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THE WORLD OF ERIC CARLE Hungry for more


The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the most loved children’s book by the under fives in the UK. With 2014 marking the 45th anniversary of the Eric Carle classic, Samantha Loveday asks Charlie Donaldson, joint MD of Rocket Licensing, about the plans and why the book strikes such a chord with adults and children alike


Firstly, what’s the background of The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Writer and illustrator Eric Carle has written 70 books and enjoyed overall sales in excess of 125 million copies worldwide. The Very Hungry Caterpillarfirst appeared in print in 1969. Nearly 45 years later, it has sold over 37 million copies. Today it is the most-read children’s book in the UK — more than any other hit storybook of the last half- century. According to a recent Book Trust survey it’s also the most loved book for the under fives.


How many licensees does it have to date? As the centrepiece for the World of Eric Carle brand, and a major brand in its own right, The Very Hungry Caterpillarhas inspired a global licensing programme that, to date, boasts over 130 licensees in toys, games, apparel, stationery, gifting and more.


What are some of the best performing products in the toy space? The strongest performers in the Rainbow Design toy range are the caterpillar teether rattles, activity caterpillar, developmental caterpillar and, of course, the lovely caterpillar beanies. There are more toy lines being launched throughout 2014.


And what about the pre- school space in general? Aside from the toy range, the other best performing categories are apparel, greetings cards and stationery and silver and ceramic products. The Brecrest bathrobe and hat and bib gift sets are selling particularly well in Tesco. The party paperware range by Talking Tables has helped many young children celebrate


88 January/February


brand’s position as the most read children’s book in the country. A major event involves Action for Children, engaging with 1,000 or more children centres, nurseries and primary schools across the country to host a sponsored ‘Giant Wiggle’ - walks in caterpillar conga lines on The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day on March 20th 2014.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar is seen as part of the pre-school and primary school learning experience. Charlie Donaldson, Rocket


important birthdays, with the ceramic range from Portmeirion proving to be a perfect gift for young children and babies. However, we have a broad range of licensed products now in the market and more planned for 2014 with many expected to become firm favourites at retail.


Are you looking to sign up more licensees? The Joester Loria Group, global master licensing agent for The World of Eric Carle, appointed us to build on the UK success of The World of Eric Carle brands. And that’s what we have done. The newest licensing deals include Sapona (toiletries) and East Coast Nursery (nursery


furniture), both of which are planning 2014 launches. Other recent deals involve major names in a number of categories including Wild and Wolf, children and babyware manufacturer Dennicci, William Lamb Footwear and Universal Cycles. They join Ravensburger


for games and puzzles, cut- out cards from UK Greetings, bikes, trikes and skateboards from Universal Cycles and bedding and blankets from Dreamtex.


What are some of the main challenges when it comes to licensing a classic


publishing property?


The Very Hungry Caterpillaris a simple, charming,


beautifully illustrated tale of a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly. Eric Carle’s illustrations are striking and instantly recognisable. Those two factors are an excellent inspiration to style guides and product selection and design. At the same time, this has been a lasting favourite for decades. We need to bear that in mind at all times and ensure that what appears at retail is always relevant and appropriate.


Can you talk us through the plans for the 45th anniversary in 2014? The 45th anniversary is set to be a big year for the brand overall with new product and book launches, a major consumer PR campaign led by License to PR, promotional activity at retail and grassroots activity to reinforce the


What’s the secret behind its enduring popularity? I think it’s the simplicity of the story, memorable imagery and heritage. Of course there is also that sprinkle of magic dust you can’t put your finger on; only Eric Carle himself knows the full answer. What we know for certain is that the book has been, and continues to be, loved by generations. The success of the global licensing programme is no coincidence: it draws on the unique style and appeal of a book whose brilliant colours and instantly recognisable images are familiar to millions.


What does it teach pre-schoolers?


The Very Hungry Caterpillar is not just synonymous with fun and play, but is seen as part of the pre-school and primary school learning experience. This book is both one of the first books parents will ever read to children, and a firm fixture in the bookracks of nurseries across the country. The story is visually distinctive and encourages basic learning skills such as counting, days of the week and a caterpillar’s life cycle. It has very strong approval ratings from parents and educators. That’s why a strong consumer market exists, not only among young children but also with teachers and parents.


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