Children's book categories
Published: May 9, 2003
1. Series nonfiction. A book written for one of the many publishers that issue nonfiction titles in series. These books usually have to fit into a specified format--a certain number of words or manuscript pages, and a certain number of illustrations.
2. Individual nonfiction. A book idea that originates with the author, not the publisher, and has as many pages and illustrations as the author feels are necessary.
3. Picture book nonfiction. A fast-growing subcategory. These are books that explore a wide range of subject matter--science, history, biography, etc. They also appeal to a wide range of readers, from preschoolers to young adults. Many picture book nonfiction titles can be enjoyed by good readers in the second and third grades, and by less skilled readers in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades.
1. Easy-to-read titles. These are stories that appeal to beginning readers in the first and second grades. They are usually about 10 or 12 manuscript pages, divided into four or five chapters of two or three pages each. The books are set in large type and are generally 48 or 64 pages long.
2. Chapter books. These are really short novels, or novellas, and are directed toward readers from the second grade on up. Their specifications are looser than those for easy-to-read stories. Chapter book manuscripts can run anywhere from 25 to 50 or so pages in length, and--as their name indicates--are divided into chapters. These chapters are generally longer than those in easy readers, and can be anywhere from five to seven or so pages in length. Chapter books are enjoyed by readers as young as 7 or 8 and as old as 12 or 13.
3. Middle-grade fiction. Stories meant chiefly for the audience indicated in their title: ages 8 to 12. But some can be appreciated by younger and older readers also. Middle-grade novels can be about almost anything, from fantasies like the Harry Potter books, to contemporary home-and-school stories, to stories about every period in history from ancient Egypt to the Second World War. Most middle-grade novels run between 100 and 150 manuscript pages, but some are shorter, and a few are much, much longer. It all depends on how much room you need to tell your story.
4. Young-adult fiction. No one has ever been able to agree on a firm definition of just what the young-adult audience consists of. Some will tell you it begins with kids as young as 10 or 11, and extends up to ages 16 or 17. Those who hold a more traditional view say the audience is limited to teenage readers ages 14 to 18. Others--and I'm among them--think young-adult novels serve as a kind of bridge for teenage readers between children's and adult fiction. Some readers are ready to cross that bridge when they're 11 or 12; others don't cross it until they're 13 or 14. However, the age group is defined, young-adult fiction today is much more open and realistic than it was in years past. YA authors aren't afraid to tackle difficult subject matter and explore it in an honest, no-holds-barred manner.
This category might seem obvious, but it really isn't. There are at least four different sub-categories of fictional picture books, each with its own special requirements.
1. Board books. Books for the youngest children, introducing them to basic concepts like colors and shapes, and basic activities like getting dressed and playing hide-and-seek. They are called board books because they are printed on sturdy cardboard instead of paper. Board books have to be written clearly and simply since they are usually no more than 100 or so words long. The books themselves are usually 18 or 24 pages in length.
2. The second subcategory is what I call pure picture books. In my mind they're "pure" because the text and pictures are perfectly balanced and serve as equal partners in telling the story. The text of a pure picture book is often no more than 300 to 500 words in length--one-and-a-half or two manuscript pages. These books appeal to children as young as 2 and as old as 5 or 6, depending on the freshness and broad appeal of the story they tell.
3. Picture story books. These are heavily illustrated stories in which the text plays the major role and can be enjoyed by itself as a read-aloud. Most picture story-book texts are four to six or so manuscript pages long, but a few are as long as 10 pages. Whereas pure picture books are published as 32-page books, picture story books sometimes run as long as 40 or 48 pages. They are usually geared to ages 5 to 8, but if the stories are strong enough they can also appeal to ages 9 or 10. In this respect, they resemble nonfiction picture books that appeal to older children.
4. Retold tales and original variations on classic tales. Every season, publishers issue picture books in this subcategory. Many of them are written by their illustrators, who are seeking vehicles for their particular talents. But an equally large number are the work of picture book writers. This type of picture book can be for any age group, from the board book audience to those for the pure picture book and the picture story book. But the majority of retold tales seem to fall into the subcategory of the picture story book.
--Posted May 9, 2003