pub buzz in the media, and both authors are currently chatting up their books on the airwaves. Hilton has appeared on several national television shows this month, including Today, The Joy Behar Show, Access Hollywood Live and The Talk. He’s also making selected bookstore appearances. Lopez, too, has appeared on national TV this month, including Today, and will appear on The Talk next week.
Garcia reports that early bookseller response to the two releases has been very positive, commenting, "It’s gratifying when accounts embrace books like these, that we as a publisher feel so passionate about."
Mario & Baby Gia by Mario Lopez, illus. by Maryn Roos. Penguin/Celebra, $17.99 Sept. ISBN 978-0-451-23417-9
The Boy with Pink Hair by Perez Hilton, illus. by Jen Hill. Penguin/Celebra, $17.99 Sept. ISBN 978-0-451-23420-9