Writing a book for children can be daunting, as those who have attempted it can testify. You have to know your audience, you have to write so that you not only hold their attention but so you will draw the reader back time after time to enjoy your story. And, often, you first have to grab a parent’s attention so the book will be welcomed into a child’s home.
It’s no easy task. Then add to that the challenge of creating captivating illustrations and fleshing out a design that captivates the young mind, and you have the makings of a complicated puzzle.
I am intrigued by watching my grandchildren returning time after time to books that they basically have memorized–but never seem to tire of. “Read me this again,” they beg. And when I start they seem as engrossed as the first time we opened the book. What is it about some books that children never want to put them down? What makes them dig certain books out of the stack to open them again and again?
If you have the formula for that, you are something of a magician. But in many ways, the process is no different than that used to reach adult readers. It’s often just that the words you choose together with the tempo of your story need to be tamped down. Is there adventure and conflict? Are there heroes and villains? Are the characters lovable or detestable? Are the illustrations rich in color and funky enough to interest? Will your reader want to identify with the characters you create? Kids have simple tastes, but don’t suppose they aren’t discriminating ones.
I have my own theories about writing for children, theories based on years of studying what my grandchildren love. If you want to understand what young readers like, turn to the experts you already know–the youngsters who brighten your own days. Let them become your wizards to the open sesame of writing books for children. Besides, can you think of many better ways to spend time? You can also do research at the library. Rummage through the children’s section, look at the books that are well worn. Read them. Study them. And compare them with others in similar condition. They look well used because kids keep reading them. When you discover patterns, you are on the way to understanding your audience.
Until later. . .