Baby Shark Swims to HarperCollins

HarperCollins has signed on as the master publishing licensee for Pinkfong’s Baby Shark. The property is centered around a music video that has been viewed on YouTube 3.5 billion times, making it the ninth most-watched video in that platform’s history. The hard-to-forget song has also appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 for 20 weeks. Initial publishing plans include board books, novelty board books, leveled readers, and picture books for ages two to seven.

“Everyone knows Baby Shark,” says Tomas Palacios, executive editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books. “It’s simple yet iconic, and kids get it. It’s catchy. It’s the kind of thing parents and kids in the store will gravitate toward. And the numbers are a testament to its global power.” Palacios reports that exposure for the property is growing beyond YouTube as well. Baby Shark can be seen in short-form animation on Amazon Prime, for example, and in a toy line from WowWee. Nickelodeon is developing a television series.

A My First I Can Read title, Baby Shark and the Balloons, is available now, with a tabbed board book, Meet Baby Shark, and a holiday 9x9 paper-over-board picture book, Merry Christmas, Baby Shark!, to follow later this year. The holiday title will include a piece of wrapping paper, a sticker sheet, and a write-a-letter-to-Santa activity. More titles are planned for 2020. “The program includes our staple, tried-and-true formats,” says Palacio, who credits associate editor Alexandra West and associate art director Joe Merkel with putting together the program within a very short timeframe.

Pinkfong, a Korean media company, distributes its own Baby Shark soundbooks in the U.S. and Canada, both online and in retail locations. It continues to create new characters, and HarperCollins is in discussions about potentially expanding beyond the core characters from the original Baby Shark video, which are its current focus.

BuzzPop Goes to the Mat with WWE

Little Bee Books’ BuzzPop imprint has secured the rights to WWE, the wrestling entertainment and media company. BuzzPop plans to launch an extensive children’s publishing program consisting of activity, coloring, and novelty books. Titles will feature current wrestlers under the WWE Superstars banner, stars of the 1980s under the WWE Legends brand, and individual events such as WrestleMania.

Part of the appeal for BuzzPop was WWE’s wide audience. “Who has not watched WWE at some time in their life, right?” asks editor Rachel Gluckstern. “We want to expand our stable of licenses, and this is tapping into a slightly older audience and more boy readers,” she says. “It has a very strong female following, and we’ll be featuring the female Superstars as much as the males, but boys are strongly drawn to it.” The sweet spot for the property is ages 8–12, with some formats for readers as young as age six.

Compelling content was also a selling point. “It has that soap-opera, reality-show, can’t-look-away angle, and it’s as entertaining as heck,” Gluckstern says. “Everything is very family-friendly. It captures the energy of wrestling, without being violent.”

The first three titles, set for release in January, February, and March 2020, respectively, include the WWE Legendary Joke Book; WWE Superstars Ultimate Sticker and Activity Book, a format with 12 sheets of stickers that BuzzPop features in all of its licensed lines; and WWE Road to WrestleMania.

“We’re going in with a strong launch,” Gluckstern says, noting that ideas for future titles range from poster books, to books about other pay-per-view events, to holiday titles. “It will be a mix of seasonal and evergreen. WWE has something on TV 52 weeks a year. It’s unstoppable and eternal, and our formats should be in that spirit.”

The relationship with BuzzPop represents WWE’s most significant publishing program for children. Other publishers producing WWE titles include DK for readers, Quarto for one to two reference books per year sold through Scholastic channels only, Phidal for a Busy Book with playmat and figures, and, in the U.K., Little Brother Books for an annual and Kennedy Publishing for a kids’ magazine. In the past, WWE worked with Penguin’s Grosset & Dunlap imprint on formats such as Pick Your Path books and children’s nonfiction.

Running Press Rocks Out

Running Press is launching a new board book series, Baby Rocker, for ages up to four. The first two titles, published this month, are Baby KISS, about colors, and Baby Bowie, about adjectives. An Elvis Presley title on opposites is set for 2020.

The board book idea came up while Running Press was working with licensing agent Epic Rights, which specializes in musical acts, on some adult-oriented products featuring ’N Sync. “We thought this was a way to introduce these musicians to a new generation,” says Jennifer Leczkowski, Running Press’s director of licensing and miniature editions. “It’s a fun way to teach early concepts to toddlers and babies, and there’s also a collectible element. We think there will be so much crossover potential for the adult market, not just parents and grandparents, but collectors of all ages.”

The line will not be limited to Epic artists such as KISS. The rights to David Bowie are represented jointly by Epic Rights and Perryscope Productions—a picture book featuring the lyrics to Let’s Dance is also forthcoming in spring 2020—while Elvis comes through another licensor, Authentic Brands Group. Negotiations are ongoing with other licensors and agents about additional rockers for 2020 and beyond.

Separately, Running Press is bringing the late artist and TV star Bob Ross, who has been a big success in adult formats, according to Leczkowski, into the children’s book world. Running Press first launched Ross products in spring 2017 with Happy Little Accidents: The Wit and Wisdom of Bob Ross, followed by two mini-kits—a bestselling bobblehead with sound in fall 2017 and a color-by-number in fall 2018— along with a journal and note cards from the RP Studio imprint. “He’s attracted a new generation through streaming and is so popular with millennials,” Leczkowski says.

The first Bob Ross book for kids, a picture book called Bob Ross and Peapod the Squirrel, comes out in October. It features one of Ross’s paintings in various stages of completion as a background, along with illustrated versions of Ross and Peapod, Ross’s companion on the PBS series, as they try to find a home for Peapod. Spring 2020 will bring an early concept book, Bob Ross: My First Book of Colors, along with more adult titles, including a cookbook.

Running Press is also publishing three adult-focused books this fall for Mister Rogers—who, like Ross, has a strong millennial following—including a mini-kit with sound, an RP Studio journal with a flocked cardigan on the cover, and a new interactive fill-in format called It’s You I Like. “It feels like the world needs some Mister Rogers and Bob Ross,” Leczkowski says.

Insight Editions Is Cooking at Galaxy’s Edge

In November, Insight Editions is publishing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook. While there have been other cookbooks associated with Star Wars, this one is different in that it is tied to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the new themed attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It is an in-world book, “written by” Strono (Cookie) Tuggs, a fictional chef working at Black Spire Outpost, the village on the planet Batuu that is the setting for the Galaxy’s Edge experience.

Chelsea Monroe-Cassel, who has written in-world cookbooks for video games such as Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and The Elder-Scrolls and TV series including Game of Thrones and Firefly, is the author of the recipes, while Marc Sumerak, who has written books for TV, film, and publishing properties including the Marvel universe and Ghostbusters, developed the in-world text as told by Cookie.

“Obviously I was very excited to be asked,” Monroe-Cassel says. “It was all very secretive, and I thought, ‘please let it be Star Wars.’ ”

The new attraction represents its own corner of the greater Star Wars universe. Black Spire Outpost and some characters have made brief appearances in other Star Wars media, but are being developed primarily for the theme park, with the potential for later integration into future TV, films, publishing, or games. The setting is a trading post, so familiar characters and races from throughout the Star Wars universe can pass through. “It’s a new world, but one with an enormous fandom,” Monroe-Cassel says. “It’s kind of neat to explore a new place for the first time all together.”

Some of the book’s recipes are make-at-home versions of dishes from the theme park restaurants, while others are original dishes inspired by the Star Wars canon. “There are certain things people expect,” Monroe-Cassel says, citing blue milk and instant puff-up bread as examples. “I look for things that are inarguably in the world, and then I ask, ‘Can I make them?’ ” Some are impractical for home cooks due to being unduly complicated or requiring specialist equipment, she says.

While the recipes have a level of difficulty that requires adults to be involved in the cooking, the book is likely have all-ages appeal, just as the theme park does. “Since so many adults are sharing their love of Star Wars with their kids, they might like to make blue noodles together,” Monroe-Cassel says. “Or they could say, ‘Well, if you don’t like vegetables, what about space vegetables?’ ”

The book releases on November 5, in time to take advantage of the hype surrounding the new Star Wars streaming TV series, The Mandalorian, premiering November 12, and the next film, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in theaters in December.

In Brief

The Copyrights Group and its North American agents Bravado and Retail Monster have licensed PhatMojo as the master toy partner for all new Paddington media content in the Americas and Australia/New Zealand. The initial launch will be in fall 2020 in conjunction with the premiere of a new TV series.... Anna Todd, author of the After series of YA books, signed the Joester Loria Group as her licensing agent. Products will include fashion apparel and accessories with a focus on plus sizes, as well as products based on her literary works.... Penguin Ventures has signed several U.K. licensees for Sony Pictures’ Peter Rabbit 2, including Rainbow Designs for plush and World of Confections for candy, among others. Puffin, Phidal, and Redan are all publishing tie-ins.... Fantoons, an animation and publishing house, released Tío Símon ABC, a bilingual board book featuring Venezuelan folk musician and kids’ TV personality Símon Díaz (Tío Símon) and images from Latin-American folklore. Simon & Schuster is distributing.

Mostly for Adults

Dreamworks partnered with Opus Publishing for The Official DreamWorks Animation Opus, a luxury, limited-edition coffee table book celebrating the studio’s 25 years of films, including Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon.... Sony has licensed Better Call Saul to St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne Books for a series of humorous advice books “written” by lead character Saul Goodman. The first two titles are Get Off the Grid! and Don’t Go to Jail! .... CBS Consumer Products licensed Insight Editions’ Weldon Owen division for The Official MacGyver Handbook.