Pharrell Williams has a 'Happy' deal for children's books

Pharrell Williams is transitioning from pop singer to children's author. Will the cross-over translate into success?

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    This Jan. 27, 2014 photo shows Pharrell Williams performing at The Night that Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles in Los Angeles. Williams just announced that he will author four children's books, the first of which will be based off his hit song "Happy."
    Zach Cordner/Invision/AP/File
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Clap along if you feel like "Happy," the hit song by Grammy Award-winning performer Pharrell Williams, would make a good children’s book. 

Putnam Books for Young Readers announced today that Mr. Williams has signed on to create four children’s picture books, the first of which will be inspired by his hit song. The book will feature children around the world “celebrating what it means to be happy,” according to Billboard.

The first printing plans include 250,000 copies, which will be released on Sept. 22, 2015.

"I'm humbled by the global success of 'Happy,' but especially in awe of the song's young fans," he said in a statement, reported USA Today. "My collaboration with Penguin allows me to continue a dialogue with these children in a fresh, new way. We're both committed to feeding the curiosity of young minds with imagination."

Williams has many roles – singer, songwriter, philanthropist, and a coach on NBC's "The Voice," to name a few – and has been successful in many of them. He has won 10 Grammys, including Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Music Video for "Happy," which was also nominated for an Oscar in 2014 after it appeared as part of the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack.

His work has been featured in other children’s media, such as the movies "Despicable Me 2" and "Paddington." He also reunited with his hip-hop trio N.E.R.D. to create multiple songs for "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water." He claims to be “one of SpongeBob’s biggest fans,” reported The Washington Post.

"Happy!" will be his first children’s book.

While this may be new for Williams, transforming a pop song into a picture book has been happening for some time. Bob Dylan’s song "Blowin’ In The Wind" was adapted into a children’s book in 2011, illustrated by  Caldecott Honor medalist Jon J. Muth. It comes with a CD of the original 1963 recording of the song.

Bob Marley’s eldest daughter, Cedella Marley, adapted a few of her father’s hits into children’s books, including "Every Little Thing" and "One Love." In 2014, Ringo transformed his song "Octopus’s Garden" into a picture book, which was published last year and included an audio recording of Ringo reading the book.

Madonna, Tyra Banks, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jimmy Buffet have also made the list of celebrity-turned-author of children’s books. Some of these books even made the New York Times Bestseller list, reported The Atlantic.

While many are excited at the prospect of celebrities adapting their songs into picture books, there is some controversy in the book industry.

Rosalyn Schanzer, a full-time author and illustrator of children’s books since the early 90s, feels publishers should spend more time searching for quality books than fully investing in celebrity “side projects.”

"We understand that publishers want to make money. But we do strongly believe that the really good books deserve as much attention as possible," Ms. Schanzer told The Atlantic.

But, ultimately it's left up to the kids decide if the book is worth reading. Wendy Lukehart, the youth collections coordinator at the D.C. Public Library system, said that when children appreciate a book, it is impossible not to notice.

"When you share that book with children, the room goes silent, they lean in closer, they want to touch the book," Ms. Lukehart told The Atlantic. And, she noted, "I've seen few celebrity books that create that response."

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