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Now that school is starting, both writers and parents need to know what kind of books children read.

I am primarily a children’s writer. I belong to the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators). The rule of thumb is that children like to read books with a main character their age or slightly older. Recommended ages for readers and main characters vary from publisher to publisher, so these are just guidelines:

Picture Books: Ages 3 to 7, with main character’s ages 5 to 9 (Board Books for younger readers and Easy Readers for slightly older readers extends this range in both directions)

Middle Grade (Middle Reader’s): Ages 8 to 13, with main character’s ages 10 to 14 (slightly younger readers may read Chapter Books—early middle reader’s books with a limited number of illustrations)

Young Adult: Ages 14 to 18; high school readers. Main character’s ages high school freshmen to seniors. (New Adult, Young Adult fiction geared toward college-age readers, is becoming popular)

 

Here are the issues the main characters usually deal with for each category:

Picture Books: Searching for Security. Children this age, even while playing and having fun, need to know their parents are there for them with love, protection, and life’s necessities. The Llama Llama series of books by author/illustrator Anna Dewdney is about a baby llama enduring various adventures and challenges, but above all, Mamma remains nearby. Llama Llama Red Pajama, I believe, was the first book of the best-selling series.

Middle Grade: Searching for Identity. Children in this age are not certain who they are or what their abilities are. They often do things in groups to obtain peer approval, because they lack self-confidence. J K Rowling’s early Harry Potter books are an example. Harry didn’t know he was a wizard with powers or that he would have a quest. And he didn’t know who his allies (his group) would be, but he gradually learned.

Young Adult: Searching for Independence. Teenagers are famous for their rebellion against their parents, sometimes called “attitude.” Psychologists have described this as subconscious psychological efforts to separate themselves from their families, so they can become adults. Most people think of the Hunger Games as pure survival. Katniss lost her mother, but she is seeking independence from the oppressive, totalitarian society that replaced her parents.

Another peculiarity of writing for children is that boys prefer to read books where the main character is a boy, but girls will read books where the main character is a boy or girl. My favorite rule for writing is: Take your reader where they are not expecting to go. This rule also applies to children. Once you know your audience you can take them to destinations unknown and even undreamed of.

outsidekidscar

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One of my favorite writing rules is: There are no rules. I would add: But you have to know the rules and your audience before you can break rules.

I am primarily a children’s writer. I belong to the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators), and I host 2 critique groups: a picture book group and a middle-grade/young adult group. Members often submit manuscripts that either aren’t children’s books or their main character is the wrong age. I also sponsor a children’s writing category for Green River Writers’ yearly contest, and some of the submissions I receive are poems or short stories with children as the main character, but with adult feelings and observations. My contest also receives memoires of adults looking back at childhood, which is not what children enjoy reading.

The rule of thumb is that children like to read books with a main character their age or slightly older. Recommended ages for readers and main characters vary according from publisher to publisher, so these are just guidelines:

Picture Books: Ages 3 to 7, with main character’s ages 5 to 9 (Board Books for younger readers and Easy Readers for slightly older readers will extend this range in both directions)

Middle Grade (Middle Reader’s): Ages 8 to 13, with main character’s ages 10 to 14 (slightly younger readers may read Chapter Books, which are early middle reader’s books with a limited number of illustrations)

Young Adult: Ages 14 to 18; high school readers. Main character’s ages high school freshmen to seniors. (New Adult, Young Adult fiction geared toward college-age readers, is becoming popular)

Two years ago, an adult fantasy anthology published my dark/horror short story about a little boy almost drowning in a well. It didn’t deal with a child’s issues or problems, so I didn’t submit it to children’s publications. Here are the issues the main characters usually deal with for each category:

Picture Books: Searching for Security. Children this age, even while playing and having fun, need to know their parents are there for them with love, protection, and life’s necessities. The Llama Llama series of books by author/illustrator Anna Dewdney is about a baby llama enduring various adventures and challenges, but above all, Mamma must remain nearby. Llama Llama Red Pajama, I believe, was the first book of the best-selling series.

Middle Grade: Searching for Identity. Children in this age are not certain who they are or what their abilities are. They often do things in groups to obtain peer approval, because they lack self-confidence. J K Rowling’s early Harry Potter books are an example. Harry didn’t know he was a wizard with powers or that he would have a quest. And he didn’t know who his allies (his group) would be, but he gradually learned.

Young Adult: Searching for Independence. Teenagers are famous for their rebellion against their parents, sometimes called “attitude.” Psychologists have described this as subconscious psychological efforts to separate themselves from their families, so they can become adults. Most people think of the Hunger Games as pure survival. Katniss lost her mother, but she is seeking independence from the oppressive, totalitarian society that replaced her parents.

Another peculiarity of writing for children is that boys prefer to read books where the main character is a boy, but girls will read books where the main character is a boy or girl.

My other favorite rule for writing is: Take your reader where they are not expecting to go. This rule also applies to children. Once you know your audience you can take them to destinations unknown and even undreamed of.

IreadYA-select

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Neanderthal Protocol (adult thriller, Musa Publishing, eBook)  neanderthalprotocol-200[Check last weeks post for several Neanderthal  recipes, if you dare]

Greg Anderson is a physicist working on Project Cold Sun, which will generate electricity via hydrogen fusion. After a DNA test exposes him as a Neanderthal, he lives on the streets like a wild animal. Near death, he meets Rachel Waters.

After Greg’s former boss is murdered, the police blame Greg. Rachel helps Greg search for the killers. Can Rachel and Greg find the people who are trying to destroy Project Cold Sun before the police charge Greg with murder and execute him?

PDF, ePUB (Nook, iPad, Android), PRC (Kindle), Mobi

[available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Musa Publishing’s website, independent bookstores via Kobo, and other online retailers]

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Neanderthal Protocol (adult thriller, Musa Publishing, eBook)  neanderthalprotocol-200[Check last weeks post for Neanderthal  recipes, if you dare]

Greg Anderson is a physicist working on Project Cold Sun, which will generate electricity via hydrogen fusion. After a DNA test exposes him as a Neanderthal, he lives on the streets like a wild animal. Near death, he meets Rachel Waters.

After Greg’s former boss is murdered, the police blame Greg. Rachel helps Greg search for the killers. Can Rachel and Greg find the people who are trying to destroy Project Cold Sun before the police charge Greg with murder and execute him?

PDF, ePUB (Nook, iPad, Android), PRC (Kindle), Mobi

[available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Musa Publishing’s website, independent bookstores via Kobo, and other online retailers]

Read Full Post »

Neanderthal Protocol (adult thriller, Musa Publishing, eBook)  neanderthalprotocol-200

Greg Anderson is a physicist working on Project Cold Sun, which will generate electricity via hydrogen fusion. After a DNA test exposes him as a Neanderthal, he lives on the streets like a wild animal. Near death, he meets Rachel Waters.

After Greg’s former boss is murdered, the police blame Greg. Rachel helps Greg search for the killers. Can Rachel and Greg find the people who are trying to destroy Project Cold Sun before the police charge Greg with murder and execute him?

PDF, ePUB (Nook, iPad, Android), PRC (Kindle), Mobi

[available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Musa Publishing’s website, independent bookstores via Kobo, and other online retailers]

Read Full Post »

Neanderthal Protocol (adult thriller, Musa Publishing, eBook)  neanderthalprotocol-200

Greg Anderson is a physicist working on Project Cold Sun, which will generate electricity via hydrogen fusion. After a DNA test exposes him as a Neanderthal, he lives on the streets like a wild animal. Near death, he meets Rachel Waters.

After Greg’s former boss is murdered, the police blame Greg. Rachel helps Greg search for the killers. Can Rachel and Greg find the people who are trying to destroy Project Cold Sun before the police charge Greg with murder and execute him?

PDF, ePUB (Nook, iPad, Android), PRC (Kindle), Mobi

[available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Musa Publishing’s website, independent bookstores via Kobo, and other online retailers]

Read Full Post »

Neanderthal Protocol (adult thriller, Musa Publishing, eBook)  neanderthalprotocol-200

Greg Anderson is a physicist working on Project Cold Sun, which will generate electricity via hydrogen fusion. After a DNA test exposes him as a Neanderthal, he lives on the streets like a wild animal. Near death, he meets Rachel Waters.

After Greg’s former boss is murdered, the police blame Greg. Rachel helps Greg search for the killers. Can Rachel and Greg find the people who are trying to destroy Project Cold Sun before the police charge Greg with murder and execute him?

PDF, ePUB (Nook, iPad, Android), PRC (Kindle), Mobi

[available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Musa Publishing’s website, independent bookstores via Kobo, and other online retailers]

Read Full Post »

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