Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare are celebrating a milestone as Guess How Much I Love You, written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram, marks its 25th anniversary in 2019. Since the publication of the original picture book in 1994, more than 43 million copies of the story have been sold worldwide in 57 languages.
Candlewick Press, part of the Walker Books Group, has released three new editions featuring the official anniversary logo, including a slipcase version with a frameable limited-edition print, a traditional board book, and an oversized padded board book with spot illustrations. The first two were published in September and the third in July. The titles are available globally as well, with Walker Books publishing an additional paperback edition for the U.K. only in spring 2020.
What accounts for the book’s longevity? “I think it’s the unconditional love aspect of it,” says Mary McCagg, Candlewick’s director of licensing and national accounts manager, North America. “It’s so simple but very poignant and heartfelt.”
The story has appeared in multiple formats for gift-giving to all ages. Examples include a variety of bestselling board book formats, pop-up editions, finger puppet and book sets, sticker and coloring books, a Valentine book, and baby books.
Candlewick will promote the anniversary throughout 2019 and 2020, especially for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, and Father’s Day. “The Valentine’s through Father’s Day period is really key, with a lot of books and licensed products selling then,” says McCagg. “The books and products sell in every channel, which is something you love to see for a book property. We hope the gold anniversary sticker, along with the slipcase edition and the consumer-facing publicity initiatives into next year, will be a little bling that will help bring the title to the front of the store.”
Holiday advertising will support the slipcase edition this year, with additional advertising planned for 2020 around the spring holidays. Candlewick is creating a deluxe event kit for retailers, featuring reproducible activity sheets, “hare bands,” temporary tattoos, and keepsake cards. It will be included in the Indiebound White Box, with many of the materials available online as well, according to Karen Walsh, executive director of publicity, brands, and key titles.
Social efforts throughout 2019 and 2020 will include stocking stuffer and gift suggestions on Twitter, a holiday gift guide blog and Instagrammer campaign, Pinterest board postings, and social media images across platforms. The #GuessHowMuchILove hashtag has attracted over 30,000 posts on Instagram, Walsh reports.
Candlewick is also partnering with United Though Reading, a nonprofit organization that connects U.S. military families through videos that show parents on military service reading books aloud for their children to watch while they’re away. Guess How Much I Love You will be the focus of the initiative in 2019 and 2020, with Candlewick donating 25,000 books for service members to use in their videos and to be given out at baby showers for military parents.
New Licensing Ventures
The anniversary is also an opportunity to promote licensed products. Kids Preferred, the longtime core partner for the brand’s North American licensing efforts, has created an anniversary plush toy that comes with a limited print, in addition to its ongoing line of teethers, blankets, stacking blocks, and plush, including a super-soft Cuddle Pal. It also has a new play gym that debuted at Buy Buy Baby. Other partners in North America include Clothworks for fabrics; Calendar Club for Baby’s First Year calendars; and most recently Storiarts, which produces bibs, totes, and blanket designs featuring the text of the book. “It’s the whole text to wrap your little one in,” McCagg says.
In the U.K., products—many of which feature a sticker to mark the anniversary year—include adult and infant sleepwear, toys, calendars, cards, prints, party supplies, storage boxes, bedding, personalized gifts, and paper goods. A new venture in the U.K. is a line of engagement and wedding rings from Boo Gallery, indicating the wide demographic appeal of the property. Although the Guess How Much I Love You brand is focused mainly on babies and toddlers in North America, “it’s starting to build with adults lately,” says McCagg. “We’re getting requests to use [the story] as readings at weddings.”
The U.S. and U.K., along with Germany and China, where interest in the brand is rapidly expanding, are key territories for the book and its associated products, with the Netherlands showing growth as well.
Unlike many book-based licensed properties, Guess How Much I Love You has remained book-focused, without much in the way of entertainment spin-offs. There was a television show in 2012 that included two seasons and two holiday specials and still airs in some global territories; it is available for streaming in the U.S. There are also two touring stage shows; a puppet-based retelling of the story from Mermaid Theater produced primarily in the U.S., with smaller runs in China; and a live-action play from Selladoor for Europe and Australia.
“The property really focuses on the one core story, which feels immediately classic,” McCagg says. “At the 10th anniversary, adults would come up and tell us they had fond memories of reading it with their parents or grandparents, even though they weren’t that young when it came out. It has that longtime classic feel. But it’s only 25 years old now. It has a lot of legs left.”