For 130 years, the name National Geographic has stood for exploration of science and culture in the real world. Now, in an unprecedented move, Nat Geo’s kids division is exploring the world of fiction to spur children to learn more about their planet.
On Sept. 4, Nat Geo will debut the first in its seven-book children’s fiction series, Explorer Academy. The initial installment, Nebula Secret, will roll out in the United States and more than a dozen other countries that include the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Taiwan and Turkey. Subsequent books in the series will be published every six months.
“Fiction is a first for us,” said Jennifer Emmett, vice president for content in the Kids and Family division at National Geographic. “We want to use whatever attracts kids to connect them to the real world based on real science, real society, real culture. We want to engage them with characters so they become even more interested in the science that National Geographic sponsors.”.
Nat Geo views the project as its version of the iconic Harry Potter books. “Harry Potter is an enormously high bar, but some of what we are doing is modeled after that,” Emmett explained. “Kid were dying to grow up to be wizards, which they really couldn’t do. But they can grow up to be explorers. We like that pathway.”.
The main character in the series is, Cruz Coronado, a 12-year-old boy from Hawaii who is invited to attend Explorer Academy in Washington, D.C. His sidekick is a micro-robot named Mel, a drone honeybee. Mel, like other aspects of the book, is based on real-life futuristic inventions.
National Geographic Kids is hoping the series will expand its already substantial global footprint. It publishes two magazines and 1,200 books a year in three dozen languages, attracts 2 million visitors a month to its award-winning website and recently launched a YouTube series.
“We have a wide reach with 285 million kids a month,” Emmett said. “We are cranking out a lot of content. We encourage kids to take on the mindset of explorers…And learn all about the world and make it a better place.”.