They may seem like unlikely creative collaborators – singers Sarah McLachlan and Carly Rae Jepson, basketball star Steve Nash, actress Elisha Cuthbert – but HarperCollins Canada brought them and six other celebrities together (virtually) in a reading of the classic Canadian children’s poem “Alligator Pie” by Dennis Lee. Each recorded individual contributions, which have been edited and woven together into a single video performance of the poem.
The composite video created by HarperCollins Canada’s marketing team has been exclusively hosted on Amazon.ca for the month of April as part of a promotion: the publisher is donating one dollar from the sale of each of Lee’s books to the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week. Run by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, this year’s book week will send 30 authors, illustrators, and storytellers to schools, libraries, bookstores, and community centers across Canada from May 4 to 11.
The Amazon promotion runs until the end of this month, but after that, the video will be released to other retailers, and on YouTube and Facebook, said HarperCollins Canada’s marketing director Cory Beatty.
On May 1, HarperCollins is also launching Lee’s new [Web site]. DennisLee.ca The video will be posted on the site along with outtakes and individual readings.
Lee, who has been called Canada’s Father Goose, first released Alligator Pie almost 40 years ago. HarperCollins acquired the rights to his work after Key Porter Books shut down in 2011, and a new edition of Alligator Pie with its original illustrations by Frank Newfeld was released in 2012. Beatty added that response to Alligator Pie promotions in HarperCollins’s social media network, which includes more than 100,000 Facebook fans, has been “terrific. We’ve had many, many people saying how much they loved that poem as a child. They’re so happy that it is back in print and excited that all these celebrities are supporting it.”
Hadley Dyer, executive editor for children’s books for HarperCollins Canada, said the company had been looking for a way to demonstrate the poem’s enduring power as one of the country’s best-known and best-loved poems for children. “Alligator Pie was incredibly important to a generation of kids who hadn’t seen a lot of Canadian imagery, place names, and experiences in their books before the collection was published in 1974,” she told PW, “when the Canadian children’s book industry as it exists today was still in its infancy. We all know how feeling a personal connection a book can inspire a love of reading, so I suggested to Cory that we link the celebrity tribute video to a fundraiser that supports a reading promotion project. We’re so grateful to all of the participants for their support.”
Lee will be releasing a new book of children’s poetry with HarperCollins Canada, Melvis and Elvis, illus. by Jeremy Tankard, in 2014.