Macmillan Children’s Books named global master publishing partner for Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget

Multi-award-winning independent animation studio Aardman has announced a second publishing deal with Macmillan Children’s Books, naming the company the global master publishing partner for Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.

The new feature length film, directed by Sam Fell and featuring the voices of Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Jane Horrocks, Romesh Ranganathan, Daniel Mays and more, is currently in production at the Aardman studios in Bristol and is due to launch on Netflix in 2023.

Macmillan Children’s Books has acquired world rights in all languages for three years. The publishing will launch on release of the film with a picture book of the film, a novelisation, a sticker activity book and a handbook.

The new agreement follows a previous publishing programme between the companies for Aardman’s animated musical special Robin Robin, which saw a range of picture books and novelty books published.

Robert Goodchild, Commercial Director at Aardman, says: “We’ve built a great partnership with Macmillan Children’s Books through its brilliant publishing programme for Robin Robin. We’re really pleased to be building on this relationship further by releasing these exciting product lines together for Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. The books will be the perfect film accompaniment for young fans, and we can’t wait to get started on bringing them to life.”

Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, MD at Macmillan Children’s Books, adds: “Following the success of the Robin Robin range of publishing, we are delighted to be continuing our publishing partnership with creative powerhouse Aardman to bring Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget books to life. The original Chicken Run film was the highest grossing stop-motion animation ever and is one of the jewels in the crown of Aardman’s many achievements; we could not be more excited to be collaborating with them on this range of tie-in books for this much anticipated sequel.”


Macmillan Children’s Books swoops in to acquire publishing for Odo

Macmillan Children’s Books has acquired the publishing rights for Odo. The warm-hearted and funny animated series about a little owl and his forest friends was commissioned by Milkshake (Channel 5) in the UK, who premiered the series in August last year, and KiKA in Germany. The series has also been sold in to more than 150 other territories across the world including  HBOMax in the USA, Canal+ in France, ABC in Australia, SVT in Sweden and NRK in Norway and RTE in Ireland.

The series is a co-production between BAFTA winning Belfast-based Sixteen South and Polish animation studio Letko.

This latest acquisition is a key new property for Macmillan Children’s Books, strengthening its list of preschool licensed brands. It follows a deal with Lego for preschool novelty publishing, which launched in August 2021.

Nicole Pearson, Publishing Director, Brands & Media, Macmillan Children’s Books, bought world rights in all languages for six books, with an option to acquire further formats and titles, from Vicky Miller, Licensing Director at Bulldog Licensing. The first tranche of picture books will launch in the UK in March 2023.

Nicole Pearson says: “We are delighted to be working with Bulldog and Sixteen South on the delightful Odo – we were captivated by the beauty of the animation, how comedic and warm the stories are and, above all, by Odo’s strong central message of self belief and respect for others. With such an impressive array of international broadcast partners already on board, we believe Odo has real global potential and look forward to seeing this little owl spread its wings far beyond its forest home.”

“Finding the right publisher for Odo was incredibly important for us – a partner who recognised and shared the important values and ethos of the show, and with whom we could build a long-term partnership,” says Bulldog’s Vicky Miller. “We are delighted to be partnering with Macmillan Children’s Books as our global master publisher. The team at Macmillan Children’s Books impressed with their plans, creative ideas and passion for Odo. I can’t wait to see our first titles hit shelves next year.”

Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, MD, Macmillan Children’s Books, adds: “We continue to invest in key licensed properties where we know that MCB can bring something unique and exciting to a brand, and publishing innovative and exciting formats that will engage children and families. This is exactly one of these properties and we are very pleased to be working in partnership with Sixteen South Studios on developing Odo’s world through our preschool publishing.”

Sixteen South’s preschool series Odo prepares to take flight in the US and Latin America

Macmillan marks 40 years of Dear Zoo with new key partnerships

Celebrations are underway at Macmillan Children’s Books to mark the 40th anniversary of Rod Campbell’s interactive picture book, Dear Zoo. The publisher will celebrate this much-loved family classic with a year-long programme of activity, starting with the publication of a new golden board book edition in January.

A dedicated marketing and PR campaign will see a series of immersive events, national press coverage, experiential advertising and other surprise deliveries. A year-long digital advertising campaign will run alongside far-reaching trade and consumer promotions. An instore competition is currently running with JoJo Maman Bébé across 88 UK and Irish stores.

A major partnership with leading family attraction ZSL London Zoo launches in the spring. A Dear Zoo trail featuring all the animals from the book will feature through the zoo during the Easter holidays, launching on 2 April. ZSL will also be running an experiential activity based on Rod Campbell’s 2021 book Look After Us.

The sell-out Dear Zoo Live! on stage production will return for its third nationwide tour in 2022.

Further partnerships designed to bring the brand to an even wider audience will be launched through the anniversary year.

Sales of Dear Zoo now exceed 13 million copies. In 2021 it appeared 38 times in the Preschool & Picture Books weekly Top 20. Rod Campbell’s titles had a record year in 2021, with sales across all of his titles growing 9% to total 1.5m copies across all markets. Internationally his sales grew by 59% in volume across all markets. Five new languages were sold, bringing the total to 31.

Dear Zoo is available in a variety of formats in addition to the classic board book edition, including paperback, cloth and buggy, sound and pop-up, as well as audio books. For countless babies and toddlers Dear Zoo is their first book and many go on to share it themselves with their own children.

Rod Campbell said: “I am absolutely delighted that so many generations of young children continue to love Dear Zoo. Their pleasure when interacting with the story is so pleasing to see, and for me is the greatest of compliments. Here’s to the anniversary activities bringing Dear Zoo to an even wider audience of families.”

Stephanie Barton, Publisher, says: “With just eight animals, 16 pages and 115 words, Dear Zoo hits the spot every time. Putting the child at its centre, Dear Zoo is a joyful, playful first book for little children everywhere, and is much loved by parents and grandparents who remember it fondly from their own childhood. Rod Campbell finished 2021 as the second bestselling author/illustrator in the UK’s Preschool market and Dear Zoo was the number-one best-selling preschool title by an author /illustrator in 2021. That’s quite an achievement over 40 years and we are so proud to work with Rod and on Dear Zoo.”


Macmillan Children’s Books lands LEGO City publishing partnership with Ameet

Macmillan Children’s Books has landed a new publishing partnership with AMEET Publishing and the global toy brand, LEGO, to launch a series of LEGO illustrated novelty board books for preschoolers.

The global deal will span all languages and was completed by Nicole Pearson, publishing director, brand and media, at Macmillan Children’s Books alongside Dan Shepherd, international sales and marketing director at AMEET.

The books will be based on the popular LEGO City brand and will tap into preschool topics such as Fire Station and Building Site, and will feature specially commissioned artwork. The series will launch in August this year with two titles in Macmillan Children’s Books’ Busy Book format. These will be followed by a seasonal Christmas title.

Macmillan’s best-selling Busy Book format sells all around the world and its popular push, pull and slide mechanisms allow young children to interact with the book in a fun and rewarding way. The books will promote the LEGO themes and values, encouraging imagination and creativity among children.

Pearson commented: “The LEGO Group is known and loved by children and parents the world over and we are delighted to be  working in partnership with AMEET on this series of LEGO novelty board books for pre-schoolers which  are sure to captivate young children.”

Stephanie Barton, publisher, preschool, brands and media at Macmillan Children’s Books said: “The LEGO Group’s values of imagination, creativity and quality are closely aligned to those of Macmillan and we are thrilled to be working with this world-class brand as part of our developing media strategy.”

AMEET’ s Shepherd, concluded: “AMEET is LEGO Publishing’s strategic partner for the LEGO Books imprint. We are delighted to partner with Macmillan  Children’s Books to publish LEGO Books in the Busy Books format with novelty elements and stories that encourage young readers to interact with the book, these titles fit perfectly into our Playful Reading  programme that promotes creativity, imagination, and play.”

Macmillan Children’s Books launches new Dear Zoo babywear collection to Tesco

Macmillan Children’s Books has launched a new clothing range for Tesco based on the classic and much-loved children’s story, Dear Zoo, created by Rod Campbell. The latest collection follows the success of the first Dear Zoo apparel range across Tesco stores in 2020.

The babywear collection is now available in-store and is made up of six garments for babies aged 0 to 24 months, including a sleepsuit, sleeping bag, pyjama sets, vests, and bibs. The new designs introduce two new colours to the Dear Zoo palette, which fit alongside the existing and classic Dear Zoo imagery.

A large social media influencer campaign accompanies this launch and will showcase sample outfits and books to over 350k consumers.

Stephanie Barton, publisher, preschool, brands and classics, Macmillan Children’s Books, said: “We were delighted by the success of the Dear Zoo babywear in Tesco last year and couldn’t have been more pleased when they wanted to do a new range for 2021. They are a brilliant partner, and the clothing sits well alongside the other bespoke licensing that we have for Dear Zoo.

“The classic story continues to grow in popularity each year and has now been loved across three generations of families. This new apparel gives something extra to families who really love the brand, while introducing new families to the animals and the story.”

The Dear Zoo classic storybook offers the magic of a shared storytelling experience as a variety of animals are sent from the zoo. The story brings a sense of humour, anticipation and discovery as the child turns the pages. It continues to be at the heart of families throughout the UK and around the world and was the bestselling picture board book in the UK in 2019.

Macmillan Children’s Books will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Dear Zoo in 2022 and plans are being laid for an extensive on- and off-line consumer marketing campaign across the brand. The Dear Zoo Live on Stage play production hopes to tour 20 venues with 80 shows nationwide in autumn 2021, depending on COVID regulations. Since its launch in 2018, nearly 85,000 children and families have already enjoyed the performances and it has also successfully toured in the UAE, Hong Kong and Singapore.

This new clothing launch continues the growing story around Dear Zoo and Macmillan is looking forward to building on its success in the soft toy, nursery, gifting and stationery sectors shortly.

Aurora World and Macmillan Children’s Books lead licensing roster for Aardman’s festive animation Robin Robin

Aurora World has been tapped as the master toy partner for Aardman’s new animated musical special, Robin Robin in a deal that will see the company develop the plush version of the titular character.

The new plush Robin Robin will be launched alongside the publishing and film premiere of the special as it arrives in the UK this Autumn. Leading the publishing roll out for the feature will be Macmillan Children’s Books.

Robin Robin is a 30 minute festive holiday special created in stop-motion by its directors Dan Ojari and Mikey Please. The special is currently in production at the Aardman studios in Bristol and is scheduled to launch on Netflix in November this year.

Robin Robin will feature the voices of Gillian Anderson, Richard E. Grant, Adeel Akhtar, and Bronte Carmichael.

Macmillan Children’s Books has acquired worldwide rights in all languages for an exciting range of children’s books associated with the new film. The publishing range, which will launch in autumn 2021, will include a classic picture book, film tie-in picture book and range of activity and novelty books.

Stephanie Barton, publisher, picture books, brands and classics at Macmillan Children’s Books, said: “To be working with Aardman on Robin Robin is a dream come true; their unique voice, attention to detail and the exuberance and joy with which they approach storytelling is perfect for the printed page, and we are excited to be working in partnership to create what are sure to be classics of the future.”

Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, publisher, Macmillan Children’s Books, added: “We fell in love with Robin Robin at first sight and quickly discovered that the values of Macmillan Children’s Books and those of Aardman were aligned.

“To have the opportunity to publish both a classic illustrated picture book on our Two Hoots list, as well as the animated tie-ins on our Brands and Media list, plays to our strengths across MCB. Robin Robin will be a focus among the other successful high end media brands on our list and is a very exciting acquisition for us.”

The first title, a classic picture book, written by the co-creators of Robin Robin Dan Ojari and Mikey Please, and illustrated by Briony May Smith, will be published by the Two Hoots imprint in October 2021.

A film tie-in picture book featuring stills and lyrics to the songs will be published in November 2021, alongside the Netflix premiere. An audiobook will be available for digital download.

Please said: “We are utterly delighted to be partnering with Macmillan to bring the Robin Robin books to life, and thrilled that we get to actually write one with wondrous pencil-wizard, Briony May Smith. Briony worked with us early on in the development of Robin Robin, so it feels perfect that we get to team up again in creating the classic picture book. And in the hands of the fantastic Macmillan team, we know this picture book and the entire series are going to be things of beauty.”

Alongside the publishing programme, Aardman has appointed Aurora World – a global leader in the character and content industry – as master toy partner, who will be developing the plush version of Robin Robin to be launched alongside the publishing and film premiere in Autumn 2021.

Martin Ringer, sales director, said: “We have built a great relationship working with Aardman to develop Shaun the Sheep plush products over recent years. The opportunity to broaden our relationship and be involved in the development of plush for Robin Robin is incredibly exciting and we look forward to delivering some beautiful product for this wonderful property.”

Robin Robin is the endearing story of a robin who is adopted by a family of burglar mice when her egg fortuitously rolls into a rubbish dump. As she grows up her differences become more apparent. She sets off on the heist to end all heists to prove to her family that she can be a really good mouse, but ends up discovering who she really is.

Guide Dogs UK creates The Gruffalo scents to make story time inclusive for visually impaired children

Magic Light Pictures and Macmillan Children’s Books have partnered with the sight loss charity, Guide Dogs to answer the age old question: what does the Gruffalo smell like?

Via this innovative new partnership, characters from the popular children’s book by Julia Donaldson – Mouse, Fox, Owl, Snake, and the Gruffalo – will be brought to life in a series of scents developed to help make reading a story inclusive for the whole family.

Research has found that 80 per cent of how we learn is visual. Guide Dogs has therefore made the move to create a sensory version of the beloved 20-year-old story for the first time, helping children with visual impairment feel more included in the story.

Working in partnership with Macmillan Children’s Books and Magic Light Pictures, the charity has created a scent kit that includes five inhalers, one for each character of The Gruffalo. The quick-witted mouse smells like cupcakes, the fox smells of cut grass, the owl smells like a freshly poured cup of tea, and the snake bring with it a smoky scent.

The Gruffalo himself carries with him a leathery barnyard smell that permeates from the depths of the deep, dark wood.

Kerry Kernan, Guide Dogs Children and Young People National Service Operations Manager, said: “Discovering a child has a vision impairment can be a worrying and confusing time for families, and we have a range of services to help. We hope that the universal appeal of The Gruffalo will help shine a light on how important it is to make things as inclusive as possible. Small adaptations and innovations can really help support families with a vision impaired child.

“Every year we help hundreds of families build their knowledge and confidence, and provide tools that are right for each family’s specific needs – whether that’s through enabling more moments like inclusive reading, or by providing services like habilitation support, education support or grants for parents and children to access new technology.

“We hope that this scent kit encourages more parents across the UK to reach out to us for help – and for more people to recognise and support the work we do with children and young people.”

Each scent in the kit was developed with the input of Guide Dogs service users to ensure they were at the heart of this.

Roger Whalley, Guide Dogs UK service user, said: “The support from Guide Dogs’ Children & Young People services has been life changing for our family. Not only in helping us navigate Josie’s sight loss journey, but also for building her confidence through teaching her life skills and providing opportunities for us to meet other families going through a similar experience.

“The Gruffalo is a much-loved story in our house, and we are thrilled that this scent kit will allow our daughter Josie who has visual impairment and our sighted son Wolf to be able to enjoy their favourite book together – something which I think most families rightly take for granted.”

Alyx Price, Associate Publisher at Macmillan Children’s Books, added: “We are so pleased to be working with Guide Dogs to help more children and families enjoy The Gruffalo. As publishers, we want to find ways for all children to access stories and this is a wonderful new way to enjoy books together.

“By interacting with the smells for these well-known characters, visually impaired children can now experience this favourite picture book and ‘meet’ the characters themselves.”

 In addition, Guide Dogs Specialist Education Support Team has developed a bank of resources specifically to support the parents of children with a vision impairment, this includes bringing books to life using touch and sound.

Macmillan Children’s Books celebrates Dear Zoo in new F&F at Tesco range

Macmillan Children’s Books has struck up a new deal with Tesco’s clothing brand F&F to launch a range of baby clothing based on the classic pre-school storybook Dear Zoo created by Rod Campbell.

Developed by Paul Dennicci for F&F at Tesco, the range launched last week across 165 stores nationwide, tying in with a special Tesco Baby Event. The initial collection features six garments, including vests, bibs, and a sleeping bag, all designed for babies aged 0 to 24 months.

The launch reflects the renewed interest in Dear Zoo and builds on the success of the core licensing partners, including Hacche Retail (puzzles and games for Marks & Spencer), Milly & Flynn (games and wooden toys), Neviti (party paperware) and Paul Lamond Games (puzzles and dominoes).

The launch will be supported by a campaign with ComeRound (, the word-of-mouth marketing agency that is dedicated to harnessing the power of real people recommending products they genuinely love from inside the home. Over 100 families will receive a pack of Dear Zoo books and merchandise and will celebrate at the end of July with at-home Dear Zoo Read and Play Days. Alongside, there is also strong online influencer activity, focusing on the new apparel.

Stephanie Barton, publisher at Macmillan Children’s Books, said: “We brought the licensing of Dear Zoo in-house to take full advantage of the popularity of this evergreen and well-loved book. We are targeting a small number of core product categories to build on the success of our current, long-standing licensing partners. We’ve had such a wonderful response to Dear Zoo, in part due to the wonderful new assets that Rod Campbell himself and the team at Macmillan have created.

“We are delighted with Tesco’s commitment and enthusiasm and I know that Dear Zoo readers and their parents will be very excited by these lovely new products.”

The Dear Zoo classic storybook continues to be at the heart of families throughout the UK. Following on from its place as the number one Picture book in 2018, sales last year were up 19 per cent. The classic board book version appeared in the Nielsen Preschool Top 20 every single week of 2019.

The Dear Zoo Live on Stage play launched in 2018 and already nearly 85,000 children and families throughout the UK have enjoyed the performances. It also successfully toured in the UAE, Hong Kong and Singapore in 2019. With World Book Day 2021 already in mind, Macmillan Children’s Books is intending to add to the list of Dear Zoo licensees across the core dressing up, soft toy, nursery, gifting and stationery sectors shortly.