DK Publishes Very Hungry Caterpillar Encyclopedia

DK has partnered with Penguin Random House and Eric Carle Studios to create The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Very First Encyclopedia. DK offers a number of encyclopedias and other nonfiction for children, but this IP brings the publishing program to a slightly younger audience than its other offerings.

“It’s the iconic picture book for children, and it has so much charm and emotional pull throughout the generations,” said Sarah Larter, children’s publishing director at DK. “Our heartland is strong nonfiction. Combined with the gentle, beautiful Carle artwork, the encyclopedia will bring nonfiction to life for a younger readership. And the story is about something that really happens in nature, so it’s not a strange juxtaposition. It feels natural.”

Larter points out that millennial parents increasingly want their children to be exposed to nonfiction topics of all kinds at an early age. “You see that with the board books,” she said. “No one’s shying away from things like Quantum Physics for Babies.”

The encyclopedia, which features DK’s trademark photography along with archival Eric Carle artwork and newly commissioned images from Eric Carle Studios, encompasses academic subjects, such as geography, dinosaurs, space, and human biology, as well as timely non-academic topics such as emotions, safety, and illness. “This is really substantial and would be a stunning holiday gift,” Larter said. “It also has enormous educational value, so we think it will do well in schools and libraries.”

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Very First Encyclopedia comes out in September in the U.S. and October in the U.K., and DK is in talks with Asian publishers. “Both DK and Eric Carle are enormous in the Asian territories, especially China,” Larter said. All told, more than 55 million copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar have been sold in 70 languages since the book was published in 1970.

Random House Pairs with Ellen DeGeneres for Picture Book

Random House Children’s Books is publishing Ellen DeGeneres’ first picture book, Little Ellen, on May 3. The book is a hybrid, part celebrity children’s title and part TV tie-in. The characters, setting, and art style are similar to the HBO Max TV show, which debuted in fall 2021 and is in its second season, and the book has a “Based on the hit TV series!” burst on the cover. But the content is not based on episodes or storylines from the show. Rather, it is a more philosophical take on the themes of being yourself and accepting others for who they are, written in rhyming couplets.

“It works as an inspirational book, combining who Ellen was as a kid with the wisdom she has gained as an adult, and it is really a standalone,” said Mallory Loehr, executive v-p and publisher. “We try to do celebrity projects that are very much tied to who the celebrity is and what they’re known for. This book fits with what Ellen represents and what her brand is.”

Little Ellen includes themes of imagination, play, and problem-solving, as well as inclusivity and empathy. DeGeneres often focuses on inclusivity, empathy, and embracing differences, as well as being open about her own journey of self-acceptance, on her talk show, which is ending this spring after an 18-year run. “When we signed on, we didn’t know that this would be her last season,” Loehr said. “But I think people will have even more interest in what she’ll do going forward.”

The themes of the book are timely. “Everyone needs these messages right now,” Loehr said. “I love the concept of ‘what makes me me and what makes you you.’ This is a fun one to read at night, and a great one for teachers, too.”

Insight Reveals the Behind-the-Scenes ‘Secrets of Dumbledore’

Insight Editions’ latest behind-the-scenes movie title for the Wizarding World franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore: Movie Magic, will release day-and-date with the latest film’s April 15 debut in theaters. Movie Magic skews more than past titles toward the younger end of the age range for Insight Editions’ Wizarding World tie-ins, which typically target readers ages 12 and up. The book has more than 10 inserts, including a poster, booklets, stickers, and cards, both tipped in and in pockets. “It’s a more fun, interactive experience and more of a keepsake and collectible for the film,” said Raoul Goff, publisher and CEO.

Insight’s Wizarding World program has two main prongs. The first consists of behind-the-scenes titles like Movie Magic. These have gotten more specific over the years, Goff reported. For example, Insight is publishing Hogwarts: The Blueprints this September, featuring close to 300 pages of blueprints for Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and other Wizarding World locations. “It’s something the super dedicated fan will love,” he said. Harry Potter: Friends & Foes: A Movie Scrapbook, which comes out in May, recaps the friendships and adversarial relationships in the franchise, including both major and minor characters.

The second prong is lifestyle books ranging from craft books on knitting, crocheting, and paper crafts to cookbooks. One notable title this year is Harry Potter: Feasts & Festivities: An Official Book of Magical Celebrations, Crafts, and Party Food Inspired by the Wizarding World. “It’s part party planner and part cookbook that allows fans to create great in-world parties,” Goff said.

Insight has been involved with the franchise since the very first Harry Potter film came out in 2001. At the time, high-priced tie-in titles were a novelty and there was some skepticism from retailers and others, Goff said. The first title, Harry Potter Film Wizardry, which had inserts and a slipcase, was priced at $45. The company had to talk buyers into a price point that was more than twice what they thought was possible for Harry Potter. The book became a bestseller, has sold more than one million copies globally, and is still in print today.

“Our price points are high because we want to do all the things the fans want,” Goff said. “Our M.O. as a publisher is to make something really special and put a lot of love into the production values. We put lots of care and intention into creating things that resonate with the fans. That’s where we live, and it has translated into sales.”

Masked Republic and Future House Team for Lucha-Themed Trilogy

Future House Publishing, which specializes in adult science fiction and fantasy and middle-grade adventure books, has paired with Masked Republic, licensor of the Legends of Lucha Libre brand, for a trilogy of bilingual middle-grade novels. The author is Kevin Garcia, an educator in the Austin, Tex., public schools who has written many books for Marvel, including several volumes of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z. His Dragon Lee Trilogy will focus on the family of pro wrestling champions known as La Dinistía Muñoz, including brothers Dragon Lee, Rush, and Dralistico, and father El Toro Blanco, a.k.a. Bestia del Ring .

“I’ve been fascinated by luchadores since I was a teenager and discovered the masks on Olvera Street in Los Angeles,” said Adam Sidwell, founder of Future House Publishing and head of Future House Studios. “I love the idea of this series, since the lucha libre aesthetic is so strong and fans are waiting for legends like this to be told in book form.”

The Legends of Lucha Libre brand brings together several past, current, and future pro wrestlers (luchadores), who are known as much for their distinctive names and personas and the uniquely designed masks they wear as for their exploits in the ring. In the Legends of Lucha Libre world, which is inspired by Mexican luchador films of the 1950s, “true luchadores” participate in wrestling as their day job while they moonlight as “monster hunters and world protectors,” said Kevin Kleinrock, president and COO of Masked Republic. The Dragon Lee Trilogy is a fantasy that combines family moments with fights between the luchadores and the monsters.

“Rush and Dragon Lee have children themselves and are very excited about being part of a middle-grade series,” Kleinrock said. “There are not a lot of action-adventure books and series with Hispanic heroes for young people. These are books their own kids are going to love.” English and Spanish versions of the story will be printed side-by-side on the pages to prompt language learning by both English and Spanish speakers.

The first book in the Dragon Lee Trilogy is set for release in 2023. Future House and Masked Republic are simultaneously developing an animated series and an interactive game based on the property, and Masked Republic’s licensing agency FanGirl Consulting and Brand Management will help expand the property into consumer products. The team developing and executive producing the IP includes Masked Republic founder and CEO Ruben Zamora and director of development Hector Rodriguez III, along with Kleinrock and Sidwell.

The Masked Republic team is building other transmedia properties as well, giving fans of all ages multiple entry points to the Legends of Lucha Libre universe. They include a property for elementary-age kids, being developed in partnership with Edtech brand Encantos, and another children’s franchise to launch with animation from Demente, a leading studio in Mexico. Kleinrock noted that all of the company’s franchises will have publishing potential. “We’re building transmedia franchises with every IP, whether it starts in comics, animation, kids’ books, or gaming.”

Masked Republic is open to other publishing opportunities. It partnered with Running Press on a thumb wrestling mini kit and then a cookbook, Eat Like a Luchador, for example. “They came to us with the idea of a cookbook and we loved it,” Kleinrock said. “We’re always open to those kinds of ideas.”

Kleinrock pointed out that lucha libre is more than a sport. Its history and storylines are integral to the lives of Mexicans and Mexican Americans and closely tied to their national culture and identity. “People say lucha libre is Mexican pro wrestling, but that undermines what it really is,” he said. “It’s so much more than that.”

Spawn’s 30th Anniversary Year Brings Trade Publishing Program

Todd McFarlane Productions and Image Comics have announced a robust trade publishing program for McFarlane’s classic Spawn comic book series, with 15 trade hardcover and paperback editions scheduled for 2022, the property’s 30th anniversary year. “This is a big part of the business, and I felt I’d been remiss in not being more attentive to it,” McFarlane said.

The program arrives on the coattails of a resurgence for the brand. In fall 2019, with the publication of issue #301, Spawn became the longest-running independent comic series, certified by The Guinness Book of Records. Leading up to that event, issues #296 and #297 recapped the key events of the franchise to date, to attract new readers and catch them up on the storyline, issues #298 and #299 served as a prequel to milestone issue #300, and issue #300 included a cliffhanger leading up to the record-setter. “Instead of a one-and-done, we created something meaningful,” McFarlane said. “When we came out of #301 we had a new floor for monthly sales, over 100% more than when we entered the event.”

Issue #300 also laid a foundation for the launch of the Spawn Universe in 2021. “It’s the moment the universe expanded,” McFarlane said. “Over 30 years, in any fiction, you get this accumulation of characters. The original Spawn book was getting crowded, and I wanted a way to give voice to new characters.” The universe also enabled a more frequent comic publishing schedule, with new titles releasing almost weekly. Two of the new titles, King Spawn #1 and Gunslinger Spawn #1, became the number one and number three bestselling comics of 2021.

All of that set the stage for the trade program, which has offerings at a range of price points that will appeal to both readers who have discovered the property since 2019 and loyal fans from the beginning. Highlights include the full 2019 publishing event in one volume, a trade edition of issues #1 through #6 of King Spawn from 2021, 50-issue compilations in a compendium format, and a limited-edition, autographed, deluxe slipcased collection of 25 sold-out issues of classic Spawn with never-before-seen art and bonus material. “The compendium is like a phone book. You buy it and you feel like you’re good for a year,” McFarlane said. “And the deluxe editions feel sophisticated and elevated, even though when you open it, it’s guys in tights punching each other.”

McFarlane said he has noticed more interest from teenagers in Spawn in recent years. He attributes that to the increased awareness for comic books in general on the part of teens due to the Marvel and DC movies, as well as the fact that early fans of the franchise now have kids of their own. “Some of the fans who got into it at the beginning, at age 12, are old enough now to have their own kids who are 12,” he said. “I’m meeting more kids and teens at the shows who say ‘my dad talks about you all the time.’ ”

Plans for trade publishing in 2023 will depend on sales results of the 2022 titles, as well as the timeline for the upcoming live-action Spawn feature film being developed with Blumhouse. “That will stoke the fires,” McFarlane said. “And the more momentum I have going into the movie, the easier it will be to push it to the next level.”

In Brief

Farshore acquired rights from toy company Jazwares and its Kellytoy division to publish the Squishmallows Official Collector’s Guide, for fans age nine and up, to release in July. More than 1,000 plush collectibles in the toy line have sold more than 100 million units globally since 2017.... World Book, the nonfiction children’s book and digital series publisher, licensed Ion Game Design for a line of history-themed board games. JRL Group is World Book’s licensing agency.... The publishing-based brand Cup of Therapy paired with Jerry Leigh for a line of apparel for teen girls and women, available at Target. Cup of Therapy is represented in North America by FanGirl Consulting and Brand Management.... Children’s audio platform Tonies secured rights for audio content based on Mr. Men and Little Miss, National Geographic, Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series, The Little Prince, and Spirit Untamed.... Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been licensed to Funkins for an eco-friendly range of lunch boxes, totes, and accessories. The Joester Loria Group represents the World of Eric Carle for licensing.... Little Bee Books paired with video game developer Wanderword for an interactive audio activity based on its Tales of Sasha book series by Paco Sordo. The interactive audio game will launch on Amazon’s Alexa and in the Google Play store in August and September, respectively.... Ninja Life Hacks licensed products will be promoted at Walmart during National Mental Health Awareness Month in May. The range includes Insight Editions’ activity and board books and conversation cards. The Brand Liaison represents the Ninja Life Hacks book series for licensing.... Dr. Seuss Enterprises paired with Netflix for five new animated preschool series and specials based on Horton Hears a Who!; The Sneetches; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; and Wacky Wednesday; plus the character Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose. The two companies are already producing Green Eggs and Ham, a second season of which will debut this month.... Sesame Workshop is developing an animated series based on Charlotte’s Web, in partnership with WarnerMedia Kids & Family. It is set to premiere on HBO Max and Cartoon Network in 2024.... Television network ABC and its series Abbott Elementary partnered with Scholastic in March for free book fairs at underfunded schools.... Adidas paired with Trinity Rodman, a rookie player on the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit, for a children’s book, Wake Up and Kick It with Trinity Rodman. It was available in Adidas stores for free to members of Adidas’ loyalty club, starting in March. In addition, 5,000 copies were distributed through the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program.