What Am I Writing? Children's Books Defined

Wednesday, February 15, 2012
by purpleslog www.flickr.com
It seems we've gotten a lot of e-mails lately asking us which one of the online classes we offer for children's writers is appropriate for the e-mailer's project. Writers will then describe their manuscripts and ask us to tell them what they are writing--whether it's a picture book, chapter book, or middle-grade novel, for example. This is an important question, and one that you should definitely be able to answer as you finish up your first draft and start working on revisions.

So, what type of children's books are out there? How do they differ from one another, and who is your audience? One great way to figure out what you are writing or what you want to write is to spend time in the children's and young adult section of your public library as well as talking to the children's librarians. They are in the know and want to spend time helping others in the community, so pick their brains if you struggle with this topic. Here is a quick list to refer to with an example of a current title to go with it:

  • Concept book:  This is a picture book or even a board book for very young children, preschoolers, that teaches them something, such as colors, counting, or opposites. An example would be Pirate Nap: A Book of Colors by Danna Smith.
  • Picture book: The audience for this book is usually preschool through second grade. It is a story that is told with text and illustrations, with an illustration on each page, such as Olivia by Ian Falconer.  
  • Chapter book: These are for those primary elementary students who are transitioning between picture books and novels. Series like Junie B. Jones and The Magic Tree House are considered chapter books. These books average about 70 to 80 pages and have a couple illustrations in each chapter. 
  • Middle grade novel: This is a novel for children in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. It generally has between 35,000 to 45,000 words. A couple of examples are the first Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, or Holes by Louis Sachar. 
  • Tween novel: Although this is not an official term, many middle-grade writers are writing a little older than their upper elementary grade school audience, but not old enough to be considered YA.  These books would have 40,000 to 50,000 words and deal with a lot of middle school/junior high pressure. The Giver by  Lois Lowry is an example of a book perfect for tweens.
  • Young adult novel: These are usually considered for children 14 and older. They often deal with tough subjects and teenagers trying to navigate through their adolescent years. Books by author Ellen Hopkins would be YA.
 So, what are you writing? Where does your project fall?

If you are interested in taking a class on writing middle grade novels or writing for children's magazines, Margo teaches both, and they are coming up at the end of February (2/22) for Writing a Middle-Grade Novel and the beginning of March (3/5) for Writing for Children's Magazines. Classes are also offered in writing a picture book and writing for young adults at different times throughout the year.  For more information, go to this link and click on the class you want to register for. 

post by Margo L. Dill


Karen Doniere said...

Margo thanks for sharing this great post. Although I initially determined my audience and project scope, it helps to know I have done it properly. My children's picture book is due out in April and it's for ages 3 - 7. Again, thank you for putting my mind at ease.

Margo Dill said...

Karen, congratulations to you for having your picture book coming out in APril! How exciting. And glad you were right on target. :)

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