Lego Artist Signs with Holt

Henry Holt has announced a deal with Lego artist extraordinaire Sean Kenney for three 32-page picture books—one per season starting in spring 2009—that will instruct readers how to build Lego models designed by Kenney. Kenney is a Lego Certified Professional, one of just six artists worldwide who create Lego sculptures, portraits and full-scale models for public displays and private collections. Sean Kenney’s Cool Lego Cars will feature photographs of 15 models, along with blueprints for about half of those; Sean Kenney’s Cool Lego Spaceships and Sean Kenney’s Cool Lego Robots will be similar. The books are for all ages, with a core audience of boys ages 5 to 10.

“This was inspired by my boys,” says Christy Ottaviano, executive editor of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, whose three children include two Lego-obsessed sons. “I saw this as the opportunity to make [Lego] available in book form, in an imaginative way.” Ottaviano was looking for Lego information for her sons on the Internet when she ran across Kenney’s Web site and contacted him. While this is not a license with Lego, the toymaker has endorsed the books, will sell them on its Web site, and will allow the use of its logo.

Lego has had a number of official publishing licensees, past and present, for its various brands, including Scholastic, a current licensee for paperback storybooks and other formats, and, going back to the mid-1990s, and Little, Brown, which published a series of concept books tied to the preschool Duplo brand.

Preserving Planet Earth

In one of its largest licensing programs to date, Modern Publishing is going green. All of the 30 to 40 titles published under its new Planet Earth license, tied to a hugely popular BBC documentary series that aired here on the Discovery Channel, will be printed on recycled paper. “We believe in being green, and that sustainability is important,” says Andrew Steinberg, Modern’s president. “We’re in an industry that uses paper and where we have a return factor, so we have to be conscious of these issues.” The company also is trying to reduce waste in other ways, such as monitoring quantities shipped and minimizing returns.

Formats for the Planet Earth license will include coloring and activity titles, board books, padded board books, a “green” guidebook for families, and books featuring seeded paper that can be planted to grow wildflowers. Steinberg reports interest from all retail channels. Not only is the pro-environmental message appealing, he explains, but “people had a very visceral response to the show,” a multimillion-dollar production that captured unique, high-definition imagery over five years of filming. The books will launch next April 22, appropriately enough, on Earth Day. Planet Earth is licensed by The Joester-Loria Group in North America.

Go, Speed Racer, Go!

Penguin Books for Young Readers will publish seven titles tied to Warner Bros.’ forthcoming Speed Racer movie, including a movie novelization; an Official Racing Book; a 6x9 reader; a Mad Libs title; a coloring and activity title; and two novelty books with removable cardboard replicas of the film’s Mach 5 and Racer X vehicles. In addition to the tie-ins, which will hit store shelves just prior to the movie’s May 2008 premiere, the company will publish six paper-over-board novels based on episodes of the 1960s Speed Racer TV series—the same format as its successful classic Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Dick and Jane titles—starting in January 2008.

“That’s the original animé,” says Debra Dorfman, president and publisher of Grosset & Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan, who notes that many of the books, both movie-related and classic, will appeal to adults as well as children. “When we presented at the sales meeting, when we were still working on the license, all the guys went crazy,” she says. “There’s a lot of buzz about the movie, but there’s also a real market for the classics.”

Edgar & Ellen Scare Up Licensing Interest

The first licensed products tied to Edgar & Ellen, a comical/creepy multimedia property with a publishing component, are hitting store shelves this fall through an exclusive retail promotion. Although Lisa Marks, owner of Lisa Marks & Associates, the licensing agent representing the property, cannot say who the exclusive retailer is, a trip to a Target store will unearth products including books, DVDs, candy, school supplies, novelty toys and greeting cards. Apparel and accessories, additional toys and videogames, arts and crafts, home furnishings and other categories will follow in a broader program in 2008.

Edgar & Ellen is a multimedia property from Star Farm Productions that includes a six-book series from Simon & Schuster (which has an additional six titles in development and produced a couple of novelty formats, including a pop-up, for the fall retail promotion); a new TV series on Nicktoons, which will incorporate segments created by viewers; a long-running series of animated shorts and specials, also on Nicktoons; and an active online community. “The story arc is executed across multimedia channels,” says Marks, adding, “It’s on the edge of dark and light, creepy and cute. Kids can relate to that, and to the characters’ reluctant heroism.”

It’s Tallulah Time

Author/illustrator Nancy Wolff reports she is following up her picture books Tallulah in the Kitchen (2005) and It’s Time for School with Tallulah (2007) by working on her third Tallulah book, tentatively called Tallulah in the Workshop, for Henry Holt. In the meantime, Tallulah is about to appear on a range of new licensed products. This fall, Mattel will launch puzzles featuring images from the first two books, while Robert Kaufman is creating It’s Time for School with Tallulah fabrics and Dan River is producing a Tallulah bedding collection for release in 2008. Wolff also is working on a promotion that will combine a book and a limited-edition licensed product, with proceeds to support First Book.

Wolff created a 3D-animated short called All Aboard that aired in the past on Nick Jr., and she is in discussions with an animation company for a TV series. She also licenses non-Tallulah artwork to several manufacturers.

In Brief

Nelvana, a division of Corus Entertainment, is launching a licensing program tied to My Friend Rabbit, a TV series launching on the qubo programming block on NBC, Telemundo and the ION network this fall. Licensing plans for the show, which is based on the Eric Rohmann picture book, include toys, apparel, book-and-plush and book-and-CD sets, among other products.... HarperCollins and its licensing agent United Media signed JAKKS Pacific to create dolls, role-play and dress-up toys, and craft and activity items for girls 4 to 7, based on Fancy Nancy.... JAKKS also recently signed a deal with Chorion Silver Lining to produce collectible vinyl figures, room décor, jewelry kits and electronic accessoriesbased on Mr. Men and Little Miss, the book-based animated series.... Dr. Seuss Enterprises licensed a new company, I Can Do That! Games, to produce children’s games based on the Dr. Seuss library. The first three, tied to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Horton Hears a Who and The Cat in the Hat, will launch this holiday season through Toys ‘R’ Us retail and online stores.... Scholastic’s Goosebumps is the focus of an October/November promotion at Checkers and Rally’s restaurants, coordinated by Just 4 Fun—Kids and Family Marketing. The chain will offer 10 limited-edition Goosebumps Magic Motion Cards featuring book cover art with its kids’ meals....Meanwhile, Scholastic’s book-based TV series The Magic School Bus, which airs on TLC and Discovery Kids, will be featured on premiums in 240 Taco Bueno restaurants next spring.... Paramount Licensing signed Ripple Junction Design to produce Beowulf apparel, to be distributed at specialty retail including Hastings and independent comics and book stores. The studio also licensed T-Shirt Connection Productions for Spiderwick Chronicles apparel in Canada.... Farmer’s Hat Productions’ multicultural, sports-themed book series, Bur Bur & Friends, will be featured in an in-flight activity book on Sun Country Airlines flights. The book, available for $2, will include a box of crayons and an individual box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.