Posted by Crystal Bowman on Jul 31st, 2013 | 5 comments
When writers tell me that they want to write a children’s book, I ask them, “What kind of children’s book?” They give me a blank stare and then reply, “What do you mean?”
The writer is usually referring to the standard 32-page, hardcover picture book with illustrations, but there are several sub-genres within the genre of children’s literature that writers need to know about before submitting their story to a publisher. Boardbooks for toddlers, preschool picture books, and books for beginning readers are much different from a 32-page picture book with a story. Each sub-genre has its own set of requirements such as word count, page count, vocabulary, and themes.
- Boardbooks: Boardbooks are written for little ones who are not learning to read, they are learning to talk. Therefore the words in a boardbook need to be chosen carefully. Even though an adult will be reading the book to the child, the words need to be concrete words that a child can comprehend. Boardbooks are usually 12 pages with bold illustrations and few words per page. Even though you will have little or no say in the illustrations, you need to be able to visualize your words.
- Preschool Picture Books: Though some preschoolers may begin to recognize letters, numbers, and even a few short words, many children at this age are still experimenting with sounds and learning new words to add to their growing vocabulary. They enjoy verbally playing with words and sounds, and a skilled writer will incorporate “word play” into the text. Alliteration, onomatopoeia, assonance, repetition, and rhyme are some examples of word play that can help a preschool picture book reach its targeted audience.
- Picture Books: The standard 32- (or 48) page picture book is a fictional story with a full plot—beginning, middle, and ending. It is usually less than 1000 words, and the story is told using complete sentences and paragraphs. Character development is critical, and so is the dialogue. The illustrations enhance the story, but the story can stand alone and is not dependent on the illustrations. The market is flooded with premium picture books, so in order to get noticed, a writer has to offer something that is unique and exceptional.
- Beginning Reader Books: When writing for beginning readers, writers need to write satisfying stories to get kids excited about reading. They need to use vocabulary words that can be sounded out easily. The sentence structure needs to be simple and direct with few dependent clauses. The stories are told primarily through action and dialogue, and most of the descriptions are left to the illustrations. The key is to combine good writing with engaging stories that can be developed into a series.
In addtion to these sub-genres, the children’s market also includes non-fiction picture books, Bible storybooks, and devotions for children. So the next time you tell someone you want to write a children’s book, be prepared to tell them what kind of children’s book you have in mind.