Mercer Mayer, author of 300 books including the long-running Little Critter series, has partnered with digital media developer John Sansevere to form a new company, Twelve/30, LLC. The organization will handle licensing and media extensions, including new publishing, for all of Mayer’s published works.
“Mercer has been practicing letting go,” Sansevere told PW. “He’s been working on his books for more than 50 years and has decided that it’s time for someone else to take this and move it forward. We’ve worked together a long time and he trusts that I can keep Little Critter and the other series on point.” Sansevere will be the final decision maker, responsible for ensuring that initiatives come to fruition, but Mayer is still very involved. “We speak every day and I work with him on every aspect of the creative.
“In my mind, Mercer’s a genius,” said Sansevere, who serves as the firm’s managing partner. “He’s able to capture very small moments of growing up for kids, and he nails it every time. There’s a lot of imagination in the books.”
Mayer told PW, “I am thrilled to be partnering with my longtime collaborator and friend of over 40 years, John Sansevere, whose focus will be not only to develop my books and brands for the next generation of fans, but also to find innovative new avenues to deliver these timeless stories. Now that there are two chefs in the kitchen, who knows what exciting and creative dishes we will cook up?”
The Little Critter series, which has sold more than 200 million copies since 1975, when the first title, Just for You, was published, will be the initial focus. Sansevere cited the social and emotional content in the world of Critterville, where characters can make mistakes and figure out how to solve their problems on their own, as one of its attractions. “It’s very relevant today,” he said.
The first licensing agreement for the new venture is an extension of HarperCollins’s current Little Critter deal, including a continuation of the long-running Little Critter I Can Read series. Little Critter sales at HarperCollins total 27 million copies worldwide.
HarperCollins started publishing Little Critter in 2004 and its first Little Critter I Can Read story, Little Critter’s Snowball Soup, came out in 2008, according to executive editor Tamar Mays. Little Critter: Monster Truck, due out next March, will be the company’s 22nd Little Critter I Can Read book. “These stories are high energy, funny, and feature family and community—so they are spot on developmentally for the age group,” Mays said.
The new deal also brings Little Critter into the I Can Read Comics format for the first time, with content focusing on the sibling relationship between Little Critter and Little Sister. The first comic reader, Little Critter: Tricky Chickies, is currently scheduled to publish in winter 2024. Mays noted that Little Critter is a natural for I Can Read Comics and that Mayer’s art style is a good fit for the format. “Mercer has a love of comics and has a keen interest in bringing Little Critter into this world of graphic novel storytelling,” she said.
“It’s an exciting format for us,” Sansevere added. “It’s more visual and it lends itself to animation. It’s almost like a storyboard.”
In fact, the first episode of a new series of 15 animated shorts, to be distributed on a dedicated Little Critter YouTube channel, will be based on the first I Can Read Comics title; other episodes will be a combination of original stories, more comic book content, and content based on backlist titles.
Twelve/30 is also talking to potential partners for a limited range of consumer products.
Beyond Little Critter, Twelve/30 is looking at opportunities for all of Mayer’s other properties as well. The first up is likely to be animation and publishing based on Professor Wormbog in Search of the Zipperump-a-Zoo and One Monster After Another, which take place in the same universe, with the first announcements coming next year. Others with potential include the 11-title Little Monster series; There’s a Nightmare in My Closet and There’s an Alligator Under My Bed; the six-title A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog series; and Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp.
Random House publishes the original Little Critter series and a variety of other Little Critter titles across its key formats.