More Moomins

Tove Jansson’s much-loved Moomins will continue their adventures in a new range of stories written by Jansson’s niece Sophia. In a deal announced October 16, Puffin U.K., the Moomins’ British publisher, has acquired publishing rights to develop the characters into a new range of picture and novelty books for young children. Rights to the new titles will be selling at Bologna 2009.

Originally written in Swedish, the stories of the Moominfamily and their friends have been translated into 34 languages and adapted for television, film, opera and radio. Puffin first published Finn Family Moomintroll in 1961 and it and the seven subsequent titles have been part of the Puffin list ever since. “We are already so proud at Puffin to be home to Tove Jansson’s original Moomin stories, and to now have the opportunity to create a new picture book series,” said Jacqui Butler, senior editor, Puffin Characters. “Our aim is to capture the essence of Tove’s work, and we are very excited to be introducing the magical world of Moomins to a younger generation of readers.”

Puffin will launch the new Moomin titles in 2010, the year that the Moomins celebrate their 65th anniversary; it will also be Puffin’s 70th anniversary.

Update on Age Banding

The dispute over the age banding of children’s books in the U.K. continues with no overall resolution. New books are now being published with age banding on them where the publisher has been granted permission to do so by the author. However, despite publishers’ intentions and promises, books by some signatories to the no-to-age-banding campaign have been banded, much to the dismay of their authors.

Authors and illustrators continue to dispute the publishers’ research, which claimed that age banding was needed to help adults to buy books since the majority of children’s books are bought as gifts by adults without children. At a “What Kids Want” conference held by the Bookseller last month, authors and illustrators claimed that the age band alone would not make a significant difference to sales. They argued that publishers would need to back the banding with marketing and PR so that the public both knows of its existence and understands what it stands for.

The Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Group of the Society of Authors has also remained adamant that it will not change its opposition to banding, on the grounds that it is unhelpful and potentially harmful to children’s enjoyment of reading because it does not take their varied ages and stages of development into account. As Celia Rees, chair of CWIG, said, “They know where we stand, we know where they stand, and since they seem to be respecting authors’ wishes (or we have little indication to the contrary), there seemed little point in talking about it further.”

CWIG and the Publishers’ Association have agreed that a proper evaluation of the impact of age banding now needs to take place. “Age guidance is going to be evaluated at the appropriate time which will be when there is enough of a body of evidence,” Publishers’ Association spokesperson Liz Sich told PW. “75% of the total spring 2009 publishing program will be age-banded. When that is well established in the shops, all stakeholders—publishers, authors, teachers, librarians and consumers—will be consulted and its impact can be measured.”

Skirting the age banding issue, CWIG and the Children’s Book Group of the Publishers Association discussed different ways of expanding the market at a meeting last month. “We were keen to sit down with them, in a way we had never done before,” Rees reported. “Between us, we came up with a lot of ideas: some long-term, some short-term, some big, some small, a few off the wall, but that was the purpose of the meeting. We now have to pull it all together to come up with a plan of action.”

Bonnier Acquires Templar

Swedish-based Bonnier Publishing, part of the family-owned media group Bonnier AB, has increased its stake in children’s publishing by acquiring a majority shareholding in Templar, best known for its highly acclaimed Ologies series. Bonnier first approached Templar at this year’s Bologna Fair and the deal was concluded in August. “We’ve been looking for a high-quality children’s list since we bought Weldon Owen in 2006,” Des Higgins, CEO of Bonnier Publishing Ltd., told PW. “We were looking for creativity and they have it in bucket loads. They’ve got a good track record and they sell in all markets, especially the U.S., because of their excellent relationship with Candlewick.”

Templar’s managing director Amanda Wood, who, with sales and marketing director Ruth Huddleston will continue to run the company, says she is delighted by the move. “We’d already thought about how to move forward,” she said. “We wanted to make that kind of alliance while we had the energy to see it through. Bonnier have a great culture of fostering companies. We can now get the back room operations off our shoulders and concentrate on making books not just as we are now but in exciting and innovative ways in the future.”

Templar, which was named Children’s Publisher of the Year and Independent Publisher of the Year in 2008, will publish around 120 titles in 2009.

According to published reports, after the purchase of Templar, Bonnier remains interested in acquiring other high-quality U.K. children’s publishers.

Robert Muchamore’s Hit Series

The General, Robert Muchamore’s 10th title in his bestselling Cherub adventure series, has followed his previous title The Sleepwalker in heading straight to the top of children’s bestseller lists in the first week of publication. The success of the titles in the U.K. confirms Muchamore’s popularity with his growing U.K. readership.

Muchamore wrote the Cherub series in response to his nephew’s complaint that there was nothing exciting to read. Drawing on his 13 years of experience as a private detective, Muchamore created Cherub, an agency that recruits boys to work as spies. The series began with The Recruit in 2004; Muchamore has added two titles per year. Hodder has contracted two more, and has no plans to end the series. Hodder will also publish the Henderson Boys, a new set of prequels to the Cherub series, launching with The Escape in spring 2009.

Muchamore’s member fan base on the Cherub Web site is now 60,000 and growing, while sales figures of Hodder editions at home and for export have topped a combined 1.5 million. To support the books Hodder has created a Web campaign that includes Cherub News, a monthly newsletter. “We launched the series with a strong, innovative marketing campaign including leafleting schools directly,” Hodder’s publishing director Anne McNeil told PW. “The author’s involvement with the fans online has been massive.”

Keeping up with the demand for new books has been another strength of the Cherub series. “He’s incredibly reliable. We have published two titles a year from the beginning and when the fans wanted a new Cherub book, Robert had one there for them.” McNeil said, adding that the series really took off in 2005 with Maximum Security, the third title.

Kate Agnew of the Muswell Hill Children’s Bookshop in London believes that the books’ addictive quality plays a large part in keeping Muchamore at the top of the bestseller list. “The books are ideal for boys who think they don’t like reading,” she said. “Parents were quickly on to them as soon as they realized that here was something their children really enjoyed reading. Now children themselves are buying them too. It’s a viral thing,” Agnew said. “It’s gone playground-up, with the children discussing the books they’ve read.”

The first six Cherub titles have been published in the U.S. by Simon Pulse. Though they have not yet achieved the same level of success as in the U.K., Bethany Buck, v-p and publisher of Simon Pulse and Aladdin, says the books have seen “steady sales” in bookstores, which “continue to climb,” especially with independents. “We feel this is keeping with other fast-paced and highly readable properties for this market,” she adds, “as teen boy readers can be somewhat elusive, and slow to find books they are passionate about.” The company plans to work more closely with the online efforts in the U.K., according to Buck, who calls Muchamore’s Web site “fantastic.”