Those vinyl books that make bath time so much fun for kids present a much different challenge to Nadine Britt. She is the production director at Penguin Putnam (www.penguinputnam.com) and oversees the Dutton, Grosset & Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan mass merchandise children's imprints. With 11 children's imprints and 15 adult imprints, Penguin Putnam is a division of the Penguin Group, the second-largest English-language trade book publisher in the world.
Formed in 1996 as a result of the merger between Penguin Books USA and The Putnam Berkeley Group, the Penguin Group has primary operations in the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and Canada, and smaller operations in South Africa and India. It is owned by Pearson, an international media group.
In addition to working with vendors around the globe, "Mass Merch" production serves as an internal watchdog to ensure that whimsical touches on books, like crayons and buttons, will not harm young readers. "The big challenge for any publishing company is to maintain safety standards on children's products. In general, novelty products are tested for child safety according to governmental and industry standards," she explains. "If the product is geared to young children and there are elements, like small parts, a choking hazard warning label must be placed on the book to alert the consumer."
To comply with federal and international safety measures, Britt is armed with a wealth of information from vendors about what materials and chemicals are deemed advisable and inadvisable in children's bookproduction. This knowledge makes Britt and the production team an integral part of the design process. "When someone proposes a product, we try to think of every possible thing that can go wrong," she explains. "Someone might come up with an idea and we'll modify it. We had a product that included bracelets with liquid in their centers. The liquid has a chemical in it to prevent freezing. The bracelets were not meant to be chewed upon, but you never know. So, we opted not to put the liquid in, just to be safe. You really have to look for potential problems. [Production professionals] should receive the applicable test results up-front from vendors and if, for example, something goes wrong, we know the risk of injury has been reduced."