Browse through the children’s section at the nearest book store or the library. You will notice that children’s book fall into distinct categories, each category having a distinct format and target age group. The reason for these sharp definitions is that these books are used in classrooms for a particular grade. And the libraries and the bookstores shelve these books in a particular order.
As a creative person, a writer is expected to push the boundaries. But if you are a novice children’s writer or a first time self-publishing children’s writer; it is smarter to stick to the rules. Once you have a better understanding of the business, you can flex the rules to suit you.
· For infants and young toddlers.
· Concept books, rhymes, simple stories, novelty books, lift-the-flap books.
· Length – 12 to 16 pages (average).
· Little or no text, illustration on every page.
Early Picture Books
· For 2 to 5 years.
· Simple stories, fairy tales, rhymes, concept books.
· Length — 32 pages (average).
· Short text (maximum 500 words), Illustration on every page.
Standard picture books
· For 4 to 8 years.
· Wide range of styles and topics, simple stories with a main character.
· Length – 32 pages (average).
· Short text (Maximum 1000 words).
Easy-to-Read/ Early Readers
· For 5 to 8 years.
· Stories that have action and dialogues, fiction or non-fiction.
· Length – 32 to 64 pages (average).
· Short text (Maximum 2000 words), grammatically simple sentences, short chapters (optional).
Transition books/ Early Chapter Books
· For 6 to 10 years.
· Stories with 2-3 page chapters, books with smaller trim size, an illustrations every few pages.
· Length -32 pages (average).
· Books that bridge the gap between early readers and chapter books.
· For 8 to 12 years.
· More complex stories, more sophisticated themes.
· Length- 100 to 150 pages (average).
· Wide range of genres – historical, contemporary, science fiction/fantasy, non-fiction.
· For ages 12 and above.
· Complex plots that today’s teen can identify with, wide range of themes and genres.
· Length – 130 to 200 pages (average).
· For children who have outgrown middle grade but are not ready for adult fiction.
Since children read at different levels, especially in elementary school, there is sometimes a slight overlap in the age groups. To get a better understanding of the formats, read some of the recommended books from each category. This will also give you a sense of what works and where your children’s book fits in.