On February 15, Open Road Integrated Media will publish the first children’s titles in its “author branded program”: seven e-books by Newbery Medalist and National Book Award winner Virginia Hamilton, who died in 2002. Among the e-books on the list are Newbery and NBA winner M.C. Higgins, the Great. The e-books will be available worldwide in English.

Open Road partnered with Albert Whitman & Co. to digitally publish the Boxcar Children series late last year. But the Hamilton titles are the first children’s books in what Open Road calls its “author branded backlist,” which has released e-books by a number of major adult writers. The company worked with Hamilton's widower, the poet Arnold Adoff, as well as the agent Edward Necarsulmer, to secure rights to the e-books.

Former Scholastic U.S. president Barbara Marcus, who is advising Open Road and helped arrange the deal, said she knew Hamilton and published her when she was at Scholastic. Open Road has put new jackets on the seven titles: The Planet of Junior Brown; M.C. Higgins, the Great; Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush; Zeely; Cousins; Anthony Burns; and The House of Dies Drear. The Open Road e-book editions also include an illustrated biography of Hamilton, with never-before-seen photos and details about Hamilton’s life. Pricing will be similar to Open Road's other e-books, which list for about $14.99 each.

“We are aware that the sales of digital books have primarily been in the adult market, and that the children’s market is starting to be part of the world of e-books,” Marcus told PW. “Our strategy is to try things that appeal to the multi-level audience of children’s books, which are teachers, librarians, parents, and children.” Marcus said Open Road will be publishing “a variety of properties that fall into those niches.” She also said, “Until there are e-books in kids’ backpacks, print and digital books are really going to be working together. It is unclear yet what the dynamic will be but I do think that this is a moment to experiment and to represent the best of children’s digitally, and to promote it well.”