PRH’s New ‘Wednesday’ Books Are Creepy and They’re Kooky

Penguin Random House will debut its first books tied to the hit MGM Television series Wednesday, which is based on the Addams Family franchise, in July. The deal is global, with rights granted by the newly combined Amazon MGM Studios. The streaming series is executive produced by Tim Burton, who also directed four out of the eight episodes in season 1.

“Every now and again I receive a call or email from a colleague recommending that I acquire publishing rights for something,” said Chris Angelilli, VP, editor-in-chief, and director of licensed publishing at Random House Children’s Books. “Everybody called me about the series Wednesday, which was airing on Netflix. Everyone I knew was watching and talking about it, and even my wife was doing ‘the dance’ in our apartment. Plus, we’ve had a lot of success with books based on Tim Burton films in the past.”

PRH will release books across several of its imprints, reaching a wide age range. Angelilli noted that the majority of licensed properties that Random House Children’s Books publishes are for preschoolers. But for the past several years it has been going after properties for an older audience, such as Minecraft and Stranger Things. “We believe that the sweet spot for Wednesday publishing is tweens and teens,” he said. “But the show certainly appeals to younger children and adults as well, not only with fans of the original TV show and the movies, but also with anyone who just wants to tap into their dark side. We all have a little Wednesday in us.”

The first group of titles includes an all-ages coloring book and a Little Golden Book, I Am Wednesday, both from the Random House Books for Young Readers imprint, coming out July 2. The Little Golden book will appeal to adults and collectors, as well as young children, Angelilli said, recalling that Golden Books published some Addams Family titles in the early 1990s.

In addition, Wednesday: The Official NightShade Society Journal: A Journal for Writing, Drawing, Coloring, and More, from the Clarkson Potter imprint, is set for October 1; a YA jacketed hardcover novelization of season 1 is releasing September 3 from Random House Books for Young Readers; and The Official Wednesday Cookbook from Random House Worlds is hitting the market September 17.

For 2025, products will include an oracle deck and a mystery card game from Clarkson Potter; a character guide called The Book of Outcasts, a search-and-find book, and a paper doll book from RH BRYR; and a Mad Libs title from Penguin Young Readers. Other titles and formats are under discussion.

Season 1 of the show debuted in November 2022 and was watched by 50 million households during its first week and 182 million by its fourth week. A second season is in production for a probable 2025 release. The hashtag #WednesdayAddams has 22 billion views across social media platforms.

The Hulk Practices Mindfulness at Chronicle

Chronicle Books’ Marvel publishing program is expanding this fall with three new books, including titles on mindfulness and physical fitness, as well as a new twist on a Marvel reference book.

Chronicle publishes many titles tied to the Disney family of properties, including classic Disney, Lucasfilm’s Star Wars franchise, and Pixar feature films. It added Marvel to that list starting with three 100-postcard sets timed to the 60th anniversaries of Spiderman, The Avengers, and the X-Men in 2023, followed by Marvel Mazes and Jeffrey Brown’s Thor and Loki: Midgard Family Mayhem. The strategy was to marry some of the formats that do well for other Disney brands to the Marvel cast of characters and bring the brand into new areas where it had not been before. “We look for ways to give some unexpected creative zip to the license,” said Steve Mockus, executive editor, entertainment, at Chronicle Books.

In fall 2024, Chronicle will publish the Marvel Fitness Deck: Be the Hero of Your Exercise Adventure, which was inspired by Stan Lee Presents the Mighty Marvel Strength and Fitness Book, published by Marvel Fireside in 1976. That long-ago title was a humorous take on exercise and was of its era, with the Invisible Woman giving diet tips, for example. The new and modernized 50-card deck is by Robyn Warren, founder of Geek Girl Strong, who specializes in wellness programs for pop culture fans, held virtually as well as live at Comic Cons. The exercises are illustrated with graphics of superheroes doing sit-ups, jumping jacks, and other moves.

“There are different applications depending on interest, aptitude, and ability,” Mockus said, noting that this accessibility makes the title perfect for families to enjoy together. He added that parents tend to share their Marvel fandom with their children and pointed out that all of the titles are appropriate for all ages, to different degrees. “They’re on the adult list,” he said. “But that’s to give adult fans permission to like them.”

Marvel Hulk Not Smash: Practice Mindfulness the Mighty Marvel Way is similar to a Star Wars title from Chronicle called The Jedi Mind by Amy Ratcliffe, managing editor of Nerdist, who authors this title as well. “If you think about it, the Jedi Code is mind-body-spirit guidance,” Mockus said. “Nothing like that existed for Marvel, so there was an opportunity to create a book with life lessons based on the characters’ behavior and how they choose to act or, like Hulk, not act.” The book is illustrated by Jason Loo, who was referred by Marvel. “Marvel is often more jokey and light-footed than Star Wars, and he did a great job of capturing that,” Mockus said.

Hulk Not Smash will appeal to people who are already focused on mindfulness and happen to like Marvel, Mockus believes, as well as to Marvel fans who will be introduced to the practice for the first time. “A substantial part of what we do at Chronicle is mindfulness and non-denominational spirituality,” Mockus said. “It’s a category that we try to fill on our list in general. So it’s great if we can take two things that are popular and pair them, especially if they dovetail so perfectly. These are heroes. You can learn lessons from how they manage things. Everybody can benefit from a mindfulness practice, and if they get there because of the Hulk, that’s a net positive.”

Marvel Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Marvel Comics Universe by Tim Leong, is similar to a non-licensed title the author did that was about superheroes in general, which he followed up with a Star Wars version. The format conveys somewhat obscure Marvel data through pie charts, bar graphs, Venn diagrams, timelines, scatter plots, and the like. “I asked, ‘Do you like Marvel?,’ and Tim said, ‘Of course I do,’ ” Mockus said. “He has an astonishingly deep knowledge and connection with all the stats and data, and they had never done anything like this at Marvel.”

Chronicle’s books are, for the most part, intended for a wide audience rather than the super fan. “We’re interested in doing trade and family-friendly books that could go into Target,” Mockus said. “We want them to be accessible for all ages and not require a lot of fan-specific knowledge.”

PI Kids Says G’Day to Bluey, Adds National Geographic

Phoenix International Publications’ PI Kids imprint is one of the latest publishers to join the licensee list for Bluey, the globally popular Australian-origin animated series for preschoolers that is produced by Ludo Studios and licensed by BBC Studios in the U.S.

“Bluey is the hottest children’s property in the world,” said John Russell, VP, global licensing and marketing, at Phoenix International Publications. “It’s a phenomenon like we haven’t witnessed in a very long time, and it’s driving sales in almost every category, especially publishing.” According to new information from Circana BookScan, Bluey books across all categories saw print unit sales increase more than 100% in the 12 months ending April 2024 vs. the year-ago period.

Russell said the show’s themes of social-emotional learning and its family dynamics are also appealing, as is the fit with PI Kids’ preschool sweet spot. “It’s also very playful, and it has a lot of music, which is good for sound books.”

PI Kids holds the North American rights for 10 specific, top-selling sound book formats. It has eight titles planned over the next two years, starting with the inaugural title in the first quarter of 2025 and three more in the second and third quarters. A similar cadence is expected for 2026. While PI Kids publishes many educational formats, such as interactive books that teach reading or colors and shapes, Ludo’s focus is more on fun and experiential formats that promote creativity and imagination, Russell noted.

“It’s a pretty aggressive program, since we want to strike while the iron’s hot,” Russell said. “Retailers aren’t taking many chances on new formats right now, and they’ve been sticking with the tried-and-true properties. Until Bluey, very few new properties had broken out lately. But our initial print runs for Bluey are through the roof, and that’s just for North America.” The company is in discussions to expand its license to include U.K., Europe, and Asia-Pacific as well.

BBC also recently signed Phidal, publisher of My Busy Books and other novelty titles, as a Bluey licensee. Penguin Young Readers Group is the master trade publisher for Bluey; Bendon sells Imagine Ink titles, activity sets, coloring book sets, and other formats; and Printers Row Publishing Group’s Studio Fun imprint makes activity books, magnetic playsets, and books with write-on LCD screens.

Separately, PI Kids has also signed a new sound book license with National Geographic. The first title, National Geographic Kids: Amazing Animals Little Sound Book, is set for release this October. Three more titles are planned for 2025, including National Geographic Kids: Dangerous Dinosaurs, a custom module sound book, in the first quarter; National Geographic Kids: Sharks, an I’m Ready to Read book, in the second quarter; and National Geographic Kids Me Reader, also about animals, in the third quarter. Topics under consideration for future lists include habitats, climate, and geography.

‘Pomp, Snow, and Cirqueumstance’ Enters the Big Tent of Licensing

Pomp, Snow, and Cirqueumstance is a picture book that takes place in a North Pole-like land, where three best friends learn music, magic, and circus skills at a secret university and, after receiving their diplomas from Santa, go on to spread Christmas joy and wonder throughout the universe.

The book and its 2024 sequel, Pomp, Snow, and Cirqueumstance: Holidays All Year, are the foundation of a franchise that is now looking to expand into collaborations, TV animation, digital gaming, and other brand extensions. Neil Goldberg, CEO of Variety Arts Management, co-author of the books with Niko Nickolaou, and a long-time producer of live entertainment, was exhibiting at Licensing Expo in May, speaking to prospective licensees, retailers, and other partners. “We think we have the makings of a great new brand,” Goldberg said.

In addition to the books, which are published by Dallas-based Brown Books and available in 30,000 retail and online outlets nationwide, the property is the inspiration for a Broadway-style show that combines actors, animated virtual characters, and drones to create an interactive experience that makes audience members feel like they are in the pages of the story, Goldberg said.

Variety Arts Management first produced the live show, as well as an award-winning 30-minute animated special, for an audience of military families, with the tour conducted on bases around the world through Armed Forces Entertainment and the special airing on the AFE Network. (Goldberg also did a book tour of military bases.) In December 2023, the show was produced for the first time in the U.S., in Hollywood, Fla., attended by 35,000 people over an eight-day period. Plans are in place for a tour in 2026 and 2027, as well as a potential stop on Broadway.

The shows have helped raised awareness for the property beyond the live audience. “We encourage the audience to take pictures, and they’re posting every day,” said Goldberg, who notes that the franchise appeals to a wide audience. “The sweet spot for the book is 3–12, but for the show it’s 3 to 93.”

Goldberg, who has spent close to 30 years as a producer and director of live entertainment, previously owned a company called Cirque Dreams that produced 350 affordable, family-friendly circus-themed shows per year at locations such as cruise ships and amusement parks. That company has been owned by Cirque du Soleil since 2018.

A third Pomp, Snow, and Cirqueumstance title, in a new format, is planned for 2025. Plush figures of the main characters have been on the market since December 2023.

In Brief

Sesame Workshop and Oni Press are launching the first four Sesame Street comic books starting on August 28. The first, Sesame Street #1: Grover Lends a Hand, will be authored by Joey Esposito with art from Austin Baechle; several other comic book writers and illustrators are also involved in the series. Separately, DK is publishing Sesame Street: Let’s Cook Together, in August. The cookbook joins DK’s Elmo Asks Why: A First Encyclopedia for Growing Minds, published last year.... Amazon MGM launched a licensing program for The Summer I Turned Pretty, the Amazon Prime TV series based on Jenny Han’s book trilogy.... HarperCollins Children’s Books and its Heartdrum imprint paired with Crayola to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Little Free Library’s Indigenous Library Program. The partners created five custom Heartdrum book-sharing boxes filled with 75 books by authors who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. One hundred LBF grantees will also receive 20 activity sheets and a case of Colors of the World crayons from Crayola.