I couldn’t resist. When I heard that McDonald’s planned to give away over 20 million books with their happy meals during the first two weeks of November, I knew I had to see for myself. So on the first day, I bought my first happy meal in like 20 years.
To be completely honest, I was excited to get The Goat Who Ate Everything, just because it sounded like the cutest of the four book options–the bite mark in the upper right hand corner helps. The book is small and a little flimsy, but easy to carry around. And it comes with an encouraging bookmark.
All the books are meant to help show that McDonald’s cares about healthy eating, and in The Goat we meet a kid (heh) who doesn’t feel good until he eats the right foods.
According to Publisher’s Weekly, all the books were self-published (though is it really self-published if it has a large backing and probably had a bunch of people working on it?), featuring “characters and stories created by Leo Burnett, the advertising agency that handles the chain’s children’s and family marketing efforts.” Additionally, McDonald’s will be distributing 100,000 books via Reading is Fundamental.
It’s an interesting move, and as PW points out, makes the fast food chain one of the largest children’s book distributors in the world. Next year, McDonald’s plans to do another Happy Meal books program.
The company has given away books before, first in 1988 when it gave away copies of Peter Rabbit and also four years ago with American Girl storybooks. But this particular program was first tested in the U.K. last year, when it gave away 9 million of Michael Morpurgo’s Mudpuddle Farm books, published by HarperCollins. Working with the National Literacy Trust, by the end of next year, the company is set to give out 15 million fiction and non-fiction books in the U.K.
In the U.S., McDonald’s is also giving away e-books. From now until the end of 2014, anyone can get access to free interactive e-books on either McDonald’s app called McPlay and HappyMeal.com. Spanish versions are available at MeEncanta.com.
In addition to an interactive version of The Goat, new e-books are added every month. McDonald’s is partnered with DK Publishing, so the first book is DK’s World’s Greatest Cities, and next month will be DK’s Wonders of Nature. Inside the books are quizzes, animations, and more.
I’m curious how far McDonald’s will expand its program. There’s been a lot of positive response so far, unsurprisingly, and I wonder if eventually the company will start producing its own content, in addition to partnering with publishers.