Publishers of activity books, workbooks, book-plus sets, and other highly interactive formats for children and adults are leaning into brand extension, taking some of their strongest performing books, series, and products and expanding them into different formats and nonbook merchandise. These new additions appeal to existing fans while also bringing in a new audience and extending the franchises into new parts of the store.
Many products contain layers of enjoyment and play. From board games that can be played in a variety of different ways to craft books and kits that allow makers to create projects and then put those projects together into a bigger project, the goal is to give consumers hours of enjoyment from their purchase. Publishers are also creating products that embrace contrasts, for example, incorporating humor into spirituality content or infusing fun into learning and learning into fun.
With consumers out and about again after the lockdowns, there is a focus on on-the-go formats that can be enjoyed on a plane, waiting in line, or in the park. Themes such as kindness, positivity, self-expression, and empathy remain top of mind, with one up-and-coming area of focus being products for caregivers.
One thing is for sure. Consumers will find a lot of options if they’re looking for a fun and engaging book or product to help them unwind, give as a gift, or learn something new.
Blue Star Press: Four Brands Lead the Way with New Product Extensions
Blue Star Press is putting much of its focus in the upcoming year on four of its existing author/illustrator-led brands: Alli Koch, Tabitha Paige, Korie Herold, and Sarah Simon. In addition to these brands’ continued success, Blue Star cofounder and CEO Peter Licalzi said the authors have become valuable long-term partners. “We’re in the relationships business,” Licalzi said. “Like any publisher, we’re always looking for bestsellers, but it’s equally important to us to build partnerships with authors who we believe in and want to help grow over time.”
Alli Koch is known for her list of 16 titles across formats, including her coloring books, creative how-to books, and her bestselling how-to-draw-for-kids series, which has sold upward of 200,000 units to date. All of Koch’s titles are published in a standard trim size and in a smaller, travel-size version. The newest additions in her kids’ series include How to Draw Magical Things for Kids and How to Draw Under the Sea for Kids, both published in May 2023. Three more titles are set for fall, including How to Draw Mushrooms & Woodland Creatures for Kids and two miniature versions of previously published coloring books, Coolest Homes Ever and Heyday. In February 2024, Koch will release her newest coloring book, Love in Bloom.
Tabitha Paige is a speech pathologist and fine artist who creates educational activity books for parents and kids. Her first book for Blue Star was Our Little Adventures, a box set published in 2020 that remains one of the company’s top-selling titles in 2023. New for this fall are Baby’s Black and White Contrast Book: High-Contrast Art for Visual Stimulation at Tummy Time, an accordion-format first-words book that debuted in August. “The premium packaging sets it apart,” Licalzi said. Our Little Library: A Foundational Language Vocabulary Board Book Set for Babies will follow. These two books bring Paige’s list to five titles, with that number expected to triple in 2024.
Korie Herold is best known for her brand of heirloom-quality journals, card decks, and other interactive formats centering on life passages and relationships, which Licalzi expects will collectively surpass 400,000 units in sales in September. Herold’s upcoming releases include Recipe Cards, a box set of 50 4” × 6” cards, scheduled for release in November, and a set of wedding vows books and a wedding guest book, scheduled for January 2024.
Another leading Blue Star brand is Sarah Simon, a watercolor artist known online as @themintgardener. She has been responsible for the top-selling watercolor book in the U.S. for two years running (according to Bookscan) and is on pace to continue that streak in 2023, Licalzi said. Simon will have six titles by the end of the year, with 2023 additions including Watercolor Workbook: Flowers, Feathers, and Animal Friends, published in May, and My Gardening Journal, set for November.
Blue Star Press continues to take on new authors as well. A case in point is Brita Lynn Thompson of Zenspire Designs, known online to her fans as The Sticker Queen, who sells 5,000 to 10,000 units of stickers per month. Her high-quality stickers are made from vinyl and are waterproof, which makes them flexible for use on almost any surface. Stickers for Everything, out in September, includes more than 500 stickers made from the same materials. “We’re really proud of the production quality on this book and how we were able to produce it in a cost-effective manner,” Licalzi said.
C&T Publishing: Specializing in Crafting Resources, from Color to Cookies
C&T Publishing is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its founding by Carolie and Tom Hensley, quilt shop owners who wanted to help a friend publish a book on Amish quilting. C&T published mainly quilting and sewing books at first, but it has expanded to reach a diverse group of makers, from woodworkers and paper crafters to jewelry makers and cosplayers. “What brings all of our titles together is that they’re great gifts for quilters, crafters, and hobbyists, whether it’s a gift to yourself or a gift to a friend,” said Valerie Palacios, C&T’s marketing and PR manager.
Coming in the fall is C&T’s fifth color tool from Joen Wolfrom, whose four previous titles—the Essential Color Wheel Companion, Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool, Studio Color Wheel, and Take-Along Mini Color Wheel—have collectively sold more than 275,000 copies. The new product, Essential Color Card Deck, is a set of 200 cards featuring 168 colors, eight values (blacks, whites, and grays), and 24 neutrals.
Each card has a single color on one side, with the back highlighting how to use the color, as well as its numbers in the RGB, CMYK, and HEX color formats. “It was created with all makers in mind,” Palacios said. The information is based on Wolfrom’s Essential Color Wheel Companion and Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool.
Another fall highlight consists of two standard-sized (20” × 30”) periodic table posters with a crafty twist. The Periodic Table of Embroidery Stitches by Christen Brown shows more than 190 embroidery stitches grouped into 19 categories (blanket, knotted, and the like). Each stitch has a page number that refers to Brown’s Hand Embroidery Dictionary. “It’s a fun, at-a-glance resource that works on its own, but if you have the Hand Embroidery Dictionary, you can learn to make the stitches,” Palacios said. “It’s added value.”
The Periodic Table of Quilt Blocks uses a similar format, showing more than 100 blocks in 15 categories such as star, flying geese, and nine-patch. Each shows the name and a diagram of the block, as well as a grid number to aid in layout. Like the embroidery poster, there are reference page numbers to other C&T products, in this case the Quilt Builder Card Deck and Quick & Easy Quilt Block Tool.
C&T is entering the baking category for the first time with Royal Icing Cookies. Author Morgan Beck is a baker and graphic designer who owns Desserts and Stuff Bakery in Woodstock, Ill., known for its custom-decorated sugar cookies. The book includes 72 designs, more than 45 techniques such as piping and texturing, and recipes for cookie dough and royal icing, along with a foundational ingredient list. Readers can make sets of cookies tied to themes such as florals or outer space, along with holiday and party themes.
The company continues to produce books on a wide variety of crafts and hobbies. In October, for example, it is releasing Make Felt Flowers: Four Seasons of Crafting Modern Plants & Flowers, by Bryanne Rajamannar, a follow-up to her Felt Flower Workshop. The book features instructions for felt flowers organized by season, as well as projects that bring several flowers together into bouquets, wreaths, and crowns. “When we saw the photographs, we were just wowed,” Palacios said.
Cardthartic: Cards for Book Lovers
Greeting card marketer Cardthartic got its start 30 years ago after founder Jodee Stevens suffered the loss of her father. She received many meaningful personal notes written on condolence cards that leaned toward the trite. Eventually, Stevens decided to make her own line of cards, and Cardthartic was born. “Our cards say a lot with a little,” Stevens said. “We put into words things that are sometimes hard to say.”
Bookstores such as Brookline Booksmith, Warwick’s in La Jolla, Calif., and Wellesley Books represent an important channel for the company. “Booksellers tell us our cards do especially well for them because they cater to readers,” Stevens said. “They’re deeper and richer than most cards.”
The company also offers cards across its various brands that are specifically tailored to readers and are searchable on the website. One of those, Page-Turners, part of the company’s Meanings of Life product line, is the bestseller in bookstores.
On the front it says, “Some stories are just so good, so thoroughly captivating, that we can’t wait to see what happens next.” And the message inside is, “May every new chapter be better than your last. Happy Birthday.”
The company has heard from so many of its loyal customers, self-described as cardies, that it launched the twice-per-week Cardie Newsletter to help build community, and will soon launch a digital platform for the cardies to engage with each other. The favorite feature in the newsletter is a column where the cardies share what they’re reading.
Over the years, ideas for Cardthartic’s cards have increasingly come from the cardies themselves. “We like to say these are cards by cardies for cardies,” Stevens said. “When you see that some of the cardies have spent $8,000 with us, you know they really like cards. People need connection so much, and this proves it.”
While the company does sell direct-to-consumer (although not via third-party e-commerce channels), it believes in and supports its retailers, Stevens said. When the pandemic shuttered the independent stores that make up a big portion of its customer base, Cardthartic gave consumers purchasing a card online the opportunity to name the local shop where they normally like to buy their Cardthartic cards. The company began sharing the proceeds from online sales with the named stores, something it continues to do today. “We’re all in this together, and bookstores are a very special place,” Stevens said.
In addition to bookstores, the company sells through gift and stationery stores and higher-end chains such as Wegmans supermarkets and Wild Birds Unlimited. Its flagship Passages line sells everywhere from high-end L.A. car washes to funeral homes in New England. Like other card lines, Passages cards cover a broad range of sentiments and occasions. “But they’re a little more intimate and personal,” Stevens said.
Charlesbridge: Storytelling Math Expands with New Picture and Board Books
Charlesbridge is expanding its Storytelling Math series, which launched in 2020 and has more than 15 titles to date, many published in both English and English/Spanish bilingual versions. The series celebrates how children use math while putting away their toys, jumping in leaves, sharing a snack, or participating in other daily activities. Featuring characters of color—with most titles created by authors and illustrators of color as well—the books underscore the idea that math is for everyone.
All the books include a hands-on activity that the readers and their caregivers can do to reinforce the math lessons learned through the stories. The series was developed in collaboration with math experts at TERC, a nonprofit focused on STEM education, with a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.
“This is a big series for us,” said Donna Spurlock, director of marketing at Charlesbridge. “The books obviously have a very strong life in the educational market, but the activity at the back appeals to parents and caregivers at home too. It’s a fun read-along with the lessons fitting in naturally. You learn as you go along, but it’s not too didactic or lessony.” New titles in the series include two storybooks, Too-Small Tyson, written by JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Anastasia Magloire Williams, and Lia & Luís: Puzzled, written by Ana Crespo and illustrated by Giovana Medeiros—both accompanied by Spanish/English bilingual versions—and four board books, Our Favorite Apples, Who Jumps More?, A Beautiful House for Birds, and Where Are the Eggs? by Grace Lin, who writes all the board books in the Storytelling Math series.
Staying with the STEM theme, Hands-On Science is a new series written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Druscilla Santiago, which Spurlock describes as “Press Here meets Bill Nye the Science Guy.” Each spread includes interactive directions (e.g., “shake this book”) and encourages readers aged four to eight to use their imaginations and learn the process of scientific discovery. The first two titles are Hands-On Science: Matter and Hands-On Science: Geology; the former published in July 2023 and the latter is slated for October 2023. Hands-On Science: Motion is coming in February 2024.
Charlesbridge is also adding to The Chicken Soup for the Soul Kids and Babies series, introduced in 2021. The Chicken Soup Kids picture books feature a diverse cast of characters who call themselves the Sunshine Squad. They introduce readers to social-emotional concepts while helping the residents of their apartment building and urban neighborhood. “They have good intentions that sometimes go awry, but there’s always a happy ending,” Spurlock said. Each book includes a story written by a child for Chicken Soup for the Soul books, as well as practical activities for practicing the concepts in the title. A new release, The Sunshine Garden, is set for spring 2024.
The Chicken Soup for the Soul Babies board books, which feature animal characters, include a note to parents and caregivers about how to support their young children as they learn confidence and healthy behaviors. The newest titles in this series are A Gift for Me (I Want It) and Say Thank You (But Why?).
Fox Chapel: Sophisticated New Seek-and-Find Format Expands Vocabulary
Fox Chapel’s Amazing A-Z Alpha Quest by Andrew Ruhren is a completely new format for the company. “It’s so different for us,” said Elizabeth Martins, director of public relations at Fox Chapel. “It’s a seek-and-find activity book for high school and up, with the twist that it’s also a vocabulary book.” High school students and adults, including English language learners, can seek and find highly detailed illustrations of challenging words, such as albatross, apiary, and axolotl, while building their vocabulary at the same time. “It’s a great way to learn and expand your language skills,” Martins said.
Ruhren got the idea for the book, which has a July 2023 publication date, when he moved to Japan and began teaching introductory English classes. An American illustrator and college professor, he found that drawing images helped the students understand new words and their meanings. Martins likened the detail in the illustrations to those of Richard Scarry, who Ruhren has said was an inspiration.
The format is a horizontal, 15” × 10.75” trim size, spiral-bound paperback containing 26 puzzles, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each has at least 100 different objects to find, all beginning with the same letter. That means more than 2,500 images to find and words to learn across the entire book. A grid map and an answer key are provided for each of the challenging puzzles.
Separately, Fox Chapel’s kids’ imprint Happy Fox Books is releasing a new series this fall for four-to-six-year-olds called First Fun Sticker Painting. Each title in the series features 12 colorful scenes to create. First Fun Sticker Painting: Colorful World and First Fun Sticker Painting: Animals & Friends are scheduled for October, with Ocean Creatures following in April 2024 and Wild Animals in September 2024.
Happy Fox also has four new titles in its Easy and Fun Paint Magic with Water series, also for children aged four to six, which launched in February 2022. Oceans and Zoo Animals in February 2024 and Forest and Little Bugs in August 2024 will double a list that already includes Animals, Fairies and Friends, Dinosaurs, and Unicorns and Friends.
These two series join other Happy Fox initiatives, including the Peek Inside series, which Martins said is performing very well due to interest in the books’ high-quality, intricate cutouts and the environmental lessons included in the books. There are 10 titles in the series to date.
As for Fox Chapel’s DIY, hobby and craft, and gardening books, the company continues to publish against new maker trends, with two examples being Wonderful World of Amigurumi: 15 Adorable Amigurumi Creations (March 2024) and Complete How-to Guide for Crafting with Concrete: Step-by-Step Instructions for Making Bowls, Décor and Other Projects for Your Home (April 2024). It also remains true to its roots in the woodworking, quilting and sewing, and gardening spaces, with titles including the Complete Starter Guide to Bonsai for Beginners: Growing from Seed or Seedling, Wiring, Pruning, Care and Display (May 2024), and Granny Square Chic: 15 Projects—Crochet Your Own Clothes & Accessories with Endless Variations (March 2024).
Highlights: Combining Learning and Fun in New Activity Formats
Highlights is releasing new titles and expanding some bestselling series, all with its signature combination of entertainment and education. “You’re challenging your brain while you’re having fun,” said Jodie Cohen, director of retail marketing.
One of the company’s upcoming titles, set for a January 2024 release, is The Big Book of Activities for Little Kids, which has more than 200 different step-by-step activities for preschoolers aged three to six and their grown-ups, in a flexible format that is both durable and soft. The brightly colored spreads are color-coordinated by chapter, such as Let’s Cook, Let’s Play, and Let’s Create, while indexes at the back allow readers to search for projects by topic, from dinosaurs to unicorns. The book was inspired by the Highlights Book of Things to Do, which is for ages six to nine.
In the new book, “the projects are very easy and don’t require planning ahead,” Cohen said. “Mess Alert” callouts give caregivers a heads-up to not start a project if they don’t have time for cleanup. “The activity might involve paint or spillage,” Cohen said. “This is one of my favorite features.”
Highlights is also focusing on activity titles that can be used while out and about. “Travel games are so popular,” Cohen said. “We’re really leaning into that. We take the idea and bring it up another level. These books don’t have to be for travel. They keep the kids busy and off their screens, whether they’re going to the supermarket, or to grandma’s, or waiting in line.”
One example is the Ultimate On-the-Go Activity Book, for ages seven and up. “If your flight is delayed and you have unhappy kids in an airport, they can do one of these activities on their own or with the family,” Cohen said, noting that the games, puzzles, and drawings are short, quiet, and engaging. Another on-the-go format is the Highlights Puzzle and Activity Sets, which came out in April, with Unicorns and Dinosaurs, the first two titles. Each has a 96-page activity pad, reusable write-on/wipe-off pages, and a dry-erase marker in a reusable clamshell folder, with engaging activities for ages three to six.
Highlights continues to expand publishing based on its famed Hidden Pictures brand. It is adding two more titles to its series of deluxe activity books that launched last year with Halloween and Christmas titles. Hidden Pictures: Farm Puzzles Deluxe will be followed by Hidden Pictures: Pet Puzzles Deluxe, both with 100 stickers and two card-stock pages. Meanwhile, a line of Hidden Pictures reusable sticker playscenes began with Stick with Kindness and Stick with the Farm last year and will be joined by Stick with Magical Creatures this year.
Hidden Pictures Scratch Off Books, starting with Dinosaurs and Animals, was another new format last year, with scratch-off Hidden Pictures puzzles that reveal a colorful scene, as well as doodles, jokes, and coloring. “Sales numbers were wonderful and we got a great response,” Cohen said. This year, the line continues with Mysterious Oceans and Rainbow Party Puzzles. Finally, a new title under the Highlights brand is Tangram Puzzle Fun, which includes a magnetic board and pieces and gets progressively more difficult as readers move through the book.
Laurence King: A Growing Assortment of Original Games, Literary Puzzles, and More
Laurence King’s nonbook products include puzzles, bingo games, tarot cards, matching games, and more, all with a twist and featuring original artwork commissioned by the U.K.-headquartered company. Recently, in addition to producing products based on classic games, Laurence King has been creating more games with original game play.
The Infinite Maze is one such new concept. It consists of 20 illustrated maze cards in 10 different colors. Each card features part of a maze, which can be combined with other cards to create a longer maze, plus dry-erase markers to trace the path. Users can lay out all 20 cards in any order, as long as the first and last card are the same color, creating a different maze each time the game is played. Any number of cards can be used to adjust the level of difficulty, and the cards can be divided into sets to allow for competition. There is only ever one solution to a given maze, no matter how the cards are shuffled. “It’s a fantastic, versatile gift,” said Philip Contos, publishing director for Laurence King, who oversees the company’s nonbook products.
Carbon City Zero is another new concept coming out in the fall. This is a collaborative deck building board game in which players, assuming the role of mayors, work together to get to net-zero, learning along the way how complicated progress can be. The game was created in collaboration with climate scientists from around the world and a detailed accompanying booklet explains the rules and the science behind the different options. Also included is a how-to video accessible through a QR code.
In the traditional game category, Mountain Backgammon is a backgammon set in which each of the 24 points on the board is a famous peak—including one from Mars—allowing players to learn about each mountain as they play. “It’s a sumptuous take on the traditional game,” Contos said.
Other new releases include I Saw It First! Danger, redesigned from a triangular to a square box to reduce waste, and with a new board that can be configured in multiple ways. The game is a flexible seek-and-find for kids and adults featuring more than 300 dangerous and deadly creatures. New matching games include Teach Yourself Dog, which provides the meanings of common canine behaviors, and Ingenious Women, which has players match 25 little-known female inventors with their products, including GPS, Kevlar, and the fire escape. And Bird Families is a go fish–style game with players trying to collect sets of four birds each in 11 families, with all facts vetted by the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
As for jigsaw puzzles, new releases include a licensed Bridgerton puzzle. “It’s an original ball scene with characters from seasons one and two, with intrigue throughout,” Contos said. Playing cards and a matching game will follow next year. The World of Hercule Poirot, with more than 100 clues from all 33 Poirot novels to spot, is a follow-up to the company’s World of Agatha Christie puzzle, one of its biggest successes of last year.
Also new is The World of King Arthur, illustrated by Adam Simpson, who created the artwork for Laurence King’s popular The World of Shakespeare and The World of Frankenstein puzzles. In the same series, watch for a spin-off set of playing cards tied to the World of Charles Dickens puzzle, with a booklet providing instructions for Victorian games. Finally, Laurence King is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Johanna Basford’s The Secret Garden, which launched the adult coloring craze.
PI Kids: Pairing Top Licenses with Bestselling Formats
PI Kids, an imprint of Phoenix International Publications, is known for pairing the most popular licenses with bestselling formats that are a natural fit with the story and allow the reader to interact with the property in a new way. “We’re focused on a multi-sensory reading experience that’s fun,” said Susan Brooke, v-p and publisher at Phoenix. “Children like to access their favorite characters in different ways, so we publish books that come alive with a little something more and that appeal to all the senses. These extras help kids, including neuro-diverse kids, stay engaged at story time.”
Three upcoming titles are good illustrations. Disney Encanto: Time to Shine Glow Flashlight Adventure Book includes a working flashlight and a book that has foil on the pages. When the flashlight shines on the page, the foil areas sparkle, for example showing the character Bruno’s visions of the future, and help the reader solve a mystery. “Encanto has enduring popularity due to the song [the hit ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’] and the streaming exposure,” Brooke said.
Marvel Spidey and His Amazing Friends: Little First Look and Find Book & Puzzle is a jumbo look-and-find floor puzzle with 40 pieces along with a book featuring more look-and-find challenges incorporating concepts such as counting, rhyming, and shapes. “This is just a great license that’s really been one of the hottest properties in the world,” said John Russell, v-p global licensing. “It’s been our fastest-growing license for three years now.” The look-and-find puzzle format will also be paired with another hot license, Gabby’s Dollhouse, next year.
PAW Patrol, celebrating its 10th anniversary and still going strong, will be featured in a new book, PAW Patrol: Spaceship Rescue! Book and Wristband Box Set. It includes a wristband with sounds that extends the story as users receive communications and feel part of the action. “The format works perfectly with this great license,” Russell said.
PI Kids has a number of other new titles and formats that pair licenses with imaginative and educational play. A new format, Look and Find 3D, includes retro paper 3D glasses with a different look for each property. Disney's Moana, Marvel, and Jurassic World are available now with more on the way in 2024. “It literally adds another dimension to look-and-find play,” Brooke said.
PI Kids wants to engage all the senses, now including smell. “We’ve had seeing, hearing, touching, and now smelling with our Scratch & Sniff Sound Books,” Brooke says. The first three titles are Peppa Pig: Peppa Loves Fruit!, with fruit smells; Baby Einstein: Follow Your Nose!, with nature scents; and Disney Baby: Christmas in the Air, featuring the aromas of the holidays.
Finally, a series called Starlight Magic Wand Books is launching in September, with Disney Frozen: Elsa’s Magic and Disney Princess: Magical Moments! being the first titles. Both come in a box set with the wand and a storybook, as well as in a version with the wand alone. A Disney Wish edition is planned for next year. In each case, the wand, which has a magic sparkle sound when waved, ties in with a key moment in the story.
Quarto: New Kaddo Gift Imprint Offers Products for Children and Adults
Quarto is launching a new imprint this September called Kaddo, the name being a play on the French word cadeau, meaning “gift.” “I wanted to pick a word in a foreign language as a nod to Quarto’s incredible international reach,” said Sarah Batten, publisher of Kaddo. “Kaddo products, for both adults and children, will be so beautiful and enticing that you won’t be able to wait to give them to the people you love most, to help them explore and learn about the world in playful, nonlinear ways that they couldn’t do with a traditional book.”
The imprint’s mandate is to take existing Quarto books from across all its imprints and create companion gifts and nonbook products such as puzzles, games, card decks, and stationery, all of which encourage exploration and meaningful game play. Kaddo will also create new and original products and games that fit Quarto’s mission “to inspire life’s experiences.” The first list, releasing on September 5, will focus on children’s products based on two Quarto imprints, Wide-Eyed Editions and Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.
National Parks of the USA, a gifty book for children that includes maps and facts about the flora and fauna in 21 national parks, has been a bestseller for Quarto since it was published in 2018, according to Angela Corpus, associate director of marketing and publicity. Kaddo will release a puzzle and a bingo game tied to the title, using the same illustrations.
The Story Orchestra book series features prose retellings of famous music compositions, with a 10-second orchestral musical clip on each page. Kaddo is releasing puzzles that include the same sound clips. The puzzle is assembled on the bottom of the box, which integrates the sound chips; holes in some of the shaped pieces allow puzzlers to push a button and listen. The puzzle series starts with tie-ins to two titles, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. “The musical component brings the lovely illustrations in the puzzle to life,” Corpus said.
Continuing with the puzzle theme, a book called Cat Family Christmas: A Lift-the-Flap Adventure is being supplemented by a Cat Family Christmas Advent Puzzle. Twelve of the pieces have lift-the-flap elements on them, revealing what the cat family is up to in the countdown to the holiday. “It’s a nostalgic art style that is really sweet for the holidays,” Corpus said. A booklet tells readers what the cat family is doing and includes children’s at-home holiday activities.
Kaddo’s initial list will include a Find the Fairies memory game tied to The Natural History of Fairies. Like the book, the memory game features the art of Jessica Roux, which Corpus describes as “evoking a magical fairy wonderland.”
Releases in February, March, and April 2024 will highlight kids’ products including a guessing game and a memory game tied to Quarto’s biography series for children, Little People, Big Dreams, and trivia and bingo games based on The 50 States by Gabrielle Balkan. For adults, products for spring include card decks for house plants and herbs, a card deck of knots, and meditation cards.
“We’re very excited to be launching Kaddo this season,” Corpus said. “Quarto publishes a wide variety of books and subjects that lend themselves to companion products that allow readers to interact with the books and stories in a new way.”
Union Square & Co.’s Em & Friends and Knock Knock Gift Brands Set Themselves Apart
Two brands in the Union Square & Co. family, the empathy-based Em & Friends and the snarky and edgy Knock Knock, are shifting direction slightly to better differentiate their products, bringing in more outside authors and redesigning the look of some products. “Both imprints have been pioneers in format and voice, but there are copycats everywhere,” said Emily Meehan, publisher and chief creative officer at Barnes & Noble–owned Union Square & Co. “We’re always looking for the next thing and new voices that will resonate with people. We’re also playing with the design, color palette, and overall visual voice of the two brands.”
One of Em & Friends’ growing roster of new voices is Nora McInerny, bestselling author and creator of the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast. Her practical and humorous Happyish line, which is launching this fall with the Happyish Oracle Deck and Happyish Guided Journal, is based on the idea that a person can go through really hard stuff and still find “happyish-ness.” The low-pressure journal asks readers to observe their moods and habits and write a couple of sentences a day, without expectation, while the deck of 50 cards offers comforting thoughts, with an emphasis on humor and acceptance.
Other new products include the Gentle Reminders Oracle Deck. “It’s about staying grounded, being present, and loving more deeply,” Meehan said. “The artwork is fun, current, and colorful.” Two new Em & Friends voucher coupon books include Best Friend Vouchers, to foster special, supportive, and adventurous moments between friends, and Here-for-You Vouchers that, along with an existing line of caregiver greeting cards, are meant to remind caregivers that they are loved and supported.
Knock Knock, a brand best known for its fun yet functional stationery and novelty gift products—such as its All Out Of grocery list pad, WTF Nifty Note Pad, 52 Farts Playing Cards Deck, and fill-in-the-blank Fill in the Love journal series—includes Affirmators!, an author-driven product line from Suzi Barrett, an improv comedian, writer, and actor, launched in 2015. “The original Affirmators! deck was our first real foray into spirituality, with a little edge and voice,” said Erin Conley, executive editor at Knock Knock. “The content respects the self-help genre but also appeals to a broader audience. We were way ahead of the curve.”
“Affirmators! resonates because it is inspirational but not cheesy,” Meehan said. “You can laugh at yourself but still appreciate the positive affirmations.” Affirmators! has gone on to be a bestselling series of themed affirmation decks for work, family, relationships, creativity, and morning/evening mantras.
New this year, following the success of Affirmators! for Knock Knock in the spiritual space, is the Super Sparkly Crystal Oracle Deck by astrologer and author Nina Kahn. “She’s the real deal and has a super-cute voice and wisdom that resonates,” Conley said. The deck has 50 inspirational cards, each featuring a different crystal, and is packaged in a unique holographic foil–wrapped box.
Another new product in self-help is Letters to Destroy, a bound collection of fill-in-the-blank letters, out this November, that guides readers to write letters to their teenage self, ex-boyfriends, or their own fears, allowing them to honestly express their feelings in a letter that is never sent. “The art is clever and edgy,” Conley said. “It’s about catharsis.”