What Makes a Great Children’s Book?

What makes a great children’s book? Arthur Levine of Arthur A. Levine Books says there are three key ingredients: characters you want to know more about, an emotional pull and an engaging storyline.

Do your characters resonate with the reader? Some characters are so perfect that they become perfectly boring. The right hair, the right clothes, impeccable speech, straight A’s or the perfect job. Who wants to read about someone to whom they could never measure up? To remedy this perfection, some writers try too hard and make their characters overly quirky.

Quirks are fine, but I really like Levine’s description of a great character as someone you want to spend time with. That doesn’t mean that the character has to be totally “normal,” but your reader should be able to relate to and-or connect with him.

Connection, to the characters and to the story itself, is essential. Levine, whose company has published more than 200 children’s books, also notes that successful books have an emotional pull that draws the reader in. It could be intrigue, fear, excitement, love or joy… good books make the reader feel something.

But even with strong characters and an emotional connection, a story won’t hold a reader’s attention (particularly a young reader’s attention) if it doesn’t go somewhere. An engaging plot is the third essential ingredient to a great story.

Whether you prefer to outline your story from beginning to end before you write the first word, or you allow your characters to lead you through the creation of your tale, make sure it moves purposefully and swiftly. Attention spans are shorter than ever; don’t lose your readers by ambling about.

Regardless of the age group you write for, including these ingredients in your work will make for a delectable read.

Lynne Watts - December 28, 2010

Just discovered your blog and I love all the topics. As a writer who just self-published a children’s book and a school counselor who uses children’s books in lessons everyday, I agree totally with this post! Keep them coming!

    Erin K Casey - December 29, 2010

    Thanks, Lynne! Best of luck with your new book. Congratulations!

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