What are the different types of books for children and teenagers?
When you first start in the children publishing industry, whatever your role is, the abundance of information can be overwhelming. Kids’ books illustration and book writing can be a difficult task if you don’t understand the different types of children’s books. As a writer or an illustrator, you want to sound as professional as possible, especially when looking for a publisher. Knowing the answer to the question “What genre is your book?” is crucial in this business. In this article, we will explain the different types of kids’ books and how to identify them.
We will classify them according to the reader’ age, starting with the youngest group.
The youngest of this family are Board Books. Board Books, also called infant, toddler or baby books are destined for children aged 0 to 3. Their entire design, starting from illustrations, text and colour palette, all the way to their size and the type of paper used are meant to attract the attention of infant readers and to resist tear, dirt, food or chewing. Specifically, Board Books are made of thick paperboard with a glossy finish. They are small in size, typically 6×6 inches to fit small hands and they usually have a square shape, with die-cut rounded corners.
Topics vary, but they mostly teach early learning concepts like colours, numbers, the alphabet, animals or other simple early life concepts. The plot should be very simple with basic vocabulary. Lengthwise, they stand around 12 pages and under 300 words. As Board books are for pre-emergent readers with a very short attention spam, the book’s illustration is more important than the text. Therefore, when considering this type of children’s book, illustration pricing and quality is the number one aspect to focus on. As some Board Books are even wordless, the priority is to create bright colourful pages to keep very young readers engaged.
Board Books may use additional features to ensure engagement from toddlers like: lift-the flaps, “touch and feel”, finger tabs, pop-ups, or books that make sounds. Even the shape of the book can be altered to create interest; thus, books can be in the shape of its main subject (shape of a fruit, of a letter, of a house etc.)
Picturebooks are for emergent readers and early readers, with a slightly higher attention span and the ability to sit still for longer. Generally, this means readers between 4 and 8 years old. They are called Picturebooks because, much like the previous type, illustrations are extremely important. Although text is longer than in Board Books, between 400 to 900 words, the proper illustrations are indispensable and without them the text would be incomplete. It’s safe to say that the text and the book’s illustrations play an equal role.The common practice is for every page of a Picturebook to be illustrated, using varied media techniques , from water colour, acrylic and colour pencils to photography and digital illustration.
When it comes to size, the only compulsory requirement is that the number of pages be a multiple of 8. The standard length is 32 pages, but publishers may accept 6, 24, 32, 40, or 48 pages. Why a multiple of 8? That is because of the technical aspect of book printing: in the case of Picturebooks, 2 pages are actually printed on a single, large sheet of paper which is later folded and bound to create the pages of the book as we know them.
Another interesting technical aspect of Picturebooks is that they can come in 3 different shapes: vertical books with a size of 8×10 inches, square books of 8×8 inches or horizontal books sized 10×8 inches.
Topic wise, Picturebooks deal with a wide range of subjects. However, the main character is usually a child or an animal that the emergent reader can identify with, only rarely using adult characters.
There are different types of Picturesbooks, such as rhyming, rebus, multicultural, wordless, concept, or picture storybooks. The latter is usually confusing, so we will explain it next.
Picture Storybooks or Story Picturebooks
Publishers and people in the industry use the terms “Picturebooks” for Picture Storybooks as well, so it is up to you to understand what they mean. If they are referring to a children’s book longer than 900 words, they mean a Picture Storybook.
This is basically just a longer kind of Picturebook; normally a Picturebook over 900 words become a Picture Storybook. They are a level higher than Picturebooks not just in length, but also in the level of the vocabulary used and the complexity of the plot. They are addressed to the higher spectrum of the age group 3 to 8 and they don’t rely on illustrations as much. Storybook illustrations here are typically seen every other page, while text can occupy the largest part (or the whole) of a page. Illustrations are reduced in this case as their role is no longer of an integral part of the story, but rather as a means of holding the reader’s attention. Your manuscript can go up to 2000 words or 9 pages, but definitely not beyond. In this case of this particular children’s book, more is not necessarily better.
Easy Readers or Beginning readers
Also called “easy-to-read” books, they target young kids who are just starting to read on their own, aged 6 to 8. The structure is still simple and the story is mainly told through dialogue and actions, with very little description. Expect simple grammar from this type of kids illustration books on topics the young readers can identify with, such as sports, school life, friends, family, pets and so on. Easy readers books are meant to be a passage point from kids books to more adult books, like chapter books. Thus, they are a bit longer in words and pages. We are talking about a maximum of 3500 words and anywhere between 32 to 64 pages. Similar to Picture Storybooks, illustrations are not crucial anymore, they are present every other page as a way of holding the child’s interest. Publishers will be particularly interested in this kind of books as they are often used in educational institutions, having different reading levels.
With chapter books we reach the independent reading stage, meaning children between the ages of 7 and 10. As they enter this stage, being able to read longer and more complex texts makes the young readers feel grown up. Although paragraphs stay short (2 to 4 lines), chapters have more complicated plot, advanced vocabulary and complex sentences. As the length increases (4000 to 12,000 words), chapters often end in suspense to keep the reader engaged. Illustrations are optional and when they do exist, they are scarce and designed in black and white.
Pay attention to some other specific formatting details regarding Chapter Books like large print size, chapters as short as 2-3 pages and the possibility of writing a series (chapter books are often written as series).
Middle Grade Novels
The next category of children’s books are Middle Grade Novels. These are also regarded as pre-teen novels ( targeted ages are 8-12 yo) and they stretch between 25,000 to 40,000 words. The length of these books may vary a lot more than the previous ones however, depending on publisher and genre. They cover a wide range of genres such as speculative fiction and fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction or non-fiction. Chapters are longer than Chapter books, plots are more complex and themes can be quite sophisticated. We will now encounter sub plots, secondary characters and normally no illustrations. When they do carry illustrations, they are called “Illustrated books”. Series novels are popular, where each follow up book uses roughly the same characters as the previous ones.
Young Adults Novels
Young Adults Novels are the last type of children’s books, from an age perspective. These novels address teens aged 12 and higher. Topics are similar to Middle Grade Novels, but word count is longer (40,000 to 70,000 or sometimes even 120,000 for historical sci-fi novels). The main characteristic of YA Novels is that the main characters and most secondary characters are typically teenagers that the reader can identify with or aspire to. Mingled with the main topic before mentioned (speculative fiction and fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction, non-fiction) we always find a theme that addresses teen issues such as dating and sexuality, mental health, self-discovery or darker themes like substance abuse, bullying or violence.
Anthologies and short story collections
Unless you are already an established author, it might be difficult to find a publisher interested in short stories. If you are truly set on writing short stories, they should all be on the same vocabulary/ grammar level and be targeting a certain age group by being at the same reading level. Common topics throughout the entire anthology/ collection are also not unusual.