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Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Have I Written? Different Types of Children’s Books

I love meeting new children’s writers but discussing their work can be challenging.

“What type of book have you written?”

“It’s a story about a boy and his dog.”

“What type of story is it? Picture book? Chapter book?”

“It has chapters.”

If you are considering writing for children, you need to be able to tell the publisher what you have written. In children’s writing that refers to level. Here are the most common types of children’s books.

Board Books. Remember the cardboard books your toddler chewed on? Those are board books. They are printed on sturdy stock with a small trim size for small hands. The simple stories are often created by author/illustrators or adapted from picture books. Sandra Boynton writes board books.

Picture Books. Think page-size illustrations and rich colors. Stories are short, often 800 words or less, and the audience is mostly pre-readers with adults reading to them. Text and illustrations together tell the story. Readers range from preschool to early grade school. Books are 32 pages long. The Day the Crayons Quit is a picture book.

Picture Story Books. These books are longer than picture books, up to 2500 words and 48 pages long. More complex stories appeal to readers up to 6th grade. Patricia Polacco writes these older picture books.

Early/Beginning Readers. Simple sentences and short stories appeal to new readers. Full color illustrations don’t expand on the story, but instead help the reader decipher the text. Some have chapters. Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie books are early readers.

Chapter Books. These books are for independent readers who aren’t up to a full novel. Stories are broken into chapters. Originally, these books had a few black-and-white spot illustrations, but some now have color art. Includes many series books (Magic Tree House). So is Shannon and Dean Hale’s The Princess in Black. Most readers are in 2nd and 3rd grade.

Middle Grade Novels. Middle grade readers are ready for novels with one or two sub plots. They like mysteries and adventure but romance is minimal to innocent. Characters may strike out on their own, but there is often a home base. Don’t avoid dark themes. Readers are in the latter part of elementary school. Bruce Hale writes middle grade novels.

Young Adult Novels. Young adult books are as complex as adult novels but the attitude is all teen. They aren’t all sex and drugs, but these characters challenge authority. The darker side of human nature and society are fair game. The Hunger Games and Divergent are young adult novels.

New Adult Novels. This newer category covers readers who are out of high school and maybe college but haven’t necessarily settled down. They are adults but they don’t have the responsibility of a home and long term career. Abbi Glines writes for new adults.

When you start a story, you may not know where it fits in this spectrum. One of mine has gone from early reader to picture book. Knowing where it fits helped me shape the final story and will help me market my work.


Sue Bradford Edwards teaches our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next section starts on March 2nd.

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