In just a year, the Theodore Boone series of YA novels has racked up the kind of sales one might compare to a certain boy wizard. Though the folks at Penguin Young Readers Group aren’t prepared to make that comparison, teenage protagonist Theodore Boone is a wizard of a kind—a legal wizard, with a knack for explaining the ins and outs of the justice system without losing the attention of younger readers. Boone’s secret? The suspense-thriller chops of John Grisham, entering the children’s market for the first time with two Theo Boone novels in the past year, The Abduction and Kid Lawyer, (both of which debuted at #1 on the New York Times children’s bestseller list), with a third book set for release early next summer.
The first promotional tour for the bestselling series will make its public debut at the Decatur Book Festival in Atlanta, stopping by Decatur’s Little Shop of Stories on September 2 before migrating to the DBF’s Children’s Stage the next day. The tour will feature an interactive stage performance by the Story Pirates, an arts and literacy activist-troupe. The play they perform, “Theo Boone and the Thrill of Rights,” takes characters from Theo’s world, with plenty of volunteer opportunities for young fans.
“We’ve been working with the DBF since it launched, and have had great success with authors launching their tours there,” said Penguin Young Readers Group publicity director Shanta Newlin. As proof, she points to past festival favorite Judy Schachner, author of the bestselling Skippyjon Jones picture book series, who will serve as marshall for this year’s children’s parade.
DBF Program Director Terra McVoy sees the Grisham bus as “another sign of the growth of the festival. [Penguin] really wanted the festival to be the launching point for this tour, and we’re starting to hear more often that ‘We want our book to launch at the Decatur Book Festival.’ It’s totally a big score, and it’s going to be a really fun show.”
Newlin calls the DBF “a good fit,” though timing is definitely a part of the equation: a key venue for the tour will be schools, where Theo Boone’s civics-minded adventures have won him classroom cachet. A kickoff performance a day ahead of the festival will take place at Jackson Elementary, one of Atlanta’s top-ranked public schools, and the tour will wrap up with three days of performances for the Sarasota County school system in Florida, where the book is required reading this year.
Between Atlanta and Sarasota, the 17-city tour will play at a number of booksellers, including Page & Pallette in Fairhope, Ala., and Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, Ky. and Cincinnati, as well as unexpected venues like the local courthouse in Oxford, Miss.
Though Grisham won’t be joining the tour to sign books, the Story Pirates performers, who have proved popular among teachers, students, parents, and education advocates, will be on hand after the show to sign posters.