In a children’s book, anything is possible. Crayons go on strike. Rats ride horses. Agoraphobic squirrels go camping. And worms wear boots. Yes, in these kid-centric worlds, imaginations are stretched, inanimate objects spring to life and reality’s rules no longer apply. They are the stuff of which dreams are made.
If you have an idea that is screaming out to be put on paper, there is good news. By following a few words of advice, you may have what it takes to create a storybook that will have your children enthralled and begging for an encore.
Make it Personal
What does your child hold dear? Do they have a cherished pet, a favorite stuffed toy, or an imaginary friend? Are they obsessed with cars, dragons, or fuchsia-maned ponies?
“Homemade Bedtime Stories: How to Make a Book for Kids” points out that writing about something that your child relates to or adores will keep them interested and excited to hear what is going to happen next. With a little imagination, even “Flipper,” the family goldfish, can lead a very adventurous life.
Kids Are In Charge
In the real world, kids are constantly required to defer to authority–parents, teachers, babysitters, and, yes, even older siblings. The perfect storybook, however, relegates these adult figures to a mere supporting role. In fact, they are often absent. Or, as is the case in the world of Charlie Brown, grown-ups are simply an unintelligible source of mere background noise. Bwah, Bwah, Bwah, Bwah.
In “Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Children’s Book,” author, Mary Hertz Scarbrough, tells prospective writers to “ditch the buttinskys”–keep parents and other authority figures in the background and make sure their involvement is minimal. In the perfect storybook world, kids run the show.
Make Them Laugh
Nothing beats laughter–especially when it’s the uncontrollable, unstoppable, makes-milk-squirt-out-your-nose and your ribs ache variety. And no one does this uninhibited hearty guffaw better than a kid.
To tickle your children’s funny bones, you need to know what makes them laugh. Are they in the “bodily functions are hilarious” bathroom humor phase? Do they love wordplay? Perhaps, Wile E. Coyote’s anvil-related accidents are more their style. Incorporating elements of humor will get your audience giggling and wanting more.
Animals Make Great Lead Characters
Winnie the Pooh, Curious George, The Cat In the Hat, and the Berenstain Bears are beloved characters that have won over the hearts of generations of kids. After all, children love animals–especially animals that think they’re people.
Jennifer Gray, author of Atticus Grammaticus Cattypuss Claw and the Chicken Mission, tells The Guardian that even an ordinary animal can make an excellent character, citing that a chicken, for instance, is distantly related to a T-Rex, can reach a running speed of almost half that of Usain Bolt, and that the hardness of an eggshell depends on what the chicken eats before it lays the egg. By learning little-known facts about whatever creature you choose, you can transform the seemingly mundane into extraordinarily riveting.
The most important thing to remember when composing a children’s story is to have fun. Let your imagination run wild. Be silly. Turn the world upside down. And, as children’s literature has taught you, anything is possible if you just “believe.”
What was your favorite kids’ book when you were growing up?