Two years after acquiring Intervisual Books and Piggy Toes Press, Dalmatian Publishing Group continues to diversify and expand its presence in the children's market. Part of Anderson Press, Dalmatian continues to operate in a decentralized fashion, with Intervisual remaining in Santa Monica, Calif., where Debra Mostow Zakarin is publisher. Zakarin said the transition into Dalmatian has been fluid. “Part of the beauty of having Dalmatian buy us is that they really loved Piggy Toes and Intervisual products and wanted to maintain the integrity of that,” she said. Both Intervisual and Piggy Toes focus on novelty and interactive children's books, with Piggy Toes aimed at children up to six, and Intervisual for older readers.

“Looking at Intervisual and their product line and their incredible library of content, it seemed like a natural match to fit into Dalmatian Publishing Group,” said Mary Counts, president of both Intervisual and Whitman Publishing (another Anderson unit). Rich Hilicki, previously president of Creative Edge (Dalmatian's value book channel business unit), has taken the role of president at Dalmatian Press.

Counts cites the hugely successful Ten Little Ladybugs and a line of Magic Ribbon books as particularly popular products. “We think there is a lot of opportunity in the U.S. and internationally that we've not tapped into yet,” she said, adding that Dalmatian has seen double-digit sales increases in children's book sales since acquiring Intervisual. “It's been a really tough market in the last six to nine months, so it's good to see that Intervisual's product line has stayed strong,” Counts said.

At Intervisual and Piggy Toes, Zakarin said she tries to push the envelope—gently—by experimenting with new formats, such as in Gracie's Gallery, an August picture book by Kelly Houle that makes use of a flip-up Mylar mirror to demonstrate “anamorphic” art. In December, Intervisual will launch four interactive titles—Sharks, Big Cats, Snakes and Wolves—which Zakarin calls “our answer to the Ology books.” In the past two years, Zakarin has seen several advantages arise under ownership by Dalmatian. “We weren't in stores like Wal-Mart or Costco before. With the support of Dalmatian, we've been able to expand distribution in both the domestic and international marketplace.”

Those mass retail accounts are comfortable territory for Dalmatian Publishing Group's Dalmatian Press imprint, based in Franklin, Tenn., which mainly publishes coloring and activity books and generates 70% of its business through mass accounts, with the other 30% attributed to the trade and independent retailers. Dalmatian has two imprints of its own—Spirit Press, aimed at the Christian market, and Sonrisas, which publishes books in Spanish as well as bilingual titles.

The addition of Intervisual, noted Brandon Reed, publisher of Dalmatian Press, has helped his imprint expand beyond the mass merchants. “Probably the most noticeable [growth], aside from indie bookstores, would be international sales,” Reed said. “That's something that they've been successful at for quite a while.”