Penguin Young Readers Group’s Grosset & Dunlap imprint has acquired the North American publishing rights to Octonauts, a daily TV series on Disney Junior and Treehouse Canada, from rights owner Silvergate Media. Penguin holds rights for physical and digital formats including readers, storybooks, and sticker/activity books. The first four titles tied to the series, which features educational themes about marine biology, will be released this fall.
“Octonauts has that fun and entertaining storytelling, but also with a strong nonfiction undertone,” said Lori Burke, Penguin’s director of licensing and consumer products, North America. “It has a wonderful broadcast platform,” she added. “We felt 2014 was the perfect time to take advantage of the momentum of the TV and the consumer products.” The show debuted in January 2012 and maintains strong ratings; toys from Fisher-Price and DVDs from NCircle launched last year.
The initial publishing list will include two 8x8s, Octonauts and the Undersea Eruption and Octonauts and the Colossal Squid, and a leveled reader, Octonauts and the Scary Spookfish, all based on episodes, as well as Octonauts and the Creature Report, a sticker activity title containing facts and illustrations. “It’s almost like an encyclopedia for a very young reader,” Burke said. “When a younger preschooler gets hooked on something, they want to know everything about it. We see this is an opportunity to do books that are fact-heavy, but really easy to digest.”
The series is based on original picture books by Meomi (Vicky Wong and Michael Murphy), published by Immedium in North America and HarperCollins in the U.K. (Simon and Schuster holds the TV tie-in rights for the U.K. and Australia). “What [Immedium] has done is quite different from what we’re doing,” Burke explained. “We complement each other.”
Penguin is currently in talks about marketing tie-ins with licensor Silvergate; its promotional partners, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Sea Life; and licensees Fisher-Price and NCircle. These partners, along with the strong broadcast platform, mean the brand will continue to build, Burke believes. “We think there’s really great promise for this property,” she said. “We plan to publish two to three titles per season across different formats and build a good-sized Octonauts publishing library. We think it will have a long shelf life.”