Make Way for McCloskey Products

Maine Arts Publishing, a two-year-old company specializing in posters, prints, and cards featuring imagery associated with Maine-based artists and locations, is launching a line of products featuring images from Robert McCloskey’s picture books (published by Viking). McCloskey was a Maine resident and many of his stories take place in the state.

The partnership started with a conversation between Maine Arts’ co-founder and head of marketing Leslie Harlow and Sally McCloskey, Robert’s daughter, who lives in the same Maine town and is in the same book club as Harlow and who oversees, along with her sister Jane, his estate. Once they hashed out the deal, Sally and Maine Arts’ co-founder and lead designer Dede Wilder selected from among the familiar illustrations. Products include unframed posters of all of the covers; a series of four framed images each from Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, Burt Dow Deep Water Man, Time of Wonder, and One Morning in Maine; and note cards featuring cover and interior images from some of the books.

Maine Arts’ current customer base includes book, gift, and tourist shops across Maine, but Harlow is hoping the McCloskey license will attract reps to help it expand its distribution. “We want to take this onto the national stage,” she said. “We did a local trade show a few weeks ago, and people were all over these. We think they will work outside of Maine.”

Last fall, another Maine company, Liberty Graphics, launched a line of t-shirts and onesies featuring McCloskey’s book images. “This is all very new to Sally and Jane,” Harlow said. “They’re still learning and they want to keep very tight control, but they’re seeing that there are some interesting merchandise and marketing opportunities out there.”

Peekaboo! Candlewick Sees App-Based Board Books

Candlewick Entertainment, a new imprint of Candlewick Press, is publishing four lift-the-flap board books tied to the Peekaboo series of preschool apps developed by Night & Day Studios. The first, coming out this fall, is tied to Peekaboo Barn, which has been played more than 70 million times worldwide and consistently ranks among iTunes’ top 20 educational games. Books linked to the Peekaboo Presents, Peekaboo Fridge, and Peekaboo Wild Animals apps will follow, likely on a one-per-year schedule.

“The [Peekaboo Barn] app is simple and addictive, and it felt like a board book right there on the iPad,” said Joan Powers, group editorial director for Candlewick Entertainment. “The book replicates the app and will be familiar to the app user, but it works as a board book even if you’ve never heard of the app.” The first printing will be stickered with a unique code enabling the purchaser to download the app for free. “That’s a first for us,” Powers noted.

Separately, Candlewick has launched a series of four readers for ages 6–9 based on Fizzy’s Lunch Lab, a digital property with nutrition themes that is distributed online via PBS Kids. The first book, Super Supper Throwdown, came out this month. Powers explained that the deep content of the website associated with the property, which features episodes, games, and songs, was attractive, as were the look of the property and the PBS Kids stamp of approval. “We were very interested in the fact that it was online-only,” she added. “With the new imprint, we’re looking for things that are new and come from different places.”

HarperCollins Returns to ‘Rio’

HarperCollins has reteamed with Fox Consumer Products and Blue Sky Studios to release five Rio 2 tie-ins for ages 4–12. The books went on sale February 25, in advance of the April 11 theatrical release. HarperCollins also served as the master publishing licensee for the first Rio film in 2011, and has worked with Fox on other film properties, including Alvin and the Chipmunks and Epic (also animated by Blue Sky).

Rio is really kid-friendly and funny, with a great cast,” said senior editor Pamela Bobowicz. “The movie is beautiful, and we knew it would make great, colorful books for kids.” The sequel’s publishing program is similar to that for the original film. It includes Rio 2: The Junior Novel, two 8x8s (Off and Flying and Unnamed Talent), and two I Can Read titles (Vacation in the Wild and One Big Blue Family). Each had an initial print run of 100,000 to 150,000 copies.

“These are the formats that resonate best with our audience and work the best with the assets we receive from the studio,” Bobowicz said. “We have a great brand in our I Can Read Books, and with the 8x8s and the junior novelization we can tell the story in different ways.” The 8x8s offered a twist in that they used original artwork provided by the studio, rather than movie imagery.

Harper produced an additional title, Rio 2: Blu’s Wild Journey, exclusively for Kohl’s, as part of a Kohl’s Cares charitable promotion that also involved three plush dolls and a puzzle from other licensees. Marketing initiatives for the books, which will continue through the DVD release and beyond, have included reciprocal mentions in Harper and Fox press releases; characters from Rio 2 being featured as I Can Read characters of the month; highlights in two issues of Harper’s monthly newsletter; and inclusion in the company’s summer book round-up.

Harper is one of more than 100 global licensing partners for Rio 2. Other publishers on board include Titan Books and Cupcake Digital.

IDW Experiments With Dexter’s Laboratory

Dexter’s Laboratory, which aired on Cartoon Network from 1996–1998 and 2001–2003, will be the focus of IDW’s latest comic book project under its license with the network. IDW is publishing a four-issue miniseries, starting this month, written by Derek Fridolfs (Batman: Li’l Gotham) with art by Ryan Jampole (Mega Man).

“Fans really respond to this era of Cartoon Network programming,” said editor Sarah Gaydos. “They’re so excited to hear we’re bringing Dexter back and filling that void.”

She noted that the IDW comics, along with original episodes on Netflix, can bring younger viewers to the property as well. “These are solidly all-ages,” she explained. “We stay quite true to the tone of the original cartoons and try to honor how they looked and sounded. There’s a lot of nostalgic readership. But those adults might share the experience with their kids or their nieces and nephews, and then we’ve hooked them.”

Other projects under the Cartoon Network license have included a Ben 10 miniseries and ongoing programs for The Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack. Next up is a six-issue crossover called Super Secret Crisis War, featuring characters from a range of shows, followed by five one-shot tie-ins starting in July.

The miniseries and one-shots are meant to stand alone, but good feedback and sales may lead to future publishing programs for popular properties. “One thing about IDW is we’re very nimble and responsive,” Gaydos said. “If the readership lets us know they like something, we can act on it.”

Nickelodeon Adds iBooks to its E-Roster

In mid-March, Nickelodeon published The 2014 Kids’ Choice Awards: The Official Multi-Touch Book, a free iBooks title meant to boost fan engagement and anticipation leading up to the March 29 event. “Apple has been a partner in promoting the Kids’ Choice Awards for three years, and we decided to take it up a notch,” said Sherice Torres, senior v-p, digital publishing and entertainment products at Nickelodeon.

The interactive book included behind-the-scenes video clips, quizzes and fun facts, a live countdown to the show synched to the iPad’s clock and time zone, a ballot, a treasure hunt involving the site’s features, and – a top draw among users – a 360-degree, 3D look at Nickelodeon’s famous orange blimp.

The e-book’s creation involved several Nickelodeon departments. “Traditional publishing was involved to help make sure we had the right tone and voice to capture the target demo,” Torres said. “Digital publishing was involved to make sure the experience was spot-on and that we took advantage of the functionality iBooks has to offer. And marketing was involved to make sure it looked and felt like all the other promotion supporting the event.”

Last year, Nickelodeon published another free title using iBooks. The Legend of Korra: Enhanced Experience by Nickelodeon promoted the second season of that series, a spin-off of Avatar: The Last Airbender that is meant to appeal to kids, teens, and adults. “The fans are truly rabid,” Torres said. “The iBook was another way to deepen that relationship and allow the fans to more deeply connect with the show.” The iBooks title included features ranging from sneak peaks of the upcoming season to detailed backstories for onscreen characters.

In Brief

Barnes & Noble is celebrating the 45th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar with hands-on in-store learning events from April 25 through May 4, centered around licensee Mudpuppy’s Very Hungry Caterpillar color-in crown. Joester-Loria Group, licensing agent for The World of Eric Carle, worked with B&N on the promotion.... Zenescope is publishing tie-ins to the Charmed TV series again, under license from CBS Consumer Products, in the form of a monthly comic and twice-a-year trade paper compilations. From June 2010 to September 2012, it published 24 issues based on the show, which was on air from 1998 through 2006.... MerryMakers, agent for James Dean’s Pete the Cat, licensed Wonder-Shirts for a line of t-shirts.... University Games has purchased Briarpatch, a company known for its board and card games featuring book-based properties such as I Spy and Fancy Nancy.... Hasbro has licensed Aurora World for a line of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls to debut in June.... Aardman Animations signed Walker Books for Shaun the Sheep the Movie activity books and junior novelization (Candlewick Entertainment will publish in the U.S., starting in spring 2015).... Silver Dolphin Books teamed with Skyreader Media for three iPad apps tied to the former’s Pretend and Play book series.... HarperCollins partnered with Sun-Maid Growers of California for a 12-week promotion in which consumers who buy a six-pack of Sun-Maid raisins can purchase If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses, or The Mixed-Up Chameleon for $1.95, with each title available for four weeks. Book purchasers are entered into a sweepstakes; 30 winners receive a library of classic books.... Nelvana partnered with Memories Resorts and Royalton Luxury Resorts to feature experiences and amenities based on the Berenstain Bears and Max & Ruby, respectively.... Atlantyca Entertainment and Scholastic released the first Geronimo Stilton app for iOS devices.... DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products partnered with General Mills for four exclusive in-box Justice League comics. Personalized Justice League children’s books from KD Novelties also were included in the promotion.... Nickelodeon Publishing partnered with Kobo to distribute more than 250 e-book titles based on Nickelodeon series.... Sesame Workshop added to its extensive digital library with the launch of Sesame Street S’More, its first interactive magazine app, available on Newsstand.... Big Tent Entertainment created an e-book tied to Komaneko, a Japanese animated film by Tsuneo Goda, creator of Domo. It will be distributed as part of the Kideo eTales series.