Brown Bear Inspires Macmillan’s Odd Dot
Odd Dot, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, signed a licensing deal with The World of Eric Carle team at Penguin Young Readers to create a line of board books inspired by the Brown Bear and Friends characters. Henry Holt, Odd Dot’s sibling imprint in the Macmillan family, continues to publish the classic backlist—Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and similar titles starring Panda Bear, Polar Bear, and Baby Bear—written by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle.
“Our team grew up with these signature collages and designs that we think are as powerful and treasured today as when we were growing up,” said Nathalie Le Du, publisher of Odd Dot. “Brown Bear is one of the top picture books of all time. Children immediately respond to Brown Bear.”
Founded in 2017, Odd Dot’s list includes the Antiquarian Sticker Book and Outdoor School Field Guides series. “We’re known for innovative formats that create a playful reading experience,” said Le Du. “We’re lucky to find a kindred spirit in Eric Carle,” she added, noting his mission to create “a book you can play with, a toy you can read.”
Odd Dot’s first Brown Bear list will include an interactive novelty board book, Baby Bear’s Busy Day with Brown Bear and Friends (Sept.), which follows Baby Bear through an entire day. It features a spinning wheel that turns from sunrise to sunset as the events of the day take place and a die-cut that creates an effect that is like the movement of a sunrise. “We come to this legacy with a fresh eye and can bring it to life in new ways that honor the past and continue on in the playful spirit that kids love,” Le Du said. “We wanted to pull the art into a sensory place for very young children.”
Next up is a more traditional board book, Bear Hugs! From Brown Bear and Friends (Nov.), which celebrates hugs and is expected to be a Valentine’s Day hit. Bear Hugs! will also have a lap-size edition for children and their parents, grandparents, or caregivers to read together. Brown Bear and Friends from A to Z will follow in winter 2024, with roughly one to two titles per season planned for the future.
Le Du believes there is a strong market for the books with educators as well as children and parents. “There’s a passionate audience there of ambassadors for Brown Bear in the classroom,” she said. “That’s an exciting part of the audience that we want to reach.”
HarperCollins Takes Rainbow High into Chapter Books
HarperCollins is set to release three paperback chapter books tied to Rainbow High, a brand of fashion dolls backed by a hit YouTube and Netflix series, under license from MGA Entertainment. The series, which debuts this spring, follows the hardcover Rainbow High: The Official Yearbook, released in fall 2022.
“I’ve been a fan of MGAE since the Bratz days,” said Alexandra West, editor at HarperCollins. She had been seeing big displays of Rainbow High at Target and “there was so much hype in the toy aisle, I had to find out more about it,” she said.
“It’s one of our leading global fashion and doll brands,” said Mindy Puente-Escalera, senior v-p global licensing at MGAE, which is known for its collectible doll lines, from Bratz to L.O.L. Surprise. She stressed that the brand’s four key attributes—color, creativity, diversity, and inclusivity—differentiate it from other doll lines on the market. The characters are individuals, she said, with their own passion—music and DJing or fashion and design, for example—and their own unique look. There are seven main dolls, each associated with one of the colors of the rainbow, with lots of product extensions for each.
Rainbow High: Get a Clue! will be published on March 7, Rainbow High: Amaya’s First Day Drama in June, and Rainbow High: No Rain, No Rainbow! in September. “It’s a pretty quick cadence that works well for chapter books,” West said. The three books have a continuous storyline based on the animated series, with two episodes adapted per book. In keeping with the brand positioning, the design includes lots of color along with images from the show. Each chapter is printed on a different color paper, producing a rainbow effect on the page edges when the book is closed.
HarperCollins often publishes guidebooks based on properties for this age group. “The Yearbook is a fun, playful guidebook,” West said. “It was a no-brainer to take the world of Rainbow High and put it into a guide. But this is really our first foray into licensed chapter books.” The popularity of the property and a storyline that lent itself well to the chapter book format contributed to the decision to give it a try. The books will appeal to a wide age range, West said, with readers 6–8 gravitating toward the guidebook and then turning to the chapter books as they grow older.
This is consistent with the rest of the Rainbow High program, Puente-Escalera said, explaining that the toys are designed for kids ages 6–8 but some of the other products appeal to fans even as high as age 12 or 13. HarperCollins joins a group of Rainbow High licensees in categories such as sportswear, sleepwear, arts and crafts, and costumes sold across retail tiers from mass to specialty stores. A partnership with a footwear brand will be announced in March.
Rainbow High dolls, launched in 2020, are currently the number-one fashion doll and the number-one doll of any kind, as ranked by retail sales, as well as the number-five toy overall. The animated series based on the brand has attracted more than 160 million views on YouTube and has been watched for more than a billion minutes (16.7 million hours) on Netflix.
MGAE works with a long list of influencers, and the books will be included along with the dolls in mailings to that group. The toy company’s sales teams will also receive a list of stores that carry the books so they can include them along with the toys when discussing merchandising possibilities with buyers.
Simon Spotlight Adds Graphic Novels to Peanuts Program
Simon & Schuster’s Simon Spotlight imprint has expanded its extensive Peanuts publishing program to include graphic novels. The license for that format was formerly with BOOM! Studios’ KaBOOM! imprint.
Simon & Schuster has been expanding its graphic novel offerings for its in-house developed series including Cupcake Diaries and You’re Invited to a Creepover. It has also married the format to a few of its licenses, including Ryan’s World, for which it published a 64-page Ready-to-Read graphic novel. The Peanuts titles, at 160 pages, represent Simon Spotlight’s most ambitious licensed entry in this format to date.
“How could you not publish Peanuts as a graphic novel?” asked Siobhan Ciminera, v-p and editorial director at Simon Spotlight. “It’s such a wonderful license, and there’s a lot going on for a brand that is 70-plus years old. It’s one of those brands where everyone can enjoy it together. It has fans all over the world—and some of the biggest work in this imprint. We have a lot of fun with it.”
Three titles are planned for this year, including Snoopy Soars to Space, released in January, Adventures with Linus and Friends!, set for March, and Batter Up, Charlie Brown!, scheduled for May, plus a boxed set of all three in the fall. Future plans are still in development. Each title is anchored by a full graphic novel story, with “The Beagle Has Landed” being the main component of Snoopy Soars to Space. The books also include additional materials, such as original short stories and some classic comic strips.
Simon & Schuster launched its Peanuts publishing program in May 2015. “We’re in year eight and it’s still going strong,” Ciminera said. “We have the whole gamut of formats.” The program has included a range of content, from tie-ins to the Apple TV+ series The Snoopy Show and Snoopy in Space (the latter in partnership with NASA); holiday titles; and a variety of 8x8s, Ready-to-Reads, and board books.
Among the recent titles of note are Snoopy’s Book of Joy and a Spanish language version of Be Kind, Be Brave, Be You!, two of a collection of four mini board books that have performed very well, according to Ciminera; Happiness Is a Dancing Dog, an 8x8 based on an episode of The Snoopy Show and including four paper dolls; and, coming up in March, To Mom and Dad with Love, based on an Apple TV+ animated special.
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