Canadian children’s publisher Kids Can Press and Open Road Integrated Media will digitally publish 25 classic Franklin the Turtle titles, including the 25th anniversary edition of Franklin in the Dark. The e-books will go on sale May 17.

Since the 1986 publication of Franklin in the Dark, more than 65 million books featuring the popular preschool character have been sold worldwide in more than 30 languages; Franklin has also starred in a TV series and merchandise program. The e-book edition of Franklin in the Dark includes never-before-seen archival material, such as an excerpt of the first manuscript and original sketches that reveal how the text and art evolved. There are also images of memorabilia and foreign-language editions.

As part of the launch of the Franklin e-book program, Open Road’s marketing and production staff spent two days with author Paulette Bourgeois and illustrator Brenda Clark, and visited Clark’s archives at the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books in Toronto (Bourgeois and Clark have created more than 30 Franklin titles). Open Road will use the materials and interviews as part of its marketing program for the Franklin brand.

The Franklin deal is just the latest children’s project for Open Road. Last fall, Albert Whitman & Co. partnered with the company to publish all 150 titles of Whitman’s Boxcar Children Mysteries series in e-book format. Then, earlier this year, Open Road announced it would publish the first children’s titles in its “author branded program”: seven e-books by Newbery Medalist and National Book Award winner Virginia Hamilton, including M.C. Higgins, the Great.

Karen Boersma, publisher of Kids Can Press, said, “For twenty-five years, children around the world have enjoyed story time with Franklin and it is exciting to see the books and the character continue to evolve on the digital platform.” Barbara Marcus, Open Road Media’s advisor on children’s publishing, commented, “Franklin the Turtle is a beloved storybook character that will enthrall readers as e-books. With the new format of the Franklin books and Open Road’s marketing, Franklin the Turtle will be exposed to a new generation of readers.”