What a croc: Sony kids book ‘Lyle, Lyle’

LYLE, THE FAMOUS Upper East Side Crocodile, is ready for his close-up.

In a deal that could reach a high six figures, Sony Pictures Family Entertainment just optioned Bernard Waber’s classic children’s series to develop for the big or small screen.

Lyle, who has spawned all manner of toys since “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” first appeared in 1962, will also soon adorn a line of furniture produced by the book chain Barnes & Noble.

The deal is one of several options recently to emerge from the children’s list of New York agency Curtis Brown. Home to authors like S.E. Hinton and Robert Cormier — both fixtures of teen bookshelves — the percentary has set up a slew of children’s and young adult books lately.

“The Grounding of Group Six” by Julian Thompson is parked at Fine Line with Wendy Finerman Prods. and “Ella Enchanted,” the Newberry Award-winning novel by Gail Carson Levine, is set up at Miramax.

On the TV front, Nickelodeon has taken the series “Nosepickers From Outer Space,” and Curtis Brown is now closing a deal for Jane Yolen’s intergalactic adventure series, “Commander Toad.” The Glenn Close CBS film “The Ballad of Lucy Whipple” will air in February.

And a high-budget stage version of S.E. Hinton’s “Rumble Fish” that just opened in London is headed to New York.

UTA co-agented the “Lyle” deal with Curtis Brown agents Ed Wintle and Bill Bratton. But it’s unusual for Curtis Brown to use co-agents for dramatic rights. “A lot of people don’t realize that we’re a full-service agency,” Wintle said.

DAN HALPERN, WHO RUNS THE Ecco Press imprint of HarperCollins, has landed U.S. rights to the memoirs of Count Balthasar Klossowski de Rola for a substantial six figures.

Otherwise known as Balthus, the great modernist painter has led the sort of life that would seem a surefire film option.

Born in Paris in 1908 to a mother who was the poet Rilke’s lover, Balthus was a friend of Picasso and Artaud and a habitue of Rome’s Villa Medici in Fellini’s heyday. He scandalized the art world with his erotically charged portraits of adolescent girls and now lives in seclusion with his Japanese wife in a small Swiss village.

The book was bought through French agent Frederique Porretta, but she doesn’t control film rights. They’re held by Balthus’ son, Stash Klossowski, who directed the obscure 1992 feature, “Shining Blood,” and is said to want to make the picture himself.

DIRECTOR MARTIN BRIERLEY and producer Bruce Williamson, who won $250,000 in footage in the Manhattan Film Festival in 1999, will invest it in a novel, “The Third Eye” by David Knowles, which they will develop for the screen.

The novel, about a peeping Tom who grows obsessed with a beautiful woman subletting his Gotham apartment, was published by Doubleday/Nan Talese in February.

Williamson and Brierley won the Manhattan fest for a short called “Drifting,” produced through the U.K.’s FilmFour.

Knowles is repped by ICM’s Catherine Brackey and Lisa Bankoff.

E-BOOKS MAY NOT CREATE A FRACTION of the revenues that their print counterparts do, but thanks to Microsoft, Gemstar, Softbook Press and an array of other sponsors, they’re now eligible for oodles of prize money.

In a ceremony at the old Frankfurt Opera House Friday, the Intl. eBook Award Foundation divided its grand prize of $100,000 between E.M. Schorb, author of “Paradise Square” from Denlinger’s Publishers Ltd., and David Maraniss, author of “When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi” from Simon & Schuster.

Other winners each took home $10,000. Ed McBain won the original fiction prize for “The Last Dance” from S&S; Larry Colton took the original nonfiction nod for “Counting Coup,” from iPublish.com; Zadie Smith reaped kudos for fiction originally published in print form, “White Teeth,” from Random House; Vilim Vasata won in the nonfiction converted from print category for “Radical Brand,” from Germany’s Econ Verlag; and Peter N. Yianilos, who helped invent the handheld multimedia content device, the eBookMan, received the eBook technology prize.

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