Random House Takes On Toca Boca

Random House Children’s Books has secured rights for a publishing program tied to Toca Boca’s bestselling series of educational apps, which are billed as “digital toys” that foster creativity. The first two titles, a sticker book and a doodle book, will be exclusive to Target until January, part of a branded in-store boutique that marks the launch of Toca Boca licensed merchandise.

Random had been talking to Toca Boca for several years before the deal was finalized. “Many of my colleagues have children who are fond of and obsessed with the apps,” said Chris Angelilli, v-p and editor-in-chief, executive director, licensed publishing, Random House/Golden Books Young Readers Group. “Their mission is to capture a child’s spirit of play. There are no boundaries or right or wrong answers. And if you play Toca Kitchen or Toca Hair Salon, you’ll be hooked.” Other appealing characteristics included the apps’ strong sales, with many titles reaching the paid-app bestseller lists; the unique and recognizable characters; and the recognizable visual identity.

Toca Boca had two guidelines for the books. First, they had to appeal to the apps’ core audience of kids ages six to 10. Second, they could not rely on storytelling; they needed to reflect the app’s focus on open-ended, imaginative play. “Those constraints worked out to be helpful in shaping the vision for the books,” Angelilli said.

The first two titles are based on Toca Boca’s Toca Life app series, one of its bestsellers and the focus of the multi-product Target exclusive. The first two titles will expand to all retailers in January, and the partners are discussing more books for later in 2018, with additional formats, app titles, and age groups a possibility for the future. “We don’t want to limit ourselves,” Angelilli said.

Crayola Colors Lerner’s World

Lerner Publishing Group has signed a licensing deal with Crayola for a range of books with educational and arts and crafts content, leveled for children in grades K–3. “The goal of the partnership is to combine the strengths of both Lerner and Crayola,” said Jenny Krueger, Lerner’s product planning director. “We have school and library market expertise plus a robust trade program, and Crayola is a beloved brand in school libraries and classrooms, and at home.”

The launch list consists of 10 titles, six under the Crayola Concepts and four under the Crayola Seasons banners. Both series boast large, vibrantly colored photos, art activities, and educational back matter, including a feature that connects specific colors in the photos with actual Crayola crayon colors. Much of the content is open-ended, creative, and interactive. “We don’t want to prescribe and say, ‘Do this, and then do this,’ ” Krueger said. “We want readers to observe the world around them and be inspired.”

Nine more titles will follow in spring 2018, including a Let’s Draw with Crayola series, a Crayola Colorology series featuring titles such as The Art of Color and Color in Nature, and a one-off title, How to Make a Rainbow, which Krueger described as “kind of a color scavenger hunt.” Fall 2018 will bring Spanish translations of the Seasons and Concepts books and a Crayola Holiday Colors series exploring eight celebrations, from Hanukkah to Diwali, as well as a one-off, The Wild World of Animal Color.

Carson-Dellosa Partners with PBS Kids

Carson-Dellosa is adding the PBS Kids brand to its roster of licenses, which already includes Guinness World Records, Eric Carle, Crayola, and Singapore Math. The PBS Kids line of educational products, debuting in 2018, will encompass storybooks, chapter books, activity books, and workbooks, as well as educational cards and learning kits. The focus will be on PBS Kids’ sweet spot of preschoolers and extend up as high as grades two to three.

“We’re always in the market to find licenses that make sense in our portfolio,” said Julia Davis, Carson-Dellosa’s v-p of marketing, explaining that the two companies have a similar educational mission and emphasis on quality. In particular, “we both have an enormous commitment to summer learning,” she said. Carson-Dellosa’s Summer Bridge workbook series is its biggest brand, while one of PBS Kids’ most extensive educational initiatives is focused on summer learning as well. PBS Kids’ association with educational content ranging from STEAM to social and emotional learning was also appealing.

The publishing program is starting with two series, PBS Kids My Take-Along Tablet and PBS Kids Stick with It! sticker workbooks. The former, which will launch with six titles, is a collection of compact, on-the-go workbooks that represent a new format for Carson-Dellosa. The second is a sticker-activity format that will debut with four titles, each focusing on a different math topic. “PBS Kids has a strong brand personality, and we’re applying that to the sticker format in unique ways,” Davis said.

She expects the books to appeal to Carson-Dellosa’s existing customers, including trade bookstores and educational supply stores, with the Take-Along format a particularly good holiday gift. In addition, the company exhibited at the ECRM trade show, at which consumer product marketers sell to the top mass, grocery, dollar, and drug retailers. “We saw strong interest there,” she said. “That’s new distribution for us for these types of products.”

Abrams Goes After Girls with Hanazuki and JoJo Siwa

Abrams has acquired the rights to Hanazuki, a new license from longtime partner Hasbro. “The world of Hanazuki is such a rich and dynamic [one], with great storytelling at its core,” said Andrew Smith, senior v-p and publisher of Abrams Children’s Books. “It sends a message that it’s OK and important to express and celebrate your emotions, even the negative ones, and take responsibility for them and how they affect others.” The Hanazuki TV series, which airs on YouTube—a first for Abrams tie-ins—appeals to girls ages six to 11. “The lead character has guts and determination, and the brand has a dynamic visual aesthetic,” Smith added.

The first title, Hanazuki: Book of Treasures, set for November, is a $12.95 hardcover guidebook with interactive features that allow readers to share their emotions. March will bring a sticker book with more than 500 stickers and five double-sided pull-out posters, as well as the debut of a chapter book series by Stacy Davidowitz, author of the Camp Rolling Hills series. Starting with A Spark in the Dark, about overcoming fears, the series will feature three original stories per year, each focusing on, and color-coded to, a specific mood or emotion.

Abrams has also partnered with social media celebrity and former Dance Moms cast member JoJo Siwa, who has a large following among tweens. “We were impressed with her and her message,” Smith said. “She’s such a strong role model to her fans.” Siwa’s focus is on celebrating the individual, staying strong in the face of adversity, and taking a stand against bullying. In addition to her wide social media exposure, she has a presence on Nickelodeon. “Her profile is just growing by the day,” Smith said.

JoJo’s Guide to the Sweet Life: #PeaceOutHaterz, the story of her journey from Nebraska to Hollywood, releases on October 3, followed in January by JoJo Siwa: Things I Love, a full-color, hardcover, fill-in friendship book. Siwa will support the first title with a seven-city tour, with 1,000 fans expected at each stop.

DK Explores the ‘Making Of’ Format with Lego

“Making of” and “Art of” books have not traditionally been a focus for DK, with a James Bond title the only example until recently. But it dipped its toes into the format in a big way earlier this year with The Lego Batman Movie: The Making of the Movie. Thanks to the success of that title, DK, Lego, and Warner Bros. are partnering for a second book, The Lego Ninjago Movie: The Making of the Movie, this fall.

“The process [Lego and the animation teams] use to make the movies is so unique and interesting,” said Simon Beecroft, DK’s publishing director, licensing. “We saw an opportunity to tell that story in the DK way, with great visuals.” While DK’s other Lego Ninjago Movie tie-ins are already in stores, the Making Of book will release on September 26, after the September 22 theatrical premiere. “It’s packed with much more stuff and more spoilers,” Beecroft explained. DK worked closely with Matthew Ashton, “the creative supremo for Lego on the movie side,” according to Beecroft, as well as the animation teams, on the book. “We have really great access,” he said.

Separately, DK is publishing its second My Little Pony title, The Amazing Book of My Little Pony, this fall. The company had worked with Hasbro’s Transformers in the past. “We’d been looking for something else we could do together for a long time,” Beecroft said. Since there are already a number of publishers offering My Little Pony titles, the trick was for DK to find a unique format to get its foot in the door, and that turned out to be its Ultimate Factivity Collection. The My Little Pony edition, published in 2016, “did really well and showed us that there’s something really exciting about this brand,” Beecroft said.

The success of that title, and the fact that DK’s photographic illustrations differentiate it from the other licensed publishers’ illustrative style, led to a second book this fall. “We show the actual toys,” Beecroft explained. “That immediacy and the beautiful presence of the toys on the cover and in the pages is captivating to kids.” While not a movie tie-in, the book will release September 5, taking advantage of the publicity leading up to the October 6 debut of My Little Pony: The Movie. It has thick, tear-proof pages and lots of flaps and folds, and comes with a giant collector’s poster featuring all of the Pony characters.

Harper Orders Up Another Happy Meal Promotion

HarperCollins’s latest Happy Meal Books program with McDonald’s USA, running September 5–18, is its third such effort. This go-round is the first to occur during the fall season—and during National Literacy Month—and to feature a back-to-school theme. The highlighted books include Pete the Cat’s Got Class, Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School, Little Critter: Just a School Project, and If You Take a Mouse to School. The publisher is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, and that fact will be promoted on the books and in the restaurants.

Harper has been working with the quick-service chain on its Happy Meal Books program since early 2015, when it offered four classic titles, followed by a Valentine’s-themed collection in early 2016. McDonald’s selects the theme and the four titles, from a group of about 20 suggested by Harper. Most of the books that make the cut star the company’s best-known brands, but new characters are sometimes in the mix, as was the case with Clark the Shark Takes Heart last year.

The benefits to HarperCollins of working with McDonald’s are two-fold, according to Jean McGinley, v-p of subsidiary rights. First, with 17 million to 18 million mini-book units included in each go-round, it represents a strong special markets sale. “It’s a good opportunity to get so many books in the hands of so many children,” McGinley said. “And, for us, it’s a brand-building opportunity. It gives us massive exposure for our classic characters and for some of our new characters as well.”

This fall’s back-to-school promotion involves a donation of 100,000 books to Reading Is Fundamental, which also was the case for the original McDonald’s partnership.

In Brief

Joe Books is adding an As Told by Disney Emoji comic series to its Disney CineStory licensed comics franchise in September. The graphic novels, starting with Disney Beauty and the Beast, Disney Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Disney Zootopia, are tied to a series of animated shorts that retell Disney stories with “emojified” versions of the characters. The shorts have attracted more than 130 million views worldwide.... Warner Bros. and Lego announced the global licensing program for the September release of The Lego Ninjago Movie. In addition to DK, publishers producing 15 tie-in titles across formats include Scholastic, Ameet, and Blue Ocean.... CBS Consumer Products used its recent Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas as the occasion to announced new licensees for its upcoming TV series Star Trek: Discovery. Publishing partners include Simon & Schuster (books), IDW (comics), and Titan (magazines).... Disney and Lucasfilm previewed a range of upcoming Star Wars titles at San Diego Comic Con this summer, leading up to the release of the next film in the franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Examples include DK’s beginners guide, Star Wars Made Easy; IDW’s Star Wars Adventures all-ages comic book series; Disney Publishing Worldwide’s Chewie and the Porgs by Kevin Schinick; and Chronicle’s A Star Wars Cookbook: BB Ate, among many others.... Viz Media is releasing The Art of Pokémon Adventures, a 20th-anniversary title that will include a never-before-released-outside-of-Japan manga story.... Penguin Young Readers licensed Framebridge for a Penguin Print House line of custom-framed limited-edition artist prints….SupperTime Entertainment and SpiderEye are co-developing a TV series based on the work of author/illustrator Todd Parr….Tommy Nelson partnered with Ovation Brand restaurants (Old Country Buffet, Ryan’s HomeTown Buffet, Country Buffet, and Furr’s Fresh Buffet) to promote Amy Parker’s Night Night books at all locations on Family Nights.... In July, Egmont launched a DC Super Hero Girls magazine in the U.K.... BBC Books is publishing a U.K. Doctor Who paper doll collection featuring 26 dolls, 50 outfits, and behind-the-scenes costume secrets and cosplay tips from Christel Dee, presenter of Doctor Who: The Fan Show.