JRL Group Helps World Book Expand Beyond Schools

World Book Inc. has signed a representation deal with agency JRL Group to extend its 100-plus-year-old brand into educational products sold through retail and ecommerce channels for the first time. More than 100 million students globally have access to World Book’s online, mobile, ebook, and print platforms through their schools and libraries.

“It’s our job to take the experience of the classroom and bring it home,” said Andrew Lieb, president of JRL Group. “We’ve had a lot of experience with educational brands, and World Book came to us because of that.”

Product categories being considered include educational toys, games, and puzzles; science kits, telescopes, and globes; school supplies; interactive learning aids; educational audio and video products; and the like. JRL will also seek licensees for some consumer publishing formats, such as workbooks or brain games, that make sense in a retail setting.

The World Book brand encompasses digital resources and books across several sub-brands, including World Book Student for middle and high schoolers, World Book Kids for elementary-aged students, Early World of Learning for young children, and World Book Advanced for universities and workplaces. Licensees will have access to all of World Book’s content, which includes a broad range of topics from STEM to history and current events, along with logos and other brand assets.

The pandemic has boosted the need for educational products in the home, Lieb believes. “In this exceptionally rare moment in history, the world of parents and grandparents and kids has changed,” he said. “They have a new point of view and perspective, and they want as many educational tools as possible. They don’t want to be caught without supplemental educational resources after what happened in the past 12 months.”

Albert Whitman Accelerates 'Boxcar' Licensing with New Agent

Albert Whitman & Co. has retained Moxie & Co., a licensing agency known for representing classic book properties including Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Raggedy Ann and Andy, to help it extend The Boxcar Children into consumer products. “We have built a lot of vintage brands, and if this was just another vintage brand we may not have been interested,” said Arlene Scanlan, co-founder of Moxie. “But they had hired an in-house person to lead their entertainment and media, which is rare for a publisher. With all the things they have in development, we thought there could be a much bigger story to tell. It won’t change what we do dramatically, unless it’s an enormous hit, but it will be icing on the cake.”

The licensing program will begin with educational products, as well as some nostalgic gift items for adults. “It really has its roots in education,” Scanlan said, noting that Boxcar author Gertrude Chandler Warner was an educator. “Teachers love [the property] and parents trust it.” More than 1 million children read the books in schools every year, and the series appears among the top teacher picks on Amazon. Moxie is developing a live exhibition that would travel to libraries and museums, with merchandise sold on site.

Licensees will be able to use the classic line drawings and cover art, the original map showing where the kids went, and various versions of the logo in their products. The series’ mystery element is also likely to drive some licensed products and services, such as puzzles, escape rooms, or escape room games. “The story started with lost children, but it morphed into a great mystery series for kids,” said Janine Hallisey, Moxie’s sales and marketing director.

Whitman has sold 80 million copies of the Boxcar books, and sales have been growing each year, totaling three million in 2020. In addition to the 159 titles in the core series, there are more than 40 other titles such as interactive mysteries and early readers. The company also has produced an AI app, ebooks, audiobooks, two films, and workbooks and printables for teachers. It is working with Moxie to create special editions that can be sold at the traveling exhibit, while other formats, like mini-books, coloring books, or cookbooks, may be created either in-house or through licensees. “They’re open to being collaborative and working with us on things we suggest,” Scanlan said.

The pandemic has put a premium on traditional, family- and values-based books like The Boxcar Children, according to Scanlan. “Families have had to hunker down together and have been forced to slow down,” she said, adding, “This has never been licensed aggressively, and it’s beloved. There’s a wide-open landscape.”

Quarto Builds Stanley Jr. Line

Quarto’s Cool Springs Press imprint, known for its books on woodworking, gardening, and other DIY projects, released its second title under the Stanley Jr. brand in March. Stanley Jr.: Gardening Is Awesome! follows Stanley Jr.: Woodworking Is Awesome!, published in July 2020. The Stanley Jr. program adds another facet to the relationship between Stanley Black & Decker and Quarto, which has long published DIY books for adults under the Black & Decker brand.

The Stanley Jr. partnership grew out of a brainstorming session between Stanley Black & Decker and Quarto, according to Thom O’Hearn, senior acquisitions editor at Quarto Publishing Group USA. In addition to its history with Black & Decker, Quarto also has experience in kids’ activities under its Quarry imprint. Quarry publishes the Labs for Kids series as well as a number of one-off DIY titles. Meanwhile, the Stanley Jr. brand, well known for its line of children’s tools and kits, marketed by licensee Red Tool Box, did not have a presence in publishing. “It was a natural fit,” O’Hearn said.

The Stanley Jr. books are project-based, with sidebars on STEAM and other informational topics. They encourage readers ages eight to 12 to develop a “maker mentality” to solve problems. Projects in Gardening Is Awesome! include growing strawberries in a five-gallon bucket, starting plants in an egg carton, and creating a square-foot garden, while Woodworking Is Awesome! features projects such as making a catapult and building a jewelry box. Author and editor Chris Peterson, who has contributed many books to Cool Springs Press’s Black & Decker Complete Guide series, wrote both titles.

A third Stanley Jr. title may be forthcoming in 2022, along with several new Black & Decker books, including The Hardworking Home (January), The Complete Photo Guide to Sheds, 4th edition (February), and The Complete Photo Guide to Treehouses, 3rd edition (March). Sheds and Treehouses are being reissued thanks to growing interest in both topics during the pandemic, according to O’Hearn.

In Brief

Insight Editions’ Mandala Publishing imprint will release Big Panda and Tiny Dragon, based on author-illustrator James Norbury’s Instagram account of the same name. Inspired by Buddhist philosophy, with a message of caring and connection, the book is for readers of all ages.… Ameet, the global master publishing licensee for Lego, partnered with audio platform Yoto to create six new audio card packs tied to Lego’s Duplo brand. The product will debut in June 2021.… Little, Brown Books for Young Readers is adding a how-to-draw title to its Cuphead program, which already includes two middle-grade novels, in 2022. It is also expanding the program into Russia in 2021 with Exmo Publishing Group. Running Press, another Hachette subsidiary, will release a Cuphead mini-kit in 2022.… Nxt Gen Brand Marketing will represent Fordham USA’s Little Tracker, which encompasses safari-themed adventure books and related products including plush, t-shirts, board and card games, puzzles, and cookies, for licensing.… An offbeat pairing from France: French pop-culture publisher Hachette Heroes is working with video game publisher Ubisoft to produce six books by Adam Hargreaves in which characters from the Assassin’s Creed action-adventure game appear as Mr. Men and Little Miss characters. The first three titles feature Mister Ezio, Little Miss Kassandra, and Little Miss Eivor as they complete a mission. The Mr. Men series has done other pairings in the past, including with Doctor Who.