New Directions for Bendon and Kathy Ireland

Mass market and value channel specialist Bendon is going high-end through a new licensing deal with model, designer, and entrepreneur Kathy Ireland and her company, kathy ireland Worldwide. A series of baby and toddler books under the My First Step umbrella will include lift-the-flap, cloth, board, and matching-game titles sold through mid-tier department stores, specialty stores, and the book trade, at price points from $5.99 to $19.99.

The Kathy Ireland brand generates an estimated $1 billion-plus at retail. “Her consumer product sales have become so strong that we can’t deny her as a significant lifestyle brand,” says Bendon CEO Ben Ferguson, who reports that retailers are excited about the June launch. “She has so much momentum, and will have more momentum in the next 12 months.”

kathy ireland Worldwide has more than 35 licensing partners in categories ranging from window replacements, jewelry, fresh flowers, and mattresses to socks, skincare, and wigs. She has written a handful of inspirational titles for adults, with publishers including Howard Books, and her name was associated with a Story Reader interactive title for children, also with inspirational themes, released in 2005.

Silver Dolphin Crafts Two New Series

Silver Dolphin Books, a division of Baker & Taylor, has signed two new toy-based licenses, Play-Doh and Crayola, for activity books and craft kits in North and Latin America. “Our books are not curriculum, but they have educational themes and hands-on learning,” says Jon Rosenberg, v-p and publisher. “These brands fit with what we’re doing here. I love Dora and SpongeBob, but they’re not Silver Dolphin.”

An educational activity series tied to Hasbro’s Play-Doh will launch this March in the U.S. with three concept learning books, two novelty board books, and one jumbo sticker book, each illustrated with photos of animals and environments sculpted from Play-Doh compound. Plans for future seasons include board, electronic sound, sticker/activity, and novelty books, some packaged with Play-Doh compound, extruders, playmats, stencils, and other value-added items.

The Crayola books and kits will be co-packed with Crayola art supplies. Debuting in the U.S. in fall 2013, titles will include Sidewalk Art and Games and books under the Artist Studio banner, including Window Art and Rock Painting. In each title, an original character takes the reader step-by-step through a series of craft projects.

Both licenses will be applied to existing Silver Dolphin formats as well as new ones, with six to eight titles per season published for each brand. “The response so far with retailers has been nothing but positive,” Rosenberg reports.

Hello, Graphic Novels

Sanrio’s ubiquitous Hello Kitty is making a move into graphic novels in North America through a license with Viz Media’s VIZ Kids imprint. “Hello Kitty is one of the most popular and iconic properties in the world,” says Beth Kawasaki, senior editorial director, VIZ Kids. “We’re surrounded by Hello Kitty in our daily lives, but this is a new direction for Sanrio and Hello Kitty.”

There has been some book publishing for the property, but never in a narrative format like this, according to Kawasaki. The story is told wordlessly, as per Sanrio’s guidelines, with picture-filled thought balloons and sound effects helping move the story along. The sweet spot for readership is girls 6-10, but “a large secondary audience, well above that age group, will enjoy these as well,” Kawasaki says.

Hello Kitty Fashion Music Wonderland, a standalone book with an exclusive cover by Jacob Chabot and artwork by Chabot, Victoria Maderna, and Ian McGinty, will be released this summer at Comic-Con, then sold exclusively at Sanrio stores and, tying in with the seasonal Hello Kitty theme featured in the stores during that time period. That will be followed by another edition of the same book, with a variant cover, sold exclusively through Diamond Comics’ top-tier Diamond Comics Pro stores during the holidays.

An ongoing series chronicling Hello Kitty’s adventures, from climbing the Himalayas to chasing a cake thief, will begin in the fall with the first issue, Here We Go! Each 64-page book includes several short stories in traditional Hello Kitty style, along with four pages created by a guest artist.

VIZ also recently acquired the rights to Max Steel from Mattel and Fremantle Media, for distribution in North America, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. The Disney XD TV show, a rethinking of a series that was on the air about 10 years ago, is about a boy and an alien robot who have turbo powers when they come together. The comics will feature elements of superhero-style bad-guy battling, as well as lots of buddy humor, Kawasaki says.

In Brief

Nelvana and the Clifford Ross Company signed the Danish designer brand Soulland for a line of menswear to be featured at the Colette shop in Paris from April through the summer.... Parragon has extended two of its Mattel licenses to cover North America, where it will publish novelty and activity books for Mattel’s Barbie and Monster High. It already holds Barbie rights for Germany, Scandinavia, Benelux, and India, and Monster High for the U.K., Australia, and Germany.... Merrymakers announced two new licensees for Pete the Cat, which it represents through its MerryMakers Licensing division. They are Carson Dellosa for educational supplies and Multipet for pet toys. MerryMakers also acquired two new properties for plush dolls: Chronicle’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter.... Scholastic has secured the rights for Almost Naked Animals, a comedy series on Cartoon Network in the U.S., from 9 Story Entertainment and its agent The Licensing Shop.... Kappa Books is publishing coloring and activity titles for ZeptoLab’s Cut the Rope mobile game.... Random House is publishing two titles tied to Disney’s Mulan, in conjunction with the deluxe Blu-Ray and DVD release this spring. It also is adding books to its Nickelodeon roster, including The Fresh Beat Band and The Legend of Kora.... Hoho Entertainment has signed Century Books for a Cloudbabies annual, tied to a preschool TV series in the U.K., along with Immediate Media and Studio Liddell for apps. Penguin’s Ladybird is the master publisher.... New licensing agents representing Paddington Bear in Europe include StudioCanal in France, Lizenzwerft in Germany, and Edebe Licensing in Spain and Portugal.... Karen Addison Associates has been appointed licensing agent for the Thelwell brand, based on the cartoons of Norman Thelwell, featured in 31 books starting with 1957’s Angels on Horseback.

Sesame Workshop is launching three of its bestselling apps—Elmo Loves 123s, Another Monster at the End of This Book, and Potty Time with Elmo—for the Kindle Fire, available through the Amazon App store for Android.... IDW and Fox are launching a line of new and reprinted X-Files comics in June.... In January, Dark Horse began publishing a graphic novel series tied to Emily the Strange, licensed by Cosmic Debris, featuring limited-edition covers by guest artists….Pressman Toy is producing two games and a floor puzzle tied to Elf on the Shelf.... Plush maker Kids Preferred has acquired Bunnies by the Bay, a line of high-end books, toys, and apparel.... DHX Media signed Daytime Enterprises for Caillou character costumes and Genera Mobile Solutions for a Caillou app.... Scholastic U.K. is expanding its publishing and licensing programs for the 20-year-old Horrible Histories franchise. New licensees include Worlds Apart (toys) and Elgate (stationery and gifts).... Fisher-Price is the licensee for the book-based TV series The Octonauts, which airs on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior in the U.S.... Zodiak Kids, through agents Established Brands and Studio Licensing, partnered with Cupcake Digital for 12 enhanced ebooks based on the preschool series Tickety Toc, which airs on Nick Jr. in the U.S....

Puffin U.K. will publish story, activity, and sticker books, as well as an official guide, tied to Rovio’s Angry Birds.... 41 Entertainment and U.K. agent Lisle International signed Titan Publishing for a Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures magazine and Pedigree Books for a 2014 annual.... Disney Publishing releases its first book tied to Sofia the First, its new preschool show on Disney Junior.... Beaver Books secured the rights to Fremantle’s Family Feud for puzzle books in North America and Nickelodeon’s Dora and Bubble Guppies for coloring and activity books in Canada and French Europe.... Jim Henson Company signed Mindshapes for educational apps for Sid the Science Kid and Pajanimals.... The Joester Loria Group partnered with G&W Industries to market newborn, infant, and toddler apparel for The World of Eric Carle.... Sanrio has signed a number of licensees for Mr. Men and Little Miss in the U.S., including Loungefly (jewelry, backpacks, and accessories), Age Group (swimwear), FAB (stationery and back-to-school), Franco (bed and bath), High Point (hosiery), Komar (sleepwear), and Vandor (gifts and novelties).... Lawless Entertainment will serve as the licensing representative for Nikki Mark’s Mommy Brings Home the Bacon. It also signed R. John Wright to create collector dolls for The Little Prince.