The Modern Tween

Modern Publishing is best known for its coloring and activity books and other formats for younger children, but lately it has been strengthening its relationship with tween readers. Following a successful launch of an American Idol title last fall—which was for families but had strong tween appeal—it plans to ship Disney-licensed Hannah Montana and High School Musical books, such as guidebooks and party planners, this June. Both properties are highly rated, tween-targeted shows on the Disney Channel.

“In today’s climate, you have to find niches,” explains Modern president Andrew Steinberg, who notes that several of the company’s other titles, such as its Treasury of Illustrated Classics line and some of its early Bratz books, have appealed to kids as old as 10 or 12. “When you find a property that transcends television, or whatever medium it comes from, you have to seize the opportunity.”

Modern continues to add titles for younger children as well; new licenses for its bath book line, for example, include Disney Princess, The Lion King, Pooh and other Disney properties, as well as Warner Bros.’ Baby Looney Tunes.

Fancy Nancy: Dress-Up and Beyond

HarperCollins’s Fancy Nancy has entered the world of licensing. The effort is being launched by agent United Media, which also handles Raggedy Ann & Andy licensing for Simon & Schuster. “We’re always looking for something with a very clear appeal to an audience. Fancy Nancy strikes an important emotional chord with grandmothers and moms, and a chord with young girls,” reports Joshua Kislevitz, United Media’s senior v-p of domestic licensing, who adds, “We’ve gotten a positive response from both retailers and potential licensees.”

Planned products include dress-up and role-play toys, dolls, games and puzzles, as well as apparel, health and beauty and other categories. Although the program is still in its early stages, marketing tie-ins between licensees, and with book retailers and HarperCollins, are under consideration. “Cross-promotions raise the profile and reinforce what the brand means,” Kislevitz says. “We’ll circle back wherever it makes sense to the core publishing.”

Warner Bros. Hits the Books

Warner Bros. Consumer Products continues to add to its roster of licensed publishers. It recently signed a deal with Publications International for three new Tweety craft and activity books, including a Tweety Activity Scrapbook, Best Friends Book and Keepsake Box and Fashion Fun Activity Book, all aimed at girls 7-10. These join the new Tweety story, pop-up, novelty, coloring/activity and board book line from Bendon, which is for children 3—6.

For Scooby Doo, Warner has signed Reader’s Digest Children’s Publishing for two interactive titles, the Scooby-Doo Haunted Mysteries Storybook and DVD and the Scooby Clues Mysterious Message Storybook. Other recent Scooby licensees include Bendon and Advance Publishers; Publications International, Dalmatian Press and Scholastic already were on board.

Elaine Piechowski, WBCP’s executive director, global publishing, says the studio will announce a deal shortly for a new line of storybooks featuring Pebbles of The Flintstones; new book content also is in the works for Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes.

Corduroy Celebrates with Licensing

Don Freeman’s Corduroy marks its 40th birthday in 2008, and Penguin is celebrating with a new licensing program based on the character, in conjunction with agency Creative Properties Group. It plans to authorize a range of children’s products, both for high-end stores (featuring artwork inspired by the original red-jacketed Freeman book) and for mass retailers such as Target (featuring the Lisa McCue imagery from more recent Corduroy titles).

Two manufacturers have signed up so far: Russ Berrie for plush toys in various sizes, including seasonal designs, and Books to Bed, for book-and-pajama sets. Diane Cain, Penguin’s consumer products marketing director, noted that a recent line of exclusive Corduroy products, including puzzles, plush toys and sidewalk chalk, did well at Barnes & Noble stores, which played into the decision to go forward with a broader licensing effort.

Publishing plans for the 40th anniversary include a deluxe anniversary edition, followed by other new editions throughout the year. Last year, Penguin published a book called Corduroy Lost and Found that featured a Freemanesque illustration style; the company is considering additional titles with this artwork. Throughout 2008, a 40th-anniversary logo will appear on books, as well as licensed product hangtags and packaging.

In Brief

Wow! Wow! It's Wubbzy.

Mixed Media Group has added two more publishers to its licensee roster for the Nick Jr. series Wow! Wow! Wubbzy. Meredith will release sound books and Simon & Schuster will create coloring and activity formats; they join previously announced master licensee Scholastic. Books will reach store shelves in 2008…. Scholastic Media has launched a licensing program for Dragon, an animated TV series based on the Orchard books by Dav Pilkey. A full range of products, from apparel and toys to home furnishings and foods, is planned…. Planetwide Media licensed the TokyoPop brand for a TokyoPop Manga Creator and digital content packs. The products allow users to make their own digital manga and post their creations on the Internet…. Paradise Press signed a license with Sesame Workshop for Sesame Street board books under $5, and with DC Comics for Justice League titles…. Recent licenses for Kappa Books include the DreamWorks Animation films Bee Movie and Shrek the Third…. Among Bendon’s recently acquired licenses are Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man and the NBA… Picture Me Press also holds The Amazing Spider-Man license, as well as Marvel Heroes, for personalized storybooks and photo memory books. Other Picture Me licenses include Hasbro’s Candy Land and NASCAR…. The Toy Industry Association (TIA) announced that the American International Fall Toy Show, formerly based in New York, is moving to Dallas this year. It will be held from October 9 through 12. The February Toy Fair is scheduled to remain at New York’s Javits Center through 2010.