John Grisham to write children’s books

John Grisham

John Grisham, the best-selling author of more than 20 books, is writing a new series for children centered on a precocious amateur lawyer.

The first in the series, which will be published in May 2010 by Penguin Young Readers Group, is called “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer” and features the 13-year-old eponymous character, the son of two attorneys in a small Southern town. The second is due out in 2011.

Mr. Grisham has sold North American rights to the first two books in the series to Penguin, a move that takes him away from his long-time publisher, the Doubleday imprint of Random House. Terms of the new deal were not disclosed. Hodder bought rights to UK and Commonwealth territories, excluding Canada.

Doubleday will still publish Mr. Grisham’s forthcoming legal thriller for adults, an untitled work that will be released in October.

Oliver Johnson, who was Grisham’s editor at Century and now works for Hodder (UK), told the Bookseller the Boone books were a “terrific new project”. He said: “Theodore Boone is vintage Grisham: great legal drama, a lovable hero who brought a smile to my face and a really satisfying ending, all delivered at breakneck, page-turning speed.”

David Gernert, Mr. Grisham’s literary agent, said the author wanted to explore other publishers as he entered a new genre. “Children’s publishing is totally different from adults,” said Mr. Gernert. “So John felt that it would be a good idea to explore the world of children’s publishing and talk to a couple of different people.” Mr. Gernert said Mr. Grisham spoke with less than five publishers.

Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House, said that Random House’s Children’s Books division made an offer and expressed “our keen interest.”

Don Weisberg, president of Penguin Young Readers Group, said the new series would be aimed at children aged 8 to 12. The title character, he said, is “delightful, and the kind of character you would like the opportunity to develop over time.”

According to Weisberg, publicity plans for the series are “still being discussed. Our marketing plans and promotional plans will be very aggressive, obviously. Details to come. We’re in the planning stages.” Gernert said that his agency is just beginning to look into selling the series into foreign territories.

The book is scheduled to be released by Dutton Children’s Books on May 25, and on June 10 by Hodder in the U.K.

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