New From HarperCollins: Love, Diana and Lyle Tie-ins
HarperCollins Children’s Books is the new trade publishing licensee for the seven-year-old YouTube phenomenon Diana—no last name used—who stars in several shows on YouTube and other streaming channels. The books, like the kidfluencer’s consumer product line, are marketed under the Love, Diana brand, which is also the name of one of her shows. HarperCollins’s range will focus on story-driven fiction formats for worldwide distribution.
“Love, Diana is a natural fit for publishing,” said Alexandra West, editor at HarperCollins. The themes of Diana’s content include imagination and surprises, dress-up and play, creativity and curiosity, empowerment and adventures, and she has a unique and quirky voice, according to West. Diana’s parents and brother Roma (who also has a successful show), often appear in her videos, with love and friendship being another prominent theme. “Love is in the name,” West said.
In fact, the first book in the program is Love, Diana: Happy Valentine’s Day!, an 8x8 story book with 50 stickers released in December. That was followed by Love, Diana: Meet Diana, a Level 1 I Can Read, earlier this month. West is particularly excited about the 64-page Love, Diana: The Princess Handbook, coming out in May, which introduces fans to Diana’s family and friends, her pretend worlds, and her dress-up closet. “It’s like looking inside of a rainbow,” West said. Two more 8x8s, Boris the School Bully and Happy Halloween!, are set for June and July releases, respectively. More seasonal 8x8 readers, including one for Easter, are on the schedule for 2023.
The Love, Diana show combines a 2D-animated visual art style, which will be captured in the books, along with live action. Each title will feature a photograph of Diana on the cover, reflecting the brand identity of other Love, Diana licensed products. The focus on seasonal titles and the consistent branding give Harper the opportunity to tie in with year-round retail programs developed by licensor Pocket.watch. “We wanted to make that connection between the books and toys,” West said.
Diana’s large and loyal following were also a draw. The Ukrainian-born, U.S.-based Diana, known as “The Princess of Play,” starred in her first video in 2015. By fall 2020, she had announced the signing of her licensing agent Pocket.watch and a toy range at Walmart. She currently ranks among the top streamed properties overall each month, and has a fanbase of more than 135 million subscribers.
In other HarperCollins licensing news, the publisher is planning a tie-in program for the Sony feature film adaptation of the late Bernard Waber’s Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. The movie is a live action-and-animated hybrid musical comedy with original songs, starring Shawn Mendes as the voice of Lyle. This year marks the 60th anniversary since the publication of the first book in 1962.
Three tie-in titles will release on September 27, including a junior novelization, a Level 1 I Can Read, and a board book, all featuring four-color stills from the film as well as illustrations. In addition, the first two classic titles, The House on East 88th Street and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, will be reissued with cover bursts to promote the film, a slightly more vibrant color palette created with input from Waber’s daughter and collaborator Paulis Waber, and an introductory note penned by Bernard Waber in 2012. Sony and HarperCollins will coordinate promotion of the movie and books.
“We’re excited for the film, which will resonate with people who are already fans of the books and introduce Lyle to new readers,” said Bethany Vinhateiro, executive editor. “The books are an absolute treasure on our list,” she said. The series has sold more than three million copies over its lifetime.
Papp International Acquires Rights to NHL As First Sports License
Papp International has signed a licensing agreement with the National Hockey League to publish activity and novelty titles in North America, marking the first time it has acquired the rights for a sports property. “As a Canadian publisher, hockey is in our blood,” said George Papp, CEO. “The NHL license fits well with our Canadian publishing and sales strategy.”
Papp approached the NHL as a good fit for one of its formats, a bobblehead activity book. “As we were talking, we found there were lots more formats that were even more relevant,” Papp said, noting that he expects this deal to open the door for more sports licenses down the road.
Three formats will kick off the program in time for the start of the NHL season in fall 2022, with more to come for the playoffs in spring 2023 and a full program by fall 2023. The first list will include a book containing activities meant to be played while watching NHL games; an activity poster sticker book (one of the company’s bestselling formats) based on the childhood game of finger-flick hockey, which includes a poster that serves as a tabletop hockey rink, along with pucks and a goalie mask; and a surprise bag containing a game-day activity book, three pucks, stickers, and finger-flick hockey. The pack has to be opened to discover which teams are included.
Placement is expected in Canadian Tire department store, as well as its parent company’s sporting goods divisions, in Canada. In the U.S., Papp will distribute directly into mass channels and work with a distributor for special markets. The books will be sold in NHL team stores as well.
Papp International has been busy on the licensing front lately, signing new deals and expansions of existing agreements. One of the key benefits of licensing for the company is its ability to entice new accounts, Papp said. “It’s that shiny toy that you hang in front of the retailer, and it opens new channels and opportunities.”
The company recently added U.S. distribution rights for its Mattel license, which includes 35 formats across Barbie, Hot Wheels, Little People, Polly Pocket, and other properties. It renewed its deal with Warner Bros., adding rights for the upcoming film DC League of Super-Pets to its existing range across 17 formats, which features properties such as Batman, Superman, and Justice League. It is also working with a packager to add titles such as photo novels and DIY formats for WB properties including Game of Thrones and Friends. Papp International’s three Highlights Water Magic titles have opened a new account, Target’s Bullseye front-of-store value area, with product on shelves as soon as this month.
Papp sees great potential for Papp International’s Pokémon and NHL programs, noting that dedicated product managers have been assigned to each. For Pokémon, for which it holds Canadian and Latin American rights, the company recently secured placement in 13,000 Oxxo convenience stores in Mexico. Papp International also recently took on its first book-based license, signing The Gruffalo for a variety of formats sold in mass channels in Canada and the U.S.
Papp said most licensors approach him initially with interest in some of the company’s unique formats, like its Super Color marker books or its new panorama coloring story book. All told, Papp International has about a dozen key formats to which it typically applies all of its licenses—which in addition to the examples mentioned include the likes of Baby Shark and Paw Patrol—along with other formats that are added on a case-by-case basis.
DK Takes Young Readers to The Met
DK has released the inaugural titles under its global licensing agreement with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, first announced in November 2020. The plan is to release seven to eight books per year for a range of young readers, with middle grades being the sweet spot. The visual look includes both illustrations and photographs of items in the collection.
“The chance to work with an iconic museum is one you can’t pass up,” said Mark Searle, DK’s publishing director of licensing. “We want readers to be inspired but also learn something. We can engage with the curators from the Met, who give us insights into the text and suggest artifacts to feature. It’s great to have that level of authority behind a children’s book. And the collection is so huge. There’s so much we can do.”
DK is the sole children’s publisher to work with the Met. “Part of the Met’s mission is making sure its collections are accessible to everyone, whether they can get to the museum or not,” Searle said. “DK is well known for authoritative nonfiction for kids, and that was a gap in the Met’s publishing program.”
The flagship title for 2022 is the 256-page 5,000 Years of Awesome Objects: A History of Art for Children, which retails for $29.99 and will launch in November. “It’s a children’s encyclopedia of art, but done in a slightly different way,” Searle said. The book covers civilizations such as ancient Egypt, themes such as gods and goddesses, and artifacts such as stained glass windows and musical instruments.
DK’s initial list of Met titles, released in fall 2021, included a seek-and-find adventure, Lost in the Museum; My Met Sticker Collection; and biographies of Vincent Van Gogh and Georgia O’Keeffe for ages 7–9, all published in September. Two more profiles, of Faith Ringgold and Hokusai, came in November; Louise Bourgeois and Claude Monet are set for publication in May and July 2022, respectively. “We’ve been really pleased with the biographies,” Searle said. “They’ve gotten starred reviews and are selling well in bookstore chains, indies, and at the museum.”
Additional titles are planned for fall, including The Met Dress Up Paper Dolls and The Met Secret Treasures Coloring Book, both of which will be appropriate for readers as young as four or five and up. Two illustrated treasuries, Gods of the Ancient World and Legendary Beasts of the Ancient World, are being developed for October 2022 and March 2023, respectively.
The license brings DK some marketing and sales benefits, such as the potential to align with major exhibitions and entry into new distribution channels. An example of the latter is the subscription box Literati, for which it created custom editions of My Met Sticker Collection and Lost in the Museum.
For Black History Month, DC Comics introduced a collection celebrating its Black super heroes. Comic book and original graphic novels, including titles under the DC Books for Young Readers imprint, collected editions, and releases with variant covers by illustrator Alexis Franklin are all part of the program. It also launched The Milestone Initiative, an incubator initiative to identify, develop, and mentor aspiring comic book creators of color, in partnership with Ally.... Penguin Ventures has granted a license to My 1st Years for a customizable, direct-to-consumer, print-on-demand line of products featuring Peter Rabbit. This represents the first direct licensing deal for My 1st Years.... IDW, publisher of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic comic books, under license from Hasbro, is introducing a new monthly series featuring the characters depicted in the 2021 Netflix film My Little Pony: A New Generation! Issue #1 debuts in May.... Sinking Ship signed Recorded Books to produce the first audio book for the Amazon Prime series Dino Dana. Mango is the property’s master publisher.... Cyber Group Studios is launching an animated action-adventure series for kids 5–7, Press Start!, on the Peacock streaming platform. The show is based on the Scholastic early chapter book series by Thomas Flintham that has sold two million copies of 11 titles since 2017. Retail Monster is handling licensing duties for the show, which takes place within a video game.... Fox Entertainment’s purchase of the Gumby franchise from the estate of Joseph Clokey included publishing and licensing as well as entertainment rights.... Ablaze is publishing a graphic novel about the life of Jimi Hendrix, set for launch in May. It will be distributed globally by Diamond Comic Distributors and Diamond Book Distributors.