Penguin Young Readers Licenses has secured the trade publishing rights for Super Sema, an animated series from licensor Kukua Education Limited that began its second season as a YouTube Original on June 17. Bendon is the licensee for coloring and activity formats.
The show is about Super Sema, a 10-year-old girl in a futuristic African town, who, along with her twin brother MB, uses her STEAM skills to fight the evil robot threatening their town. The show, which launched in March 2021 and had attracted more than 40 million views as of July, is executive produced by Lupita Nyong’o, who also provides her voice talent. New content, including series episodes and complementary STEAM-based educational videos, rolls out weekly.
“It stood out immediately to us,” said Daniel Moreton, v-p and publisher, licenses and brands, at Penguin. “Lupita Nyong’o as producer and a voice in the show was an attention-grabber, it’s very popular on YouTube, and it’s the first African superhero franchise. It has themes of empathy, creativity, and determination. On top of all that, it has STEAM and a mission to inspire future change-makers. It’s so layered.”
The publishing program will launch in summer 2023 with a single title, a 10x10 paper-over-board picture book that will retail for $12.99 and introduce the characters, world, and themes of the show. “It’s giftier than most mass formats but still priced for mass,” Moreton said, noting that the company tried this format successfully with Llama Llama and got placement on the picture book wall in mass market outlets. “We hope to see that with this title as well, where it can live outside the traditional licensing space.”
In fall 2023 will come two more traditional licensed publishing formats, namely 8x8 retellings of episodes, and possibly a sticker-activity title. A variety of possibilities are under consideration for future lists, Moreton said. “There’s an opportunity for some interesting specialty formats, especially with the science and technology content. But it should also do well with the tried-and-true formats like 8x8s, readers, and sticker-activity.”
The show is aimed at children ages 4–8, but Penguin plans to lean toward the middle to older end of that group due to the educational content, according to Moreton.
Separately, Penguin just signed a license with Toho for Godzilla, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2024. That year, it will publish two picture books, one of them Love from Godzilla, a Valentine’s Day–friendly format that has done well across Penguin brands including The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Crayons, and Llama Llama. “To pair Godzilla with this format will be a lot of fun,” Moreton said, noting that the books will feature Tokyopop–style illustrations developed by Toho. “It’s very fun and young-looking.” Penguin published a Godzilla Mad Libs title last fall.