Random House Expands Nickelodeon Roster

Random House is adding three new properties to its Nickelodeon publishing program, with books for each debuting in January 2012. They include the preschool shows Team Umizoomi and Bubble Guppies, as well as the tween mystery series House of Anubis.

Formats for Team Umizoomi and Bubble Guppies will be under the coloring and activity and Little Golden Books umbrellas. The latter will feature a retro style that marries the TV show imagery with the vintage look of the Poky Little Puppy and other Little Golden Book characters. Random House has created a similar look for some licensed Disney/Pixar titles in the past, but “Nickelodeon has really jumped on board with it,” says Chris Angelilli, v-p and editor-in-chief of Golden Books.

Angelilli says both properties excited the publisher from the first glimpse. Team Umizoomi, which combines animation and live-action, “is interactive and high-energy,” he says. While initially a bit concerned that the math theme might turn off young readers, Angelilli notes that the educational content is integrated organically into the series, which is also very entertaining. “Only Nickelodeon could make a show about math so fun,” he says. “We’re following Nickelodeon’s lead in terms of the mix of math and fun [in the books].”

As for Bubble Guppies, Random was so taken with the property that it wanted to publish even before the show went on the air, rather than waiting the requisite year after the January 2011 premiere. “They’re just really, really cute, and the show is extremely well-written and extremely funny,” Angelilli says.

Meanwhile, the first two House of Anubis novelizations cover the initial season of that series. The show is set in a boarding school in the U.K., where a group of students investigates the disappearance of a classmate. “It’s refreshing to see an episodic series that’s a mystery,” Angelilli remarks, “rather than all the tween comedy series that seem to be the trend today.”

Macmillan Acquires Reggae-Loving Rastamouse

A preschool TV series about a skateboarding, mystery-solving, Caribbean patois-speaking mouse who’s a member of a reggae band has become a hit on the Cbeebies network in the U.K. Macmillan Children’s Books recently acquired the license for all children’s formats in English-language territories excluding the U.S. The first titles for Rastamouse, which is a combination of 2D animation and puppetry, will launch in the U.K. in spring 2012.

“It’s a breath of fresh air,” says Jackie McCann, editorial manager, licensing and activity, at Macmillan’s Campbell Books imprint. “The music was the first thing that grabbed me. They’re using proper reggae artists who have written extremely catchy songs.” McCann notes that the language, which doesn’t speak down to children, is poetic and rhythmic and unique in children’s literature. “The patois that these little mice speak is fantastic. It has a distinct and really authentic voice.”

McCann says the U.K. has an ethnically diverse population but children’s programming and publishing don’t reflect that, and Macmillan had been looking for a property that would address the imbalance. Rastamouse, which was created by Michael de Souza, an educator from Trinidad, and Genevieve Webster, a designer and illustrator with publishing experience, fit the bill. Licensed by DHX Media, the show has attracted a broad audience in both age—with students and young adults tuning in—and ethnicity.

“The characters are incredibly positive,” McCann says. “They’re very well-behaved and responsible, but they also have masses of street cred.” The patois, which has been controversial in some circles, is part of the appeal, but it has been hard to translate into print. “I think it’s genius, I really do. But it’s not so easy to replicate,” she explains. “The challenge is to make the stories as brilliant in book form as they are on the television.”

Macmillan is planning to launch with two paperback storybooks, a lift-the-flap book and a sticker activity book in May and June, followed by a soundbook in September. McCann says the property, which is based on original books published by Little Roots starting in 2003, ultimately could lend itself to some new formats. “It could take us into places we haven’t gone to before.”

Sterling Celebrates the Season

Sterling’s second movie license, after Rango earlier this year, is Arthur Christmas, a holiday feature from Aardman Animations, released in November by Sony Pictures. “The script was laugh-out-loud hilarious,” says Frances Gilbert, v-p and publisher, Sterling Children’s Books. She notes that the film has wide appeal, with a story, characters, and joyous atmosphere that will appeal to young readers, as well as a sly sense of humor for adults. Formats include an 8x8, easy reader, paper-over-board storybook, junior novelization and sticker book. Sterling also has ebook rights.

Newmarket Press is another licensee, offering a pictorial “making of” book. Other companies on the Arthur Christmas roster include The Bridge Direct for toys and slippers, American Greetings for giftwrap, Santa’s Best for ornaments and Christmas stockings, Cardinal Industries for memory games and puzzles, and Spin Up for mobile games. Toys R Us opened an exclusive shop on November 9, two weeks before the film’s release; Sterling’s books are available in Toys R Us outlets, as well as in its parent company Barnes & Noble’s stores and other retail channels.

Lowly Worm Shops at Nordstrom

This holiday season, Nordstrom is featuring a range of Richard Scarry’s Busytown products, in a deal with Cookie Jar Entertainment and its licensing division, Copyright Promotions Licensing Group. The effort comes as Cookie Jar and CPLG are expanding their licensing effort for the brand.

Wonder Forge, which has been the board game licensee for Richard Scarry for two years, sold its products at Nordstrom last year, leading to this year’s broader partnership. “The games did really well, so we took our cue from that and approached Nordstrom,” says Cindy Davis, head of domestic licensing at CPLG.

A focus of the shops will be a new play system from The Bridge Direct that is currently launching at Toys R Us and at Nordstrom. “It’s a whole playset that creates the world of Busytown, similar to the Thomas & Friends or Chuggington playsets, but instead of being train-based it features Richard Scarry’s fun and whimsical vehicles and characters,” Davis says.

In addition to the Wonder Forge and Bridge Direct product, this year’s Nordstrom shops feature exclusive boys’ t-shirts from Mighty Fine and DVDs from Mill Creek, as well as Random House’s classic picture books (six titles ranging in price from $3.95 to $39.95). Products also are available on the Nordstrom e-commerce site, and a Lowly Worm plush, DVD, and playset package is offered in the chain’s holiday catalog.

In January, Cookie Jar and CPLG will partner with Barnes & Noble for a 50-store test of the toys, which, if successful, may lead into a Busytown feature shop in B&N stores nationally. Meanwhile, Cookie Jar is developing a second Richard Scarry TV series, based on What Do People Do All Day?; it currently produces the Busytown Mysteries series.

In Brief

Disney Publishing Worldwide is launching an original interactive storybook app for young readers, The Amazing Spider-Man: An Origin Story, featuring the voice of Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee.... Mattel acquired HIT Entertainment, licensor of book-based properties including Thomas the Tank Engine and Angelina Ballerina, for $680 million. Mattel has sold more than $150 million worth of Thomas & Friends die-cast and plastic toys, it says, and plans to assume sales of Thomas wooden trains in 2012 when that license, with longtime partner Learning Curve, expires.... Sanrio, licensor of Hello Kitty, has bought Mr. Men and Little Miss from the soon-to-be-shuttered property owner, Chorion.... Penguin Children’s Books’ Ladybird imprint will publish storybooks, picture books, activity books, and digital formats in the U.K. based on Cloudbabies, a British preschool TV show licensed by Hoho Entertainment.... As Hanukkah approaches, Random House will publish Elmo’s Little Dreidel as part of its Sesame Street program. Sesame Workshop is promoting content from Shalom Sesame, its Israeli coproduction with Channel HOP!, online and on-air in the U.S.... Guinness World Records signed Paladone for a line of party goods in the U.K.... Book and doll property StinkyKids has retained a new licensing agent, BE MORE Consultants. Raven Tree Press is the publisher.... Marvel Entertainment and AMSCAN signed a deal for a branded Marvel Halloween costume shop in Party City stores in 2012. Party City, owned by AMSCAN, will feature costumes tied to next summer’s Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man films, as well as the Marvel Super Heroes.... Universal Partnerships & Licensing teamed with retailer Learning Express for Curious George sock monkeys and sticky mosaic kits.... The Joester-Loria Group has added to its Pinkalicious licensing program, with new partners including American Marketing Enterprises for sleepwear, Almar for health and beauty items, and Street Flyers for sporting goods. HarperCollins publishes Pinkalicious books.... Peanuts Worldwide licensed Loud Crow Interactive for a series of interactive book apps based on the Peanuts animated TV specials.... Atlantyca Entertainment was named the Italian licensing agent for The Little Prince animated TV series, represented by LPPM. Atlantyca also holds classic Little Prince rights from SOGEX, the licensing company representing Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s heirs.