Genre – Children’s Books

In General

When writing children's books, in particular, think out of the box. Topics are not so much different to adult topics, although the way in which you write about them needs to be age-appropriate.

As a way of helping Indie Published authors find a way to illustrate their own book, I published Children’s Book Illustration for the Non-Traditional Creator: Four Techniques from a Crafter’s Point of View, it can be purchased at

There are a lot of ways to look at genres for Children's Literature. These books like young adult and adult book fall into Fiction, Non-fiction, and Poetry. However, we can also categorize these books into types of books that are for certain age groups. So, when you say you write children’s books. You aren’t being very specific.

Children’s Books are short, but don't mistake that for being easier. Some of our toughest critics are children. They know what they like and don't like, even when they don't have a platform to profess their opinions. Remember, that while your target audience is the children of whatever age, it is their parents who hold the purse strings. Therefore, in many ways, your target audience is always the parents of the children. So…always keep in mind who will be buying your book.

Picture Books

These books can be paperbacks/soft cover or hardbacks. The hardback books have a thick cover front and back, but the inside pages are regular thin paper pages.

When we talk about Picture Books, there is a tendency to lump this genre with Picture Story Books. However, Picture Books are just pictures. This means that even the youngest child can read these books and tell the story from the pictures. Because children of this age will naturally kick into their imagination, they tend to tell different stories each time they read them.

Picture Books are usually, at least, 24 pages, because this is the minimum number of pages most print shops will run.

Picture Story Books

Like Picture Books, these books have a lot of pictures, but they also have text – text that tells a story. Pictures are an integral part of the story; they often fill in some details that are not in the text part of the story. Picture Story Books are very popular with toddlers and up to 2nd or 3rd grade. The pictures make these Story Books excellent for new readers. Vocabulary has to stay within the age-range of your readers, so make sure to check out the vocabulary rating of your book.

Often, people think that because these stories are so short that they are easy to write. Contrary to that thought, keeping under a certain word count, such as 500 words. The word count can vary depending on the age. If you are working toward getting traditionally published, check your publisher’s guidelines. If you are indie (independent) published author, you don’t have to stay within certain word counts. Of course, if you are going to enter it into a contest, you might still need to stay within word count guidelines.

In general, a Picture Story Book should be 24 pages with illustrations. In printing, 24 pages is usually the minimum number of pages that a printing company will print.

The following types of books are sub-genres of Picture Books or Picture Story Books:

Alphabet Books

This sub-genre are books that use the alphabet and are usually instructional, as well as fun.

Board Books

Board books get their name from their construction.; they are made from paperboard. Board Books are very simple books and are intended for very young children, who are less gentle. They are made of thicker board, and instead of being stitched together, they are usually folded.

These books can have text or no text, they are rich in graphics and color. These books are for the youngest children, because they are studier. Their construction is such that make them a bit more durable than other books, which makes them perfect for infants and toddlers who have not yet learned how to love a book without being a bit destructive. NOTE: These are not printed by on-demand printers – at least, not yet!

Cloth Books and Plastic Water-Safe Books

Similar to Board Books, these books are made from cloth and plastic. These are meant for infants and toddlers, who explore books through all of their senses. These books may or may not have text on them. The Water-Safe Books are considered Bath Books.

Concept Books

This sub-genre aims at teaching some basic concepts, including vocabulary, math, science, social behavior, colors, animals, and even alphabet books fit into this genre. As with other Picture Books, these are heavily dependent on illustrations.

Nursery Rhymes

This sub-genre is for nursery rhymes.

Pop-Up Books

This sub-genre gets its name from the construction of the books. These books are more correctly "moveable" books. They are three dimensional in construction and include: pop-ups, transformations, tunnel books, volvelles, flaps, pull-tabs, pop-outs, pull-downs, and more.

Toy Books

These books also fall into the "moveable" category. They became popular in the Victorian era in England. Historically, these books had illustrated pages and sold for a sixpence, These books were often hand painted or hand colored after printing, because color printing was not yet possible. By 1865, these books were mechanically printed in color, often with printings of 10,000 copies.

Easy Readers

Easy Readers are written in chapters, much like Chapter Books. They are for children six to eight years of age and are used in grades K-3. Children who have just learned to read are rewarded by reading a little longer book with chapters. However, the paragraphs are limited to two to four sentences. The type is larger, which makes it easier for young readers to read. Chapters are only two to three pages with a total word count of 200 to 3,500. The stories are told mostly through dialogue and action. The plot is simple and very predictable. Topics are usually limited to themes for which the new readers are familiar, such as friends, pets, sports, dance, family, school, holidays, sports and other interests, being left out, or the first day of school. There is little description of the setting or characters. Like Picture Story Books, there are illustrations on each page or over two pages, but the pictures are not crucial to the storyline. The words carry the story in Easy Readers, unlike Picture Story Books where the story relies heavily on the illustrations.

Chapter Books

Chapter Books are written for ages seven- to 10-year olds who are reading independently. They do not require as many illustrations, but the content needs to have more plot development. Chapter books encompass a wide array of themes or sub-genres, which include fantasy, sci-fi, romance, coming of age, history, historic fiction, etc. Naturally, these sub-genres exist in adult fiction, as well, so the difference will be in the way the story is told. These books need to be age appropriate and with a vocabulary that children age seven to 10 can understand. This does not mean that you are reduced to “See Dick. See Dick run.” In fact, Chapter Books have complex sentences where appropriate. The independent reader can be challenged to learn words not in their vocabulary, as long as the entire manuscript is not filled with them.

Many Chapter Books use hooks at the end of the chapter to draw the reader into the next chapter. This is a trick most novelists learn early in their career! The paragraphs are still simple in Chapter Books, with two to five sentences per chapter and a word count from 4,000 to 12,000 words. Illustrations are usually sparse and in black and white rather than color, because independent readers do not need the illustrations to help figure out the story.

In the Chapter Book type of book, there are lots of series. Many independent readers become voracious readers! Since the storyline in Chapter Books are more developed and character driven, they lend themselves to series. The stories are compelling, and makes the reader want to read the next book, and the next, and the next one after that, until the reader has read every book in the series.

What writer wouldn’t want this sort of dedication? Before embarking on writing Chapter Books, to your library and check out a series or two and read them. This will help to get you on track for writing Chapter Books. One example of a Chapter Book series is Ramona. Note that it focuses on