Asmodee’s Aconyte Books secures multi-year deal with Ubisoft to develop Assassin’s Creed novel series

Asmodee Entertainment’s fiction publishing imprint, Aconyte, has secured a multi-year agreement with Ubisoft to create a series of new novels set within the worlds of the game giant’s Assassin’s Creed franchise. The deal builds on a previous agreement that saw Aconyte names publishing partner for Ubisoft titles Watch Dogs and Tom Clancy’s The Division.

Aconyte’s primary mission is to publish untold stories from new or under-explored corners of the game series’ history-spanning timeline, featuring both characters from the games and totally new creations.

The first fruits of the new deal will be the publication of The Ming Storm this June. The novel is the opening volume of an exciting trilogy set in 16th century China, featuring young assassin Shao Jun. Written by notable Chinese author Yen Leisheng, the novel has already been published in China and France, with editions in several other languages planned.

This will be followed in early 2022 by a new trilogy of novels set in the time of Ubisoft’s latest hit game Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which offers players the experience of playing as a legendary Viking warrior leading their clan to glory in ninth century England. A third trilogy of novels in a wholly new historical setting is in development too

“We’re absolutely delighted to add Assassin’s Creed to our ranges of new adventures set in the amazing worlds of Ubisoft’s games,” said Aconyte’s publisher, Marc Gascoigne. “The chance to tell wholly new stories set this rich universe, featuring both new and fan-favourite characters, was far too tasty to miss.”

Julien Fabre, Ubisoft associate director, publishing and TV distribution, added: “We are really happy to team up with Asmodee Entertainment. Thanks to their expertise in transmedia storytelling and community engagement, we will expand the Assassin’s Creed universe with new, original stories told through a range of compelling novels.”

Numberblocks publisher Sweet Cherry makes British Book Awards 2021 shortlist

The independent children’s book publisher, Sweet Cherry – the publishing partner for Numberblocks, Alphablocks, and The Rubbish World of Dave Spud, has been named a Regional and Country Winner for the Small Press of the Year in the Midlands.

Having made the cut, the book publisher is now in the running to be crowned Small Press of the Year at the British Book Awards 2021.

Hosted by The Bookseller, the judging panel for the awards praised the Leicester-based publishing house’s efforts in 2020, championing it for doubling its export sales in 2020 and highlighting the firm’s diversity with “half of its management from BAME backgrounds.”

Sweet Cherry hit record-breaking sales in 2020 despite being based in Leicester, one of the longest-suffering UK cities during the pandemic. Staff have been working home since March 2020 and the company has been able to publish its new children’s books as planned. 

Lara Clift, publisher and sales director at Sweet Cherry, said: “We are over the moon to have won the regional finalist award in the Midlands. The team has worked so hard during the pandemic and we could not be any happier.” 

The full shortlist for the awards will be announced on Friday 19th March 2021. 

Rubies lands official partnership with World Book Day to promote the benefits of reading

Rubies has secured an official partnership with the World Book Day charity and its annual event developed to change lives through a love of books and shared reading.

The new collaboration is founded on Rubies’ own global experience of delivering best-in-class costumes and accessories as a trusted manufacturer of licensed dress-up products. The partnership will work to strengthen World Book Day’s ongoing mission to promote reading for pleasure and offer every child the chance to have a book of their own.

World Book Day is a key date in the diary for the costume industry and the exclusive partnership signifies a huge step forward to ensure that World Book Day’s charitable purpose is represented within the industry, along with their cores aims and messages

 Tracey Devine-Tyley, head of licensing and portfolio EMEA, Rubies, said: “Rubies’ has always been instrumental in bringing world book day to life for children and teachers. Allowing children to relate to characters through dressing up and reading equips them for all obstacles and adversities they may face and we could not be more thrilled to be working with World Book Day on their mission to ensure we are actively encouraging every child and young person to read and also have the opportunity to own a book.

“This year has been a particularly challenging time for children and parents and this partnership will be instrumental in allowing children to start a new chapter.”

Cassie Chadderton, chief executive of World Book Day, added: “It’s wonderful that children and families engage with reading creatively, including bringing their favourite book characters to life through dressing up.

“We’re excited to be teaming up with Rubies to bring more of the joy and fun of World Book Day to children, whether they are at home or at school, this year.”

Whether you’re celebrating at home or at school, head to for loads of ways to take part, including events, resource packs, videos, activities and lots of book-filled fun.

Reading for pleasure has been highlighted as ‘the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success’ by researches behind the World Book Day initiative, placing it above factors such as family circumstances, parents’ educational background, or income.

“We want to see more children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a life-long habit of reading for pleasure and the improved life chances this brings them,” said the charity.

Wastebuster and Products of Change call on industries to back Recycle to Read and Toy Take Back campaign

The environmental awareness platform, Wastebuster has partnered with Products of Change to bring together a cross-sector of stakeholders to share knowledge, resources, and finance, to develop an efficient, environmental, and sustainable means of recycling plastic toys.

In partnership with EPPIC (Extended Plastics Partnerships for Innovation in Circularity) the programme will operate under the title Recycle to Read and will engage consumers to recycle their toys (including small electricals and textiles) and to reward participating schools and communities with books and reading resources to improve literacy.

The programme aims to provide an industry-wide solution for recycling all plastic toys while providing a platform for consumers to engage with easily. It will look to co-ordinate toy, tech, and textiles ‘Take Back’ collections in retailers, schools, and household recycling centres across the UK.

As it builds it will look to unlock considerable social, economic, and environmental benefits for the communities in which it operates.

The programme also provides research and industry insight into toy design for recyclability, to support the move towards a more circular future for toy production.

Collected plastic toys will be recycled into new products, such as construction boards, outdoor furniture, or playground equipment. Any plastic toys suitable for reuse will be recirculated by charity partners. The project will drive a nationwide call to action to ‘Recycle Right’ and promote the Toy Take Back linked to the Recycle to Read rewards programme across schools, retail, brand, toy, and publishing partners.

By bringing together a critical mass of cross-sector members, Recycle to Read can deliver a recycling system for toys that benefits its members, society and most importantly, the environment.

Developed by Katy Newnham, founder of Wastebuster, the Recycle to Read campaign and its Toy Take Back initiative is being billed as a ‘dynamic research programme’ and the “start of the creation of a circular and sustainable future for toy production.” The programme will be a multi-stakeholder collaboration that spans industry, government, and consumer networks.

Already 40 companies and 70 local authorities have taken steps to become a part of the programme, having taken part in a special roundtable webinar last month.

“We believe in the power of collective impact,” said Newnham. “By coming together, brand owners, toy manufacturers, retailers, publishers, recyclers, governments, schools, and consumers, we have the ability to work together to share intelligence and resources to create a workable, long-term, sustainable solution to plastic toy recycling.

“The real power of the Recycle to Read/Toy Take Back programme is in collective impact. We all have a role we could play to support this important project and the move towards not only creating a more sustainable future for the toy industry but educating and empowering a whole generation to act as responsible consumers.”

“There is no time like now to change the future of the toy industry. Acting as a responsible business is no longer a ‘nice to have’. It is a commercial necessity and environmental imperative. We can turn the dial for a whole generation, to promote and enable responsible consumption and production. Let’s make this a good news story for industry, for children and for the planet. Let’s work together to do that.”

Helena Mansell Stopher, director of Products of Change, added: “Products of Change is extremely proud to be working with Katy and her team to bring a fully circular solution to toy recycling in the UK, to be rolled out internationally over the coming years.

“For an industry to be part of actually building an infrastructure of this magnitude, to also be linked to rewarding schools to positively effect children’s literacy, is pretty phenomenal.”

Among those to have pledged their support to the campaign as founding members is Immediate Media.

“We hope it will bring the whole toy industry together to help create a recycling ecosystem for plastic toys at the end of their useful life and generate a momentum of its own once the word of the scheme spreads,” said Andy Marshall, group managing director of Immediate Media Co.

Peter Rooke, director of Smart Toys and Games, a member of Recycle to Read, added: “Sustainability in toys is so important for the toy industry.

“The single use and giveaway toy world is particularly under threat and is in the sights of regulators so change must come to that aspect of the industry quickly.

“I fully support the circular economy and for toys, one that is restorative and regenerative by design.”

For more details on the campaign (and to sign up to the next webinar), simply click on this link. You can also contact Simon, on to find out how to get involved.

Rights & Brands named licensing agency for author and illustrator duo Astrid Lindgren and Ilon Wikland

Rights & Brands has been named the licensing and merchandising agent for the joint works of the Swedish author illustrator duo, Asrid Lindgren and Ilon Wikland, based on the artwork and characters created by the pair and enjoyed by children and adults across Scandinavia, the Nordics and beyond.

Lindgren’s books have been translated into 107 languages and have sold more than 165 million copies worldwide. Wikland is the artist who has illustrated the greatest number of these books, including the popular Brothers Lionheart, Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, The Children of Noisy Village, Karlsson on the Roof, Mardie, and more.

Under the guidance of Rights & Brands, and for the first time in many years, Astrid Lindgren Company and Design Ilon Wikland AB have agreed on a mutual merchandising programme, with the first products already launched.

“It’s a great honor for Rights & Brands to represent icons like Astrid and Ilon,” said Patrick Ullman, CEO of Rights & Brands. “We are presenting a program based on the pair’s amazing output of stories and artwork. The initial response has been overwhelming.”

Annika Lindgren, head of publishing at Astrid Lindgren Company and granddaughter of Astrid Lindgren, said: “At Astrid Lindgren Company we are happy that the close and creative collaboration that started between Astrid and Ilon already in 1954, now will deepen and evolve in yet another direction.

“In Ilon, Astrid found ‘her’ illustrator and between them something ‘blessed’ grew, as Astrid’s daughter Karin expressed it. Ilon could dress Astrid’s stories in images like no-one else – images loved by generations of children and families. And just as Astrid wrote for the child within her, Ilon draws for the child within.”

Representing the illustrator and member of the board at Design Ilon Wikland AB, Ilon Wikland’s daughter Fredrika Wikland, adds: “Me and my three sisters, Ilon’s daughters, grew up with a mother who drew and drew. We all got to experience the process of how the images of Astrid’s fantastic stories emerged.

“We got to take part in our mother’s joy, but also her great respect of visualizing the words. Mother always said: when I read Astrid’s text, I always see the images and characters before me. They are already alive. Our mother loved to illustrate for Astrid and their collaboration was filled with mutual respect and admiration.”

BlueSkye Licensing to develop family edutainment programme for best-selling book Prisoners of Geography

BlueSkye Licensing has partnered with the independent publishing house Elliott & Thompson to develop a family edutainment franchise programme around the Sunday Times’ best-selling Prisonsers of Geography book series.

Written by Tim Marshall and first published in 2015, Prisoners of Geography has sold upwards of 1.5 million copies to date with global retail sales now exceeding $20 million. The book combines geography, history, and politics in an informative and accessible way. A sequel, The Power of Geography has already been scheduled for 2021.

“Extending the franchise is a natural step forward for Tim’s books,” said Elliott and Thompson chairman, Lorne Forsyth, who has appointed Maggy Harris at BlueSkye to develop the family-centric digital and game based licensing programme.

The licensing programme will primarily focus on Tim’s extraordinary grasp of his subject matter, the factual content, and the beautiful illustrated edition artwork.

Harris said: “This franchise is a great  example of licensing opportunities coming from an ever increasing and broad range of  sources. ‘Prisoners of Geography’ fits perfectly into the huge demand for quality, factual, fun  family and digital entertainment which the 2020 lockdown world has accelerated …Tim’s  books provide fresh, timeless content for our changing times.” 

BlueSkye will target the family edutainment sector with a licensing programme that will be ‘perfect for fans of maps and facts’ and will encompass board games, strategy games, quizzes and puzzle games, as well as digital apps, experiential, gifts, stationery, posters and cards.

Creatively, licensees will be able to access multiple design assets  sourced from the stunning illustrated edition. 

Elliott and Thompson’s Lorne, added: “It is a timely and welcome business development opportunity. We are a growing publishing house at the heart of the creative independent  publishing sector. We look forward to working with Maggy, our licensed partners and Tim to  build a uniquely different, but successful, multimedia franchise.” 

Dr Seuss Enterprises makes strides across Europe with German book publishing deal

Dr Seuss Enterprises is making strides across Europe, having secured new and renewed international licensing deals with the German publisher, Verlag Antje Kunstmann for The Lorax and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The German company has now landed the exclusive publishing rights to the titles across Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Verlag Antje Kunstmann first published The Lorax eight years ago, however the deal will mark the first time it has published the popular story How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The publishing house will begin to release the titles this month, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of The Lorax. Both The Lorax and How the Grinch Stole Christmas will be translated by the award-winning German graphic artist and children’s book author, Nadia Budde for the German, Austrian and Swiss markets.

“Verlag Antje Kunstmann has been an excellent publisher for our titles and we’re looking forward to expanding this partnership as Dr. Seuss’s iconic library continues to perform outstandingly well in these European markets,” said Susan Brandt, president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Illustrated books editor Heike Bräutigam at Verlag Antje Kunstmann, added: “We’re excited to expand our work with Dr. Seuss Enterprises as Dr. Seuss’s children’s books are timeless classics that deserve to be discovered, read and enjoyed by a broad young readership in our markets.”

The expansion of the partnership with Verlag Antje Kunstmann marks the latest growth for the Dr. Seuss portfolio globally. Recently, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced deals with European licensees Verbarium Publishing, Botart Publishing House, and Thalia, and Australian licensees Amscan, Lake Press, MJM Australia, and Zak Australia.

Hello Kitty signs new publishing programme with Egmont for magazines and books

Hello Kitty has landed a new publishing programme thanks to a new partnership with the publishing specialist, Egmont. Under the new deal with brand Sanrio, Egmont will roll out a Hello Kitty programme that will include magazines and books.

The publishing plan will see Sanrio expand its activities into the Nordics, Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, and Turkey, with publications scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2021.

Silvia Figini, COO of Sanrio GmbH (EMEA, India, Oceania) and Mr Men (worldwide), said: “The strong expertise of Egmont in bringing content to life combines with Hello Kitty’s unique ability to engage and entertain children. It is a perfect combination for success.”

Bastian Mai, global brand managment director, Egmont Publishing, added: “We are extremely happy to partner with Sanrio again and to bring the stories of Hello Kitty to life in books and magazines. Egmont has got a strong foothold across EMEA and Hello Kitty is an evergreen brand that children and their parents love in all our markets.”


Scholastic Entertainment to co-produce and develop Animorphs feature film with PictureStart

The popular ’90s book series, Animorphs has landed its first live-action motion picture deal, thanks to a new partnership between Scholastic Entertainment and PictureStart that will bring the 54 book series to a new generation of fans.

Written by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant, the Animorphs book series has sold more than 35 million copies in its lifetime. The new feature film venture will be jointly produced and developed by Scholastic Entertainment’s president and chief strategy officer, Iole Lucchese, and SVP and general manager Caitlin Friedman, and PictureStart’s founder and CEO, Erik Feig and EVP, production, Lucy Kitada.

Overseeing script development will be Scholastic Entertainment’s Friedman with PictureStart’s creative executive Royce Reeves Darby.

“The central themes of Animorphs have resonated strongly with kids for more than two decades, and the time is right for a feature film that takes this captivating sci-fi adventure to another level for audiences today,” said Lucchese. “PictureStart has an incredible track record of success, and Erik and his team are the perfect partners to help bring this exciting new series based on the adventure-packed books to movie screens.”

Feig added: “We couldn’t be more excited to work with Scholastic to adapt Animorphs, an iconic book series with a wildly unique combination of exciting, witty, outlandish and grounded elements that feel all too relevant for our times.

“We know these books have a deservedly deep bench of passionate fans – ourselves included – and we hope to make Katherine Applegate and her co-author, Michael Grant, proud as we bring Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, and Tobias to life for a new generation.”

In addition to the film, Scholastic will launch a graphic novel adaptation of the Animorphs series via its Scholastic Graphix imprint on October 6.

Scholastic will also introduce a Retro Box Tin this fall, featuring the first six books in the Animorphs series, all in their original ‘90s covers. The titles in the collectable tin will include: The Invasion, The Visitor, The Encounter, The Message, The Predator, and The Capture.

Animorphs was a seminal read for millennials going through adolescence in the ‘90s, with many readers identifying with the intense and gritty themes of the sci-fi war stories. The main plot revolves around five teens – Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, and Tobias – who can each morph into any animal they touch in order to fight a secret alien invasion. Each adventure deftly balances humour and fun with much heavier questions about mortality, war, and sacrifice.

Animorphs was published by Scholastic from 1996 to 2001 and then partly re-issued between 2011 and 2012 with lenticular versions of the memorable covers featuring the main characters gradually morphing into animals or insects.

Weidenfeld & Nicolson to publish The Wisdom of Call the Midwife

Weidenfeld & Nicolson is to publish a collection of narrations and life-affirming quotes from the hit TV drama, Call the Midwife, in a new compendium titled The Wisdom of Call the Midwife. The collection will be taken from the original scripts by Heidi Thomas and will offer up lessons on love, friendship, motherhood, and more.

The collection is scheduled to publish in October 2020 and is the fruit of the efforts of editorial director Maddy Price, who acquired world rights from Claire Potter at Metrostar on behalf of Neal Street Productions.

It will feature, among others, the voices of glamorous but vulnerable Trixie, forthright Nurse Crane, the delightfully witty Sisters Evangelina and Monica Joan and of course the wise and iconic narrations voiced by Vanessa Redgrave. Heidi Thomas, the creator and writer of the show will write a foreword.

Call the Midwife is an award-winning period drama set in Poplar, in the East End of London created by Heidi Thomas.  Made by Neal Street Productions for BBC One, Call the Midwife has been one of Britain’s most popular drama series since it launched in 2012 and it continues to be the most watched drama series in the UK. The most recent series averaged nine million viewers per episode and a landmark tenth series is due to commence filming later this year.

Maddy Price, editorial director, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, said: “As the publishers of the Jennifer Worth memoirs that originally inspired the TV series, we at W&N couldn’t be happier to be publishing this lovely book of quotes from the scripts. Call the Midwife is unique in that its episodes bring so much joy and comfort to viewers, and unique also in the loyalty and dedication of its fans.”

Heidi Thomas added: “I am delighted that Weidenfeld and Nicholson have produced this beautifully illustrated volume for fans of Call the Midwife. Our lovely, loyal viewers have been asking for a book of quotes from the series for a long time, and with our tenth anniversary approaching, I know they will be thrilled with this unique keepsake.”

The Wisdom of Call the Midwife will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in October 2020 in hardback and eBook.