Little, Brown Books for Young Readers has acquired the license for Disney Fairies. Its initial list, which will roll out beginning in February, consists of nine titles, including leveled readers, storybooks, a Passport to Reading title, a sticker book, and a board book. Five of the titles will tie in to the April 1 release of the franchise’s newest direct-to-DVD animated film, Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy.

“We’ve been working with Disney for a while on the Muppets brand and were looking for something else to work on together,” said Erin Stein, LBYR’s editorial director, brand, licensed, and media tie-in publishing. “We’re really excited about the stories they’re starting to tell in the DVD movies they release every year. They’re taking the brand to a new level, storytelling-wise, with more links to the Peter Pan story.”

The connection to Peter Pan – where the Disney Fairies franchise and its main character, Tinker Bell, originated – means more pirate themes and more interaction with Never Land, which may expand the franchise’s audience in age and even gender, Stein believes. “There’s definitely still a big audience of little girls, but we’re not thinking on gender-specific lines,” Stein said. “We just want to tell the best stories, and we’re going to experiment.” The initial list includes a board book featuring a new character called Croc, for example, who is likely to appeal to younger readers, including some boys.

Little, Brown takes over most of the master publishing duties for the brand from Random House, which continues to publish its Never Girls chapter books, a Disney Fairies-based series that launched in January 2013 for girls ages 6–10.

Disney Fairies debuted in 2005 with the publication of Disney Press’s Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg by Gail Carson Levine, along with a virtual world and a million-dollar marketing campaign. Random House published its first title shortly thereafter and, over the last decade, has released dozens of Fairies chapter books, Step into Reading titles, and other formats.

Levine completed her Fairy Dust trilogy with additional books in 2007 and 2010. Meanwhile, the franchise has given rise to five DVD movies (including The Pirate Fairy), several animated short films, online content, and a wide range of licensed merchandise; a new collection of toys, dolls, apparel, and other products will come out this spring in conjunction with the DVD. At its peak, Disney Fairies was driving more than $2 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise globally per year, and it is still one of the company’s top franchises, according to Disney.

“This is a big Disney brand, and it fills a niche in our list,” Stein said. “It will help us expand our leveled readers in particular.” Plans include a leveled reader series that introduces each character in the franchise, all with a consistent cover look. The first two titles are Disney Fairies: Meet Tinker Bell and Disney Fairies: Meet Zarina the Pirate Fairy.