In time for the 15th anniversary of the launch of its licensing relationship with Lego—not to mention the 60th anniversary of the Lego brick and the 40th of the Lego minifigure—Scholastic is publishing the first-ever Lego picture book, I’m Fun, Too!, on August 28.
“For many years I’ve wanted to do a picture book based on the iconic minifigure,” said Debra Dorfman, v-p and publisher of global licensing and media consumer products at Scholastic. “We were so happy when Lego finally said yes.”
I’m Fun, Too! is written and illustrated by Jonathan Fenske, known for his humorous picture books including Barnacle Is Bored and Plankton Is Pushy. “He has a great love of Lego,” explained Michael Petranek, executive editor and Lego publishing manager at Scholastic. “He had sketches of minifigures and bricks already in his portfolio. He has a real history with and a love of the Lego brand.”
“My whole childhood, from when I was about four on, all I wanted for Christmas and birthdays was a Lego set,” said Fenske. “I still have them all in my office, with the instructions and all the pieces, that’s how much I loved them.”
The book’s plot focuses on a classic minifigure of the sort Fenske played with as a child, with no facial expressions or articulated parts. “I grew up as Lego grew up, and I was there from the beginning of the transition to the minifigure as we know it today,” Fenske said. “I thought, what would happen if the plain Lego minifigure of yesterday encountered the minifigures of today, with all the bells and whistles? He would probably feel sort of inferior and start to question his own relevance.” By the end of the book, the main character realizes that he is, as the title says, “fun, too.”
The book is likely to appeal to all ages. “Bringing parents and children together through reading is the best form of art I can think of,” Fenske said. “I wanted a universal story that children could read on their own or their parents could read with them, and it would entertain them both.”
In addition to the picture book, other new Lego publishing this year includes a mix-and-match board book, also starring the minifigure, for a fall release; new Lego Harry Potter titles; and more middle grade chapter books in a heavily illustrated, three-stories-in-one series called Lego Brick Adventures, which launched in May. Up next are a number of titles tied to the February theatrical release of The Lego Movie 2, ranging from a junior novelization and 8x8 readers to Keeping It Awesome-R with Emmet, an in-world guide with a collectible figure.
Scholastic’s Lego publishing program as a whole—with more than 30 million copies in print globally—began in 2003 with tie-ins to the Bionicle brand, a Lego toy for older kids (age 8–16) that was backed by multimedia content, marking the first time Lego entered the storytelling realm. Since that successful collaboration, the two companies have worked together on formats from movie tie-ins, 8x8s, and collector guides to nonfiction books, early readers, pop-ups, and novelty formats such as Battle Box. The books have been based on a variety of Lego properties, including films such as The Lego Movie, proprietary content such as Lego Ninjago, and co-brands such as Lego Star Wars.
“I think the longevity [of the partnership] is due to the creativity they bring and we bring, the trust between us, and the IPs they’ve developed. They just love telling stories,” Dorfman said. “Our goal is always to get kids to read, especially reluctant readers, and this does it.”
Petranek added, “They’re a creative, think-outside-the-box company, and we love to immerse our readers in the cool, cool worlds they create.”
Fenske is just starting to work on a second Lego picture book for publication in September 2019. “For me, this is like coming full circle, from playing with Lego sets to incorporating Lego figures into my work 40-something years later,” he said. “It’s as fun to write about them as it was to play with them.”