Abrams Appleseed, an imprint for children up to age 5 set to debut in spring 2012, has signed a license with the Pantone brand for a series of concept books about color.

“Within this age group, colors is a bestselling concept, so I knew our list had to include a colors book,” says Cecily Kaiser, publishing director of Abrams Appleseed Books. “Marry that with who Abrams is, very art and design-driven, and it had to be the color book.”

“Pantone’s really the only game in town when it comes to color,” Kaiser continues. “There are just so many color books out there, we wanted to be sure what we did was was different and an improvement on the other books.”

“The timing was fortuitous,” says Lisa Herbert, v-p of Pantone’s fashion, home and consumer division (whose father invented the Pantone system in 1963). She notes that Pantone has been increasing its consumer licensing efforts beyond its core professional design market over the last five years, and was looking into both publishing and children’s products as areas of expansion. The brand has been licensed into a variety of fashion accessories, home decor, stationery, office supplies, and the like, and just launched a book for adults, Pantone’s 20th Century of Color, with Chronicle.

“Abrams has a reputation for art and design publishing, which gave us confidence that the aesthetic and design of this product would be something Pantone would be proud of,” Herbert says.

Each spread in the first title, Pantone: Colors, features an illustration of a familiar image, such as a frog, on one page and an array of Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors in the same range (greens, in the case of the frog) on the other. This allows children to discover all the tints and shades under the umbrella of a particular color. “The word orange means a lot of different things,” Kaiser says. “This hasn’t been explored in a kids’ color book before.”

Kaiser is committed to doing one Pantone book per season, including everything from picture books to novelty titles, at a range of price points. “It’s fast become an in-house favorite,” she says of Pantone: Colors. “It’s so visceral, bright and bold, and you just want to hold it and own it.”

Abrams Appleseed will publish a list of eight to 10 board books, novelty books, and picture books per season. They will include licensed titles—in addition to Pantone, the video-based language-learning property Little Pim is moving to the Appleseed banner—as well as a mix of Abrams authors doing their first books for this age group, tried-and-true Abrams franchises being aged down, and brand-new titles.