Mango Explores Nature with 'Jane'

Mango Publishing is releasing its first book tied to Jane, an environmentally themed, live-action TV series for six-to-nine-year-olds, inspired by primatologist and environmental activist Jane Goodall’s work. It debuts on Apple TV+ on Earth Day, April 22. The new license continues Mango’s relationship with Canadian TV producer Sinking Ship Entertainment.

Jane is about a nine-year-old named Jane Garcia and her friends David and Greybeard the chimpanzee. Jane is passionate about protecting endangered animals, and a quote by Goodall serves as Jane’s motto: “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, can they be saved.”

“Jane is inspired and awed by Jane Goodall, and she wants to change the world,” said Hugo Villabona, director of publishing operations for Mango Publishing Group. Like Goodall, the character of Jane explores her surroundings, shares what she’s learned, and lets her community know how important it is to protect the animals. “She learns to take small steps that make a tangible difference, like recycling to help keep the polar bears safe,” Villabona said.

Sinking Ship approached Mango about the new project, which is being produced in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute and Apple, after the two companies had previously worked together on two volumes of the Dino Dana: Dino Field Guide and the Dino Dana: Dino Activity Guide, all tied to Sinking Ship’s Amazon Prime series, Dino Dana. The Jane title, Jane’s Endangered Animal Guide, is a scrapbook format similar to those field guides, but in this case, it brings to life the actual scrapbook Jane uses on-screen in the series.

Most licensed tie-ins come out six months to a year after the debut of the TV series, but Jane’s Endangered Animal Guide is set for a release in May, just after the series’ premiere. “The scrapbook is such a crucial element of the TV show,” Villabona said. “We wanted the book to be part of the experience and not wait until the season was over and then publish it.”

The guide includes images from the show, lots of illustrations and graphics, and Jane’s notes on facts she’s learned about animals and how to protect them, along with spaces for readers to add their own observations. “It also has pullout flaps to highlight the wonder of these animals,” Villabona said. For example, a flap pulls out to create a long spread that allows the book to show the true size of a polar bear’s paw. The title also features a foreword by Goodall. “We wanted an introduction by her as a dream scenario,” he said. “When we asked Sinking Ship about it, they answered that she was eager and excited to do it.”

Mango and Sinking Ship are already talking about ideas for future titles, but any decisions will wait to see how the show resonates with viewers and what fan feedback tells them about the best topics for any additional books, according to Villabona.

Baseball Meets Old Hollywood

Author Mark Angelo has just released Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille?, published in time for the start of the 2023 baseball season. The book is self-published through FriesenPress, under a licensed use agreement with Major League Baseball, and is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other booksellers.

The story is based on a true incident in Angelo’s childhood when he met Cecil B. DeMille. Set in 1958, when the Dodgers had just moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, the book is about a boy and his friends who want to be just like their Dodgers idols, but do not have a field where they can play baseball. Using a gap in a hedge, they enter the yard of the Hollywood mogul’s mansion and set up their ball field, leading to an encounter with the man himself. The book is dedicated to Angelo’s late brother Chris, who suggested he write the story.

“It was a time when Dodger mania gripped the city of Los Angeles,” Angelo said. “I would go to bed early and listen to Vin Scully on the radio until I fell asleep. I wanted to use the Dodgers logo in the book, and I wanted to do it with the blessing of Major League Baseball.” MLB granted Angelo a royalty-free license and permission to create the book as long as it met all of the league’s conditions for the use of the names and logos. “After reviewing the book, they were very supportive. They saw it as being very positive about baseball and the importance to children of nearby spaces to play.”

This is the second children’s book written by Angelo, a noted river conservationist based in Vancouver, who founded World Rivers Day and is a recipient of the Order of Canada. His previous title, The Little Creek That Could, is the true story of a polluted stream that came back to life after decades of conservation efforts. The author’s childhood search for a place to play ball had an impact on his career choices and his advocacy of the need for parks and sports fields, and Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille? is in keeping with this theme. “Accessible outdoor spaces for all, young and old, are so important,” Angelo said.

The book is illustrated by Patricia and Robin DeWitt. “I had seen their work and felt it was a wonderful fit with the era the book takes place in,” Angelo said.

The author feels the book is timely for today’s audiences. “It’s a fun and uplifting story, and it speaks to community and youthful determination,” he said. “Kids will be able to identify with the story about a shy but determined boy, and I hope it will make their parents smile as they think back to their own childhoods.”

Sesame Street Characters Help Kids Navigate Challenges

Sesame Workshop has recently produced a number of resources to assist children and their families through life’s challenges, from autism to remaining healthy to living amid war. These initiatives are in keeping with the Workshop’s mission to help kids, especially vulnerable children, grow “smarter, stronger, and kinder” through social impact programs as well as its well-known media and education platforms. Many of these outreach efforts have a children’s book or books as a key component.

The most recent example, announced on April 3, is focused on belonging and artistic expression, timed to Autism Acceptance Month, and includes a storybook, two videos, and printable activity guides. This initiative is part of the Workshop’s global campaign, Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, ongoing since 2015, whose goal is to show that all children are amazing in their own ways.

The new digital storybook, Julia and the Super-Sunny Celebration, features Sesame Street’s character with autism, Julia, along with other popular characters including Elmo, Rosita, Abby Cadabby, and Rudy. It celebrates teamwork and belonging and is available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin. The printable pages prompt kids to paint a self-portrait and insert their own picture into scenes from Julia and the Super-Sunny Celebration and other storybooks. The two videos, Princess Paint a Lot and Julia’s Needed, also feature Julia and friends.

Another initiative announced this month addresses inequities in health and well-being among young children in low-income, rural, and other marginalized communities. Resources in English and Spanish are meant to support and connect parents and caregivers and healthcare providers, again using a digital storybook, videos, and printable guides as tools, as well as an interactive role-playing game.

The storybook, Hooray for Healthy Teams!, starring the Sesame Street characters Wes and Elijah, is meant for children and their parents or caregivers to read together. It teaches children about the people that keep them healthy and safe, including parents, caregivers, extended family, doctors and nurses, teachers, and the kids themselves. The other resources include I’m Listening, a video about Rosita’s visit to a pediatrician; Elmo and Abby’s Check-Up Play Date, an interactive role-playing game where the characters pretend to be doctors; and a printable activity book that helps children stay calm and comfortable before, during, and after a doctor’s visit. Quest Diagnostics sponsored this initiative.

Sesame Workshop also recently brought 140 five-minute animated segments to TV and mobile devices in war-torn Ukraine, in partnership with broadcaster PLUSPLUS, focused on early learning and the unique needs of kids experiencing a crisis. It also announced that its Arabic-language co-production, Ahlan Simsim, has reached one million children in the Middle East who have been displaced due to war or upheaval in the region. A partnership with the International Rescue Committee reaches the kids through channels such as classrooms, health clinics, and mobile devices.