Writing a book that children will fall in love with at a young age is an important goal for many reasons, the most important of which is that one good book can turn a child into a reader for life. Do you remember your favorite book as a kid? Ol’ Sands does. When asked in an interview what his favorite book as a child was, he answered, “The OZ series. Critics said Frank Baum had no literary merit, and I understand what they meant, but kids weren’t interested in literary merit. They knew what they liked, and that guy had a captivating imagination if anybody ever did.”
So that brings us to the question, what makes a good children’s book? Should it possess the same qualities of adult literature? What makes it special?
If you’re an aspiring author or simply someone who loves juvenile fiction, and you’re trying to answer these questions yourself, here are some of the answers that we have found.
The more imagination used, the better. Kids love to use their imagination, and their favorite books tend to take their imaginations to new levels. Think about the most popular children’s books—Harry Potter, Where the Wild Things Are, even the Oz series—they all use enormous amounts of imagination, and kids remember them for life.
Strong, memorable characters. Children’s fiction is not the place to play around with unlikeable, complex characterization. You need a hero, and you need a hero that your young readers will want to be best friends with. In Night Buddies, John is the character that kids relate to, but Crosley is the one that stands out to them, because they want to be his best friend too!
There must be a lesson. Good children’s books don’t need to end with a cheesy, “And this is what he learned,” line, but they do need to offer kids insight into some kind of moral or life lesson that they are still trying to grasp in their lives. We go to books to understand something about the world we live in, whether we are reading as children or adults, and it is important that children get this from the very first books they read.
If you’re a writer, try incorporating these tips into your own stories and see how it goes. Let us know if you have any other answers to the question, “What makes a good children’s book?” in the comments!