Miami-based Mango Publishing, one of PW’s fast-growing indie publishers last year, has formed a new children’s imprint, DragonFruit. Its partner in the joint venture is Wendy Piersall, CEO and editor-in-chief of Woo! Jr. Kids Activities, a publisher of educational activity books and other content. Books developed by Woo! Jr. will account for about half of DragonFruit’s list, and Piersall is informally consulting on non-Woo! Jr. titles as well.
“When the pandemic hit, we saw there was huge demand for kids’ activity books,” said Natasha Vera, Mango’s director of scouting and brand development and associate editor. “The question was how to bring something to the table that was unique to Mango. We wanted to do activity books and other nonfiction books that are very fun and high quality and kind of nutritious.” The Mango team and Piersall connected when Mango was early in the process of developing the imprint and, since both companies’ missions and values are very similar—both put a premium on education, content that pulls children away from their screens, and diversity and activism—it was decided that the two would partner on DragonFruit.
The new imprint, headed by author M.J. Fievre (Badass Black Girl), will be home to all of Mango’s children’s titles. In addition to the Woo! Jr. list, specialties will include toddler and pre-K activity books, scientific and educational series for grades 1–4, ABC books with themes of inclusion and diversity, and multicultural fiction picture books. Titles on the fall 2021 list include A Cat Named Sam by Fievre and Thomas Logan; an English translation of the Spanish-language One Bee Too Many by Andres Pi Andreu and Kim Amate; and Young Trailblazers: The Book of Black Inventors and Scientists by Fievre and Kim Balacuit.
“Wendy has had a pretty big role in the evolution of DragonFruit,” Vera said. “With her knowledge of the kids’ activity market, she has brought some of our titles to the next level.” DragonFruit will publish about 20 books per year across two seasons, with at least five per season from Woo! Jr. and three to five from other authors.
Woo! Jr. got its start in 2007 when Piersall, who blogs on crafts and digital topics, wrote a post called “94 Ways to Keep Kids Busy for the Work at Home Parent,” in which she shared some of the educational activities she had created to keep her own kids busy and off the screen while she worked at home. “The interest was immediate and much bigger than expected,” she said. That led her to make her activities available to the public in 2008, across a network of websites. In 2016 all of the activities, now developed by Piersall and a team of writers and contributors, were consolidated under the Woo! Jr. name. To date, the company has provided free craft activities, printables, and teacher resources to more than 50 million visitors globally.
In 2016, Piersall began publishing some of the company’s activities in paperback form and selling them through Amazon. The Drawing Book for Kids: 365 Daily Things to Draw, Step by Step came out in 2017 and became the brand’s biggest title, selling just over 300,000 copies to date. “That’s when I realized we had gone from a blog to an imprint,” Piersall said. All of Woo! Jr.’s book titles combined have sold more than 390,000 copies.
The Mango partnership will bring Woo! Jr.’s books beyond Amazon and into retail stores in the U.S. and the 207 other countries, and counting, where Mango sells its titles. The first 11 Woo! Jr. offerings with DragonFruit, set for release in 2021, are from the company’s backlist, some refreshed a bit for retail. They include Easy Hidden Pictures for Kids Ages 3–5, English and Spanish Crossword Puzzles for Kids, and The Gross Book of Riddles for Kids, all releasing this spring. Going forward, the list will also include new titles developed by Piersall, with Mango handling printing, distribution, and sales.