CSI: Middle School

Simon Spotlight will publish a series of middle-grade readers for boys and girls 8-12 under the Club CSI name, licensed by CBS Consumer Products. While loosely tied to the television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation—a leading character, the forensic science teacher Ms. Hodges, is a cousin of one of the investigators on the show—the books will focus on age-appropriate everyday mysteries.

“The CSI franchise absolutely does target an adult viewer,” says Kara Sargent, editorial director of Simon Spotlight. “But the popularity of the whole phenomenon is starting to trickle down.”

She notes that a Mad Science-produced live stage show for kids has been well-received at state fairs, performing arts centers and other venues, and that some schools have started offering forensic science electives.

“The books are meant to be entertaining and not to seem educational,” Sargent adds. “But it teaches a lot about science and we hope that will make it interesting to parents and teachers.” The series will launch in spring 2012 with two $5.99 paperbacks, followed by a third in the summer and one per season after that. Jacketed hardcover versions also will be available, mainly for the library market.

This is not the first time the CSI franchise has targeted younger fans; in 2009, CBS signed now-shuttered TokyoPop for a series of teen-targeted manga about forensic interns.

Random House Adds Preschool Properties

Random House is introducing two new licensed book programs for preschoolers this fall: happi by Dena, an art-based brand from Dena Designs, and Maryoku Yummy, an American Greetings property that debuted on the new kids channel, The HUB, last fall.

The happi program is based on art created by Dena Fishbein of Dena Designs. “The look of the characters attracted me first off,” says Heidi Kilgras, editorial director, RH Books for Young Readers. “It’s contemporary and modern, but there’s a warmth to it. Dena is like that as well; she’s a savvy businesswoman but very warm and with loads of ideas.”

Plush, bedding, baby journals, and wallcoverings featuring the characters already are available, with more merchandise planned. “Board books need a little bit of bolstering in the marketplace, and [this property] has a wonderful platform. The opportunities for cross-promotions and special markets are really exciting,” Kilgras says. “But even people who are not familiar with the bedding will find the art concept to be pleasing and appealing.” The first two happi board books will launch this fall, then a novelty board book in spring 2012 and a fourth title in spring 2013.

The available art was a strong selling point for Maryoku Yummy, too. “It was extremely cute and had a lot of classic appeal,” says Dennis Shealy, editorial director, licensed publishing, Golden Books/Random House Books for Young Readers. “It also has that Japanimation look, which never really gets big but is always there and always influential. And there’s the wish-fulfillment aspect of the show and the sweetness, which appeals to that 2-5 age group.” A board book and two paperbacks are launching in fall 2011, and two more titles each in spring and fall 2012.

As a start-up, The HUB, co-owned by Hasbro and Discovery, has a relatively small audience so far. “Normally, I’m a very pragmatic licensing director and feel it’s got to have the big media and everything else,” Shealy says. “But this has a huge amount of shelf appeal and it might prove to be one of the exceptions to the rule and have a life in books, regardless.” Random House is running an ad on the Ty’s Toy Box Web site, which introduced a Maryoku Yummy store last fall.

Alloy Adds Licensing to the Mix

Alloy, a developer of books, films and television shows, largely for teenage girls—is moving into licensing with the hire of a new director of licensing, Sarah Dubois Miller, formerly of licensing agency 360ep. Some of Alloy’s best-known properties to date include Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

The company will oversee licensing programs for its in-house developed properties that are not set up at entertainment studios, as well as representing a few third-party licenses. “As we grow our business, we are strategizing the entire life cycle and range of platforms for our brands,” says Leslie Morgenstein, Alloy Entertainment’s CEO. “We think licensing is integral both as a potential revenue source and as a promotional platform.” One property for which Alloy is developing initial licensing plans is Wendy and the Dinner Circle, formerly Girls Dinner Club, a book series by Jessie Elliott, published by HarperCollins.

Viz’s Vampire Success Story

Viz Media is back with a booth at this week’s Licensing International Expo in Las Vegas, after a several-year hiatus. Among the dozen properties being showcased are the brand-new Tiger & Bunny and Hatsune Miku; the company’s two leading franchises, Naruto Shippuden and BLEACH; and a female-targeted shojo manga property, Vampire Knight.

“Vampire Knight has been a standout for us,” says Tracy Hanchett, director of consumer products. “The success has been a surprise, especially given that there’s no TV behind it.” Most manga/anime consumer products success stories tend to be male-skewing, as well as TV-driven, making Vampire Night unique in a couple of ways. Licensed products so far include calendars, accessories, apparel, home décor, textiles, and electronics skins; potential areas for expansion include makeup, jewelry, and other items that appeal to a Hot Topic/goth teen girl audience.

Last week Viz announced it would represent Tiger & Bunny and Hatsune Mizu for licensing in the U.S. Tiger & Bunny is a comedic crime-fighting anime action series that simulcasts on VizAnime.com and Hulu the same day it debuts in Japan; it has gained a fan following and desire for merchandise in the U.S. Meanwhile, Hatsune Miku is a virtual performer created by licensor Crypton Future Media for a Yamaha sound-synthesizing software called Vocaloid. It has become a hit in Japan, performing concerts—with the digital singer backed by a live band—and signing deals for manga, art books and consumer products. In the U.S., a Toyota Corolla commercial starring the character has generated 950,000 hits on YouTube.

In Brief

American Greetings and Cookie Jar Entertainment signed several publishing deals for Strawberry Shortcake books in Western and Eastern Europe, including Hachette Polska, Editorial Bruño, Edicoes ASA, Redan Publishing, and Panini Verlags GmbH.... HIT Entertainment extended its global licensing agreement with Mega Brands for Thomas & Friends construction sets and signed new agreements with LF USA for apparel, SG Footwear for shoes and ABG Accessories for headwear, rainwear, umbrellas and cold-weather wear.... Hastings was named the “official Green Lantern headquarters,” carrying graphic novels, books, action figures, apparel, DVDs and videogames tied to the comic-based film, out June 17.... Nelvana’s animated version of Max & Ruby, based on Rosemary Wells’s picture books, will be featured in a kids’ meal premium promotion at Chick-fil-A this summer.... Scholastic will publish a junior novelization and reader tied to the 3D-animated Dolphin’s Tale, a September film produced by Alcon Entertainment, distributed by Warner Bros. and licensed by Joy Tashjian Marketing Group.... Zinkia signs De Agostini to produce books in Italy, including sticker, flap, reading and activity books, based on the preschool animated series Pocoyo.... The Joester Loria Group will serve as the licensing agent for Poppy Cat, a book series created by Lara Jones that has sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide. Licensing will focus on toys, games and apparel for 3- to 5-year olds; a TV show launches on Sprout in the U.S. this year.... Author Karen Katz signs Animal Adventure for soft dolls, baby blankets, rattles and musical pull toys tied to her books Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?, Counting Kisses, Potty for Me! and Daddy and Me. Katz’s licensing agent is Act III Licensing.... Chorion has licensed Buba, C&A, Foroni, Duraplast, and Zeryus for Mr. Men and Little Miss figurines, apparel, notebooks, flip flops and handbags in Brazil. It also licensed H&M for Beatrix Potter apparel and other girls’ products for global markets excluding China (through Chorion’s Nordic licensing agent, Bulls Press) and Headline Entertainment for Beatrix Potter t-shirts in the U.S.... Rocket Licensing will represent Dr. Seuss for merchandising in the European market, where licensees include Fabric Flavours, Five Mile Press, Hype and Roger La Borde.... Quirk Books will launch the Star Trek Book of Opposites, licensed by CBS Consumer Products, in September 2011.... Gameloft will release a mobile game, licensed by Paramount Digital Entertainment, based on The Adventures of Tintin, tied to the release of the film based on Herge’s classic comic.