From board book to novel

A couple of months ago, my daughter told me that I should write a chapter book for kids like her. I admitted that I’d never had an idea for a chapter book, and I wouldn’t even know how to write one. She couldn’t understand what the big deal was. What’s the difference between one type of kids book and any other?


Board books, the likes of That’s Not my Dragon have 0-5 words per page and are heavily dependent on illustrations. They’re very conceptual and more like toys (chewable ones) than stories to the tots who consume… er… read them. These are not easy to write. I would rather spend five years on a novel than try to come up with a good idea for a baby to drool on. (About 1.5 manuscript pages)

Picture books like Not a Box, have slightly more text, but not by much. They tend to be less conceptual, but you have to walk a really fine line to tell an engaging, simple and humorous story that holds the attention of toddlers and preschoolers. They are not easy to please. (2-3 manuscript pages)

Easy Readers like Nate the Great are for the guys who are just starting to recognize words, have longer attention spans, and are looking for more substantial stories where the kid heroes actively solve their own problems. The language is simple, descriptive, and use economy to tell a full and engaging story. (10-20 manuscript pages)

Chapter books like Judy Moody are for grade school kids who are reading independently. These exubereant stories need to tap into their personal desires, fears, doubts and problems, and make them the heroes with the obligatory happy ending. (40-60 manuscript pages)

Middle grade fiction like one of my faves, The Thief Lord, are fully formed novels with pint-sized heroes.  With dimensional characters, backstory, and sub-plots, you can take a lot more risks. I mean, sometimes people die! Aaack! (150-300 manuscript pages)

Young adult novels (the big daddy, these days) are about teens dealing with the angst of being… well… teens. Issues range from body, relationship, parental, love, and betrayal. Where all the others kid genres break down into sub-genres like sci-fi/fantasy, mystery, realistic fiction, etc., Young Adult novels can add another to the list: romance. (200-350 manuscript pages)

So when I’m asked to write something other than my usual YA or MG novel, I’m a bit at a loss. But I got an idea for a chapter book a few days ago, and although I’m neck-deep in the Gore biography and knee-deep in a trashy teen fantasy romance, I’m going to dip a toe into this one and see if I can hack it. After all, my kid wants me to.