Harper Collects Bella Sara License

HarperCollins Children’s Books will publish a series of novels and other formats based on Hidden City Games’ Bella Sara, a horse-themed property for tween girls that includes collectible trading cards and a virtual world. Granada Ventures licenses the property outside Hidden City’s home territory of Scandinavia.

“There’s a pretty successful literary tradition of horse novels,” says Emily Brenner, v-p and publishing director of Harper’s Festival imprint. “We liked the way they’re drawing people to the Web site and this whole mythology they’ve built up. There’s also a values element you don’t get with other virtual worlds, a positive girl-power kind of thing, that is exciting.” Illustrated novels with what she calls “glittery, delicious covers” will drive the program, starting with six this fall. All told, 20 titles are planned, including puzzle and game books and an ultimate guide.

“It’s a very new property but it’s growing really quickly,” Brenner says. More than 40 million trading cards have sold worldwide since the 2007 launch, and the site has two million registered users in 240 countries.

There’s lots more licensing news this month: Grosset & Dunlap signs a license for a new literacy-based PBS series, Hawk’s Nest wins a Major League Baseball license, Brighter Minds acquires two new properties and Todd Parr creates an Olympic-themed book for Hilton Hotels.

Super Readers to the Rescue

Grosset & Dunlap has signed a license with Out of the Blue Enterprises for SuperWHY!, an interactive, literacy-based PBS series from the creator of Blue’s Clues. “A lot of preschool shows are adorable and fun, but not all lend themselves to books,” says Debra Dorfman, president and publisher of Grosset & Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan. “This was made to publish.” The plotlines take the characters into classic storybooks, where they use their reading skills to find clues and solve everyday problems. “We think this is a property we can take to teacher conferences,” Dorfman adds.

Three 8x8 storybooks will launch this fall. The Princess and the Pea and The Three Little Pigs will incorporate the 3D and 2D animation styles of the series, as well as interactive elements including gatefolds and literacy activities, mirroring those in the show; ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is a storybook with rendered art. A full launch in spring 2009 will include more 8x8s, along with flash cards, picture puzzle books, write-on/wipe-off books and sticker storybooks for ages 3-5.

Start-Up Scores with MLB

It’s uncommon for a start-up company to become a licensee of Major League Baseball and its players association, but Hawk’s Nest Publishing has done so, securing the rights for activity books featuring Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and New York Mets players.

“I was looking for a Red Sox coloring book, thinking there would be one, and there wasn’t. So I decided to take a stab at it myself,” says Peg Connery-Boyd, Hawk’s Nest’s founder. She was working in IT at the time, but submitted a prototype to the MLB Players Association, which manages rights to the players’ likenesses, and MLB, which controls team logos. “They’re looking for ways to reach kids and shed a light on the best of Major League Baseball,” Connery-Boyd explains.

The Red Sox version launched last July, and the first 10,000 copies were sold out by Christmas. The books, which are revised each year because they feature each team’s current roster, are sold in the ballparks, as well as in bookstores and other channels. Other teams may be added next year.

Brighter Minds Adds Licenses

Brighter Minds Media has added two properties to its roster of licenses. It acquired Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda for create-a-story books, 8x8 movie poster fact books—the pages fold out into 16x16 posters—and magnetic story books (a new format). “It fit the model of what we’re looking for in a license. It had humor, action and a great look for the characters,” says publisher Randy Meredith. Brighter Minds also secured the rights to DC Super Heroes from DC Comics for fold-out movie poster books, puzzle books and mix-and-match books.

Licensed titles account for about 75% of the company’s book business; book publishing, which it got into four years ago, generates 35% of total sales, according to Meredith. (Brighter Minds is also involved in software and online applications.) Its top licenses for books, to date, are Marvel Superheroes and PBS Kids.

Distribution is primarily in mass channels, including club stores. “In the bookstores, books are spine-out on the shelves, and novelty books tend to get lost,” Meredith says. “In mass, they’re usually face out and people can really see what they’re like.”

Todd Says: Be Hospitable

Todd Parr has created a new version of Be Hospitable, his 2006 promotional book for Hilton Hotels, to support the chain’s sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams. Hilton is a longtime sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee and wanted to tie Be Hospitable, which reflects its marketing theme, into that sponsorship. A portion of the proceeds from the book, published by Parr’s licensing agency Suppertime Entertainment, go to the Paralympics. “Todd has a way of taking a complex, abstract theme and making it understandable to kids,” says Liz Stahler, Suppertime partner and executive v-p.

“The Hilton Hotel family message is all about being hospitable,” adds Greg Seremetis, partner in program development for Hilton. “Todd’s the perfect person to deliver that message to a younger audience, and to business and leisure travelers.”

Copies of Be Hospitable: A World United Edition are being given away at eight readings by Olympic and Paralympic athletes; they also are being sold for $7.95 at the Hilton/U.S. Olympic Team online shopping portal, USOC retail channels and USA House in Beijing during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The back cover lists some of Parr’s books with Little, Brown; includes the Web sites for Parr and his television program, Toddworld; and mentions the Paralympic donation. There are 30,000 books in print.

In Brief

Bendon is releasing educational formats, story books and activity kits for Speed Racer: The Next Generation and classic Speed Racer, licensed by Speed Racer Enterprises.... Author/illustrator Nancy Wolff is partnering with Karen Neuburger for pajamas printed with her characters Tallulah, Freddie and Flapjack, packaged with Wolff’s Tallulah in the Kitchen (Henry Holt). Some of the proceeds go to First Book.... Kids Preferred, the plush licensee for Charlie and Lola, will distribute five of Penguin’s Charlie and Lola books to specialty, juvenile, gift and department stores. BBC Worldwide is the licensor.... Warner Bros. has partnered with the Becker Group for Harry Potter: The Exhibition, a five-year traveling exhibit of costumes, props and artifacts from the Harry Potter films.... Chorion has signed licenses with Armitron for Mr. Men and Little Miss watches, Applebee’s for an eight-page The World of Eric Carle menu/activity booklet and Ty’s Toy Box for an online shopping destination for several of its book-based properties.... Big Tent has added two new licensees for Miffy, including Skechers for shoe charms and Etchstar for laser engraving of cell phones, iPods and other electronics.... Licensees for Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian include Play Along for toys, Disney Interactive Studios for interactive games, WETA Collectibles for collectible statues and Robert Tonner for character figures.