Crayola Adds Color to Four Running Press Imprints

A conversation between Crayola and Running Press’s Black Dog and Leventhal imprint about a DIY craft book quickly expanded to a broader discussion about the possibilities of the brand collaborating with other areas of the company as well. That ultimately led to a deal in which four of the five Running Press imprints, including RP Kids, are introducing Crayola titles in 2020 and beyond.

“Crayola is the go-to brand for creativity,” says Jennifer Leczkowski, director of RP Minis and licensing. “It’s so timeless, iconic, and trusted. Adults have nostalgia for the brand, plus it’s a huge part of kids’ lives today.”

The first kids’ book, from Black Dog and Leventhal, came out in October. Crayola: Create It Yourself Activity Book: 52 Colorful DIY Crafts for Kids to Create Throughout the Year is based on a series of Crayola CIY (Create It Yourself) videos produced since early 2018. The videos are intended to help kids ages six and up create Instagram-worthy artwork using Crayola products. The 52 crafts in the book, which has an introduction from fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, are organized into four seasons.

In spring 2021, RP Kids will release Crayola’s Color My World: A Guided Journal for Kids, which has drawing prompts, stickers, and other tools to help users express their feelings. That will be followed by two illustrated picture books for kids four to eight in summer and fall 2022. One of the two will be based on the Crayola Experience, the live attractions Crayola oversees at Mall of America and four other locations.

Outside of the children’s world, titles include the Crayola 64 Colors Journal and a gift book, Crayola: You Color My World, A Fill-in Book, both from RP Studio, and the Crayola Enamel Pins mini kit with a mini-journal featuring Crayola-colored pages, from the RP Minis imprint. All are on the fall 2020 list. Spring 2021 will see another RP Mini title, Crayola Crayon Magnets, packaged with a mini-book on the history of the Crayola crayon, and RP Studio’s Crayola Sticky Notes: 488 Notes to Color Your World. In fall 2021, Black Dog and Leventhal will release an illustrated coffee table book and visual biography of the Crayola crayon.

Crayola has a number of publishers on its licensee roster, including Bendon for coloring and activity books, Lerner for Crayola Concepts educational titles, and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing as the master licensee.

Sesame Workshop Tackles the Topics of 2020

As soon as the coronavirus hit, Sesame Workshop implemented an outreach program called Caring for Each Other to help preschoolers and their parents and caregivers deal with the stress and health issues associated with the coronavirus. The initiative included a variety of content distributed through all of the Workshop’s streaming and traditional television channels. Key topics included hygiene and mask-wearing, the latter being something that has been scary for many young children.

“We were thinking about how we could elevate that message, and publishing was part of that,” says Gabriela Arenas, Sesame Workshop’s v-p of consumer products. In just three months, Sourcebooks and the Workshop created an original illustrated book called Heroes Wear Masks: Elmo’s Super Adventure, which was released on September 15 during back-to-school season (for some students). That title is being followed by an original photo-illustrated Pictureback from Random House, Even Grouches Wear Masks! starring Oscar, developed in less than three months and set for publication on December 29. Both publishers opted for domestic printing because of the speed required.

In addition to these original books, Random House is developing Washy Wash! And Other Healthy Habits, a rhyming board book that includes the lyrics to the Washy Wash song, a popular Sesame Street video that teaches young children how to wash their hands and has garnered almost 1.9 million views since March 30.

Sesame Workshop has also been at the forefront of helping families understand racism in the wake of the death of George Floyd. It developed two specials, for example, Standing Up to Racism on CNN and The Power of We on PBS Kids. Meanwhile, one of Random House’s deep backlist titles, We’re Different, We’re the Same, first published in 1992, saw a “massive organic spike” in sales from parents looking for information on racism and diversity this past summer, Arenas said. Random has been reprinting the title to keep up with demand and plans to reissue it as an illustrated board book next March, with more formats to come down the road.

Sesame Workshop is working with its publishing partners to develop more books on diversity and racism for publication as soon as spring 2021. “It is a topic with legs and doesn’t have to be rushed,” Arenas said, noting that all the titles will have a strong grounding in research to make sure the sensitive subject is addressed properly. “You have to get it right.” Among the publishers that are likely to be involved with this effort are Sourcebooks, Lerner, and Studio Fun.

Another topic that has gotten a boost with the events of this year—although it was already growing in interest—is mindfulness. “The general public, including kids, needs this,” Arenas said. In April, Sesame Workshop paired with Headspace to create a series of YouTube videos on meditation and mindfulness under the Monster Meditation brand, with six videos to date. The Workshop is planning a series of books tied to the videos, in collaboration with Headspace and an as-yet-unannounced publisher.

Arenas noted that children’s books can be an effective way to broach difficult topics. “If we have a book that can be part of the conversation at lunch or dinner, that’s great,” she said.

Bookful Adds Mattel Brands to Its AR Portfolio

Bookful, the kids’ augmented-reality e-book platform, has secured the rights from Mattel to create AR versions of existing Barbie and Thomas & Friends titles. Bookful is one of the businesses of Inception XR, a four-year old company that is involved in both augmented and virtual reality. It also holds licensing deals with IMPS (Smurfs) and Hasbro (Transformers and My Little Pony).

The launch of Bookful was meant to engage kids in reading. “Kids are not reading enough, and there has been a decrease in toddlers being read to,” said Dana Porter, cofounder and CMO. “We want to make use of kids’ screen time. We think we’ve cracked the code on addictive learning.”

Users of the program enter a library area with shelves full of thousands of AR-enabled digital editions of titles from the likes of DK, Oxford University Press, HarperCollins, Charlesbridge, and Penguin Random House, along with a growing number of books tied to licensed brands. Each title incorporates three to eight games, such as spelling, dancing, quizzes, and coloring, which can be played in AR or 3D modes. Despite the added technology, the experience mimics a printed book in many ways. “We also want [the kids] to read physical books, so the experience is similar,” Porter said. “The digital book is like a real book where you flip the page.”

Licenses that lend themselves well to the platform are for kids three to eight, very visual, and with a strong educational element, whether that be teaching values, life skills, or social emotional content. Typically a licensing relationship will start with at least three titles, and sometimes as many as six, so the reader can seek out more books if they like the first one they try.

More licensing deals are expected to be announced soon. “We’re always looking for new content,” Porter said. “People pay an annual subscription for Bookful so we need to keep it fresh. Kids’ interests change, too. One day they’re into ponies and the next day Transformers.”

King Features Takes On Moomin Publishing

King Features, which in mid-2019 was named the North American licensing agent for Moomin, the 75-year-old literary character brand from Finland, has expanded its representation rights to include publishing. It will focus on formats not already spoken for by the brand’s global English-language publishing rights holders, Pan Macmillan and Penguin Random House UK’s Puffin imprint.

In North America, FSG Books for Young Readers has published eight of PRH U.K.’s Moomin novels for more than 25 years, exclusively in the U.S. and non-exclusively in Canada. It also sells four novelty titles licensed from PRH UK, including little books of words and numbers, a picture book, and a lift-the-flap picture book. Little Bee Books, meanwhile, offers a Pan Macmillan coloring book in North America, while Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly sells comic-strip compilation books and other comic-based formats.

“We consider publishing another tentpole for our brands, along with entertainment,” said Christina Nix Lynch, King Features’ director of licensing. “Moomin is not as known here as it is internationally, so publishing is particularly important.”

Supplemental formats under consideration include preschool activity and lift-the-flap books, as well as adult gift books and stationery. Titles will mostly be translations of books already published in other markets, although there is potential for some U.S.-only formats down the road. “There is so much content with global partners that we can translate,” Nix Lynch said.

An announcement is expected soon about U.S. distribution deal for the TV series Moominvalley, of which two seasons have aired in international markets, with a third greenlit. The show is likely to solidify interest in the property in the U.S., Nix Lynch believes. “The new animation will be a great way to get started with the classic characters.” The property has an extensive licensing program in international markets.

Retailers supporting the property in North America to date include Urban Outfitters, Hot Topic, and FYE, with products focusing more on the design of the property than the characters’ personalities. Many of the goods are for adults, but a new baby kit consisting of 17 pieces of clothing for infants, from Finnish apparel brand Reima, is debuting online.

The property’s themes of love, equality, diversity, and inclusion are timely. “Moomin is a perfect brand for the world now,” Nix Lynch said. “This year has been challenging, with the state of our world and the economy, and licensees are looking for these tried-and-true sorts of brands.”

Maisy Celebrates 30th Year and Uniqlo Deal

Lucy Cousins’s Maisy is celebrating her 30th birthday in 2021. The milestone, along with new apparel at fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo, is raising interest among potential U.S. licensees for the preschool brand.

The Uniqlo deal was a global one, arranged by the Copyrights agency in Japan, where the retailer is headquartered. “It will help Maisy be more publicly visible leading into the anniversary,” said Mary McCagg, Candlewick’s director of licensing, key property development, and proprietary sales. “Maisy tends to be overrun in the U.S. by other preschool properties that are TV-based. We’re competing with the likes of Peppa Pig. Uniqlo gives us a moment and we can build off of that.”

The Maisy First Experiences board book line, a particularly strong-selling component of the Maisy publishing program, has been gaining further traction due to home schooling during the Covid-19 crisis, McCagg said, noting that Maisy is also a comforting character for difficult times. “We say she’s everyone’s first friend. She finds gentle ways to guide you through things that might be anxiety-provoking for children. The stories are just normal life, and that’s hopeful.” The First Experiences sell sheet and activity kits have been updated to include more preschool suggestions and activities, which parents and teachers have been asking for to complement online learning.

The pandemic is also causing licensees to take a closer look at classic, non-TV-based properties, although many plans are on hold given the status of retail these days. “Retail is tenuous, and you stick with things you know will stick,” McCagg said. The continued strong book sales are a bonus for licensing, however. “That only helps my licensing conversations. With the uncertainty in licensing, it’s good that the support for the books is still there.”

Maisy’s anniversary plans include a new logo and updated style guide, as well as a refreshed brand website. There will be retail event kits including height charts, temporary tattoos, and playhouses—which can transition to virtual if needed—as well as a costume character and a partnership with an early literacy organization. National publicity, trade advertising, and online consumer advertising are also in the works. On the publishing side, Maisy’s Chinese New Year is set for publication on December 8, 2020.

In Brief

Random House Children’s Books is expanding its Nintendo publishing program with new titles starting in summer 2021, including the first Little Golden Book and Step into Reading formats for the property, as well as several other titles tied to the Super Mario franchise and an Animal Crossing sticker book.... Licensing Works!, North American agent for Spot on behalf of Penguin Ventures, signed Crown Jewlz for coloring and activity workbooks and flash cards, Commonwealth Toys for plush, and Smiffy’s for costumes.... PI Kids is expanding its Baby Einstein publishing program with licensor Kids2, adding international rights in Spanish, Portuguese, and worldwide English. The first international list in summer 2021 will including early-learning concept books for babies and toddlers. Earlier this year, the partners expanded their North American program, adding coloring and activity, bath, and cloth books to their portfolio.... Penguin Young Readers and Genius Brands International paired with Kohl’s to feature Llama Llama books and plush in the retailer’s latest Kohl’s Cares promotion.... Simon & Schuster and licensing agency Moxie & Co. have licensed Gumshoe Girls, an Etsy seller, for Nancy Drew masks made from vintage fabrics…. Moxie & Co. is now representing Lola Dutch, a picture book series by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright, published by Bloomsbury Kids, with a third book due out this January. The first two licensees are Books to Bed for kids’ pajamas and Daydream Society for paper partyware; plans include dolls, apparel, games, and crafts.