John Grisham

PenguinYoung Readers Group in the U.S.and Hodder & Stoughton in the U.K. announced today that they willbe publishing bestselling author John Grisham's first series of books forchildren. The middle-grade series will focus on 13-year-old Theodore Boone, alegal whiz kid. In the first book, TheodoreBoone: Kid Lawyer, Theo gets caught up in a high-profile murder trial inhis town. It's scheduled to be released by Dutton Children's Books on May 25,and on June 10 by Hodder in the U.K.The second book, as yet untitled, is scheduled for release in 2011.

Penguinbought the series yesterday in a two-book deal with Grisham's longtime agent, DavidGernert of the Gernert Company. Don Weisberg, president of Penguin YoungReaders Group, and Julie Strauss-Gabel, associate publisher at Dutton, acquiredNorth American hardcover and paperback rights to the series, and Strauss-Gabel willedit the two books. Oliver Johnson, publisher at Hodder & Stoughton, willedit Grisham in the U.K.

"Since children's books isa completely different area of publishing than adult, and since John had neverexperienced any publishing in the children's area, we went out and spoke to a very,very small number of people we felt were particularly good at children's books,"said Gernert, adding that Random House, Grisham's adult publisher, was in themix. "We tried to figure out who had the vision for launching Theo that mostmatched John's, and it ended up being Penguin and Don Weisberg."

BothJohnson and Weisberg have previous connections to Grisham, though neitherPenguin nor Hodder publish his adult books. Johnson was Grisham's longtimeeditor at Random House U.K.before moving to Hodder, and Weisberg oversaw sales for Grisham's books when hewas head of the sales department at Random House U.S. "I've worked with John formany years," Weisberg said in an interview. "What makes John Grisham sosuccessful as an adult writer just lends itself to the middle-grade format andage group. The pace, the intelligence, the way he respects his audience, it'sjust terrific."

Accordingto Weisberg, publicity plans for the series are "still being discussed. Ourmarketing 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. Grisham has more than 250million books in print worldwide, and his books have been published in 29 languages.