Welcome to the Jungle

It’s not often that an author’s first children’s book comes to market accompanied by a range of licensed products, but that’s the case with artist Alex Beard’s The Jungle Grapevine, one of the lead fall titles from Abrams Books for Young Readers. Hosung Naturals will introduce plush toys, Great American Puzzle Factory puzzles and a Fundex line of games. Last year, Great American Puzzle Factory launched a line of Impossible Puzzles, based on Beard’s images for adults.

“Let me start by saying that the book is not a device to introduce a licensing or marketing world,” Beard explains. “It stands alone. But I’m interested in breaking down the barrier between the creator and the audience. That’s where the licensed categories are coming in. It’s a way to create that connection.” Beard holds regular Kids Days at his studio in New York, where children can paint and learn not to be intimidated by art. That template will carry over to the book tour, where Beard will participate in hands-on Kids Day-like events in lieu of readings. Abrams is developing kits so bookstores who aren’t on the tour can hold similar initiatives.

“We were overwhelmed by Alex’s artwork and his approach to things, and the programs that he has set up for children—and he was such a good storyteller, too,” says Howard Reeves, senior v-p and publisher, Abrams Books for Young Readers, who notes that the company has significant distribution in museum stores as well as traditional children’s outlets, a good fit for this title. “The book is not even published yet and he already has a pretty strong start on a licensing program,” Reeves adds. “The trick will be to get the books and merchandise somewhere together as a promotional tool.”

Sunny Patch Expands Beyond Target

Target has been the exclusive retailer for Miss Spider author David Kirk’s Sunny Patch merchandise since 2003, beginning with an endcap of 20 items. This year there were 120 products in the outdoor department and about 25 in the tabletop aisle. Through a new license with toy manufacturer Melissa & Doug—a company that until now has eschewed licensing—products for outdoor and indoor play will now be available in 30,000 stores in North America. The assortment will include newly created items as well as a catalog of over 650 products that Target has sold.

The licensing effort is different from most involving children’s book authors, in that Kirk and licensor Callaway Arts & Entertainment design the products rather than simply putting together a style guide. “We create the underlying intellectual property, i.e. the characters, and also incorporate the characters into the three-dimensional product design,” says Nicholas Callaway, chairman and CEO. “The character is not slapped on the product—the character is the product.” All the characters have names, and hangtags, products and web content feature short stories or poems. During the course of its agreement, Target sold some book titles that were based on characters in its product line.

Callaway recently retained licensing agency GR Branding (which also represents Alex Beard) to expand Sunny Patch into other product categories and international markets.

From Battle Brawlers to Top Models

Scholastic’s first four trade titles tied to Bakugan Battle Brawlers, a Cartoon Network show based on a Japanese collectible game (marketed in the U.S. by Spin Master), are “flying off the shelves,” according to Debra Dorfman, Scholastic’s v-p and publisher for paperbacks, Cartwheel and licensed publishing. “Everyone’s looking for a hot boys’ property. This is boy-driven, and there are really good stories.” Over 30,000 copies are in print, collectively, of two chapter books, an official handbook and a how-to-draw title. Ten more books will be released this year.

Finding a strong boys’ license that works in publishing is a challenge, but two Bakugan books introduced last year in school channels pointed toward success in the trade. And Scholastic has had a good run with Pokémon, a property that is similar to Bakugan in many ways; as of fall 2008, Scholastic’s Pokémon Handbook was still one of its top trade titles, its top licensed title and one of its strongest revenue producers in book channels. Scholastic is cross-promoting its Bakugan books with Spin Master’s games, and Barnes & Noble is talking about putting together a promotion around Bakugan in the fall.

For something completely different, Scholastic also has licensed America’s Next Top Model from CBS Consumer Products for a series of novels about a group of 15-year-old girls at a modeling school. The first two will be released in the fall, followed by one in November and one next spring. “This is a license, but we’re promoting it as a tween series,” Dorfman says. “There’s so much drama on the show. We wanted it to be accessible to the school market, yet with all the cattiness and drama and secrets of the show.” Tips from some of the contestants who have appeared on the program may be included in the books as well.

Promoting Fitness of Mind and Body

Carson-Dellosa is extending its partnership with Major League Soccer for a second year, planning an “Active Bodies, Active Minds” promotion to support its Summer Bridge Activities, a line of workbooks to keep students up to speed between grades. The series includes content related to reading, writing, math and language arts, as well as character and fitness.

The MLS tie-in will incorporate a giveaway of 150,000 activity books at games in all 15 MLS markets, a link on the MLS Web site, and a contest, with the winner receiving a trip to the MLS All-Star Game and the second prize a stint at star player David Beckham’s soccer academy, according to Scott Thompson, Carson-Dellosa’s sales manager, Christian and specialty markets. The promotion will be backed by initiatives online, on TV and radio, in print and in stadium advertising, along with point-of-purchase signage including a poster and nine-pocket display. The inaugural partnership in 2008 generated 2.5 million print and online impressions and over 2,000 radio interviews.

Briarpatch: A Literary Legacy

Briarpatch, a maker of board games, card games and puzzles, has based its business largely on children’s book licenses ranging from Goodnight Moon to Lyle, Lyle Crocodile and Where the Wild Things Are; it has sold licensed products based on Scholastic’s I Spy for 15 years, almost since its inception. The company recently has signed a number of new deals that continue this literary tradition, including Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad from HarperCollins, images from illustrators Simms Taback and SAMi from Blue Apple Books, and Rainbow Magic, a top-selling English book series published by Scholastic in the U.S., from HIT Entertainment.

“We take a literary property, where the artwork is beautiful and the storylines are terrific, and give it life in card games and board games,” says Marc Shinderman, general manager. He notes that Briarpatch is selective about which of the many strong licenses from the worlds of books and entertainment it selects to adapt for games and puzzles. “Our portfolio of licenses and brands is a statement of who we are,” he says.

The company’s products are in all channels of distribution, and it looks for opportunities to cross-promote “when and wherever possible,” Shinderman explains. Barnes & Noble is cross-promoting the Simms Taback books and puzzles, and Target is planning Fancy Nancy and Goodnight Moon displays that will feature books along with products from Briarpatch and other licensees.

In Brief

Modern Publishing has secured the rights to several new Disney Channel licenses for tweens, including The Suite Life on Deck, The Princess Protection Program, Sonny with a Chance, TheWizards of Waverly Place and Jonas, the series starring the Jonas Brothers. The company also acquired rights to Hello Kitty and Sesame Street, the latter for bath books.... Twin Sisters will publish six Garfield activity books with music CDs for back-to-school 2009, under license from Paws Inc.... Suppertime Entertainment granted an apparel license for Todd Parr’s Planet Color to Jen’s Ideas.... Bendon’s new licenses include Disney’s High School Musical and Hannah Montana for educational formats, Out of the Blue’s SuperWhy, Fremantle Media’s WorldWorld and Discovery’s Animal Planet.... Scholastic Media licensed Briarpatch for board and travel games and puzzles based on its animated series WordGirl; Scholastic’s books launch this month.... Chorion signed Spin Master for a global toy deal for the Olivia TV series, for a fall 2010 launch. Plush maker Merrymakers is the only licensee currently marketing Olivia toys.... Big Tent authorized Tokyopop for a line of Domo manga titles to debut this September, supported by a viral marketing campaign, including a fan art contest.... Agency JRL Group licensed Encyclopaedia Britannica to Tek Nek Toys for electronic learning aids and puzzles and to Learning Horizons for workbooks.... United Media granted Fancy Nancy rights to Accessory Innovations for bags and accessories, Marmellata for dresses and sleepwear, SJ Creations for health and beauty products, and Springs Creative for craft kits. Barnes & Noble promoted Fancy Nancy in February; consumers could purchase a Fancy Nancy kaleidoscope for $2.95 in stores if they purchased three Fancy Nancy books.... Entertainment Rights signed Ludia as the interactive entertainment licensee for Where’s Waldo?, to create console, PC/Mac, iPhone and iPod Touch games.