Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, has signed a new contract for six more titles in author-illustrator Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly series. The first three books in the series, Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt, and Peanut Butter and Jelly, have reached one million copies in print. The new books will include two in the original series for six- to nine-year-olds—bringing the total under contract in the original series to eight titles—as well as four board books.
“The board books will be original stories,” said Tara Walker, v-p and publisher at Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers. “Our sales teams have been asking us for Narwhal books for younger readers and we wanted to oblige.”
A fourth title in the original series, Narwhal’s Otter Friend, publishes on February 5. “We also hope to announce a holiday offering soon for the original series,” Walker added.
Clanton is repped by Marietta Zacker at the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, which has sold the series into 10 territories, including most recently to Egmont in the U.K. Zacker also forged a successful collaboration with MerryMakers, which has produced Narwhal and Jelly plush dolls, lunch boxes, pencil cases, and backpacks. “We have had a lot of people come to the series because of the plushies,” Walker said.
Sales for the books and sidelines have been especially strong at museum and aquarium gift shops; for the new book, Narwhal’s Otter Friend, Tundra is planning a launch party at the Vancouver Aquarium. Clanton will also participate in the ALA Midwinter conference, which is taking place in his hometown of Seattle later this month.
“This has been the most successful book series I have ever been involved in,” Walker observed. “It’s very gratifying to see just howmany people love Narwhal.”
Asked to what she attributed the series’ success, Walker pointed out that Narwhals are a “hot creature” in the culture right now, particularly as people become more aware of environmental issues. “But,” she continued, “it is the humor that people really like. The books seem to hit a sweet spot, and get kids right before they start reading Wimpy Kid!”
This article has been updated to include information on Clanton's literary agent.