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Children's Fiction

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English Literature

For centuries, adults have narrated stories to entertain and relax children, often helping them drift off to sleep and dream of exciting adventures. Stories for children have evolved over the years, and many are adapted into film and television series to thrill and engage young minds from the screen and page. Read on to find out what captivates young readers.

Children's Fiction: definition and origins

Children's fiction: fictional narratives, often accompanied by illustrations, meant for readers of a young age.

  • The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) by Carlo Collodi.
  • The Geronimo Stilton series (2004–present) by Elizabeth Dami.
  • The Harry Potter series (1997–present ) by J. K. Rowling.

Children's books were originally written with the purpose of education in mind, which included books containing alphabets, numbers, and simple words and objects. The didactic purpose of stories was also developed to teach children moral values and good behaviour. Stories with these characteristics found their way into publication, and adults eventually began to encourage children to read these stories and read them to children themselves.

Didactic: an adjective used to define something that intends to provide moral guidance or teach something.

Children's Fiction: type and examples

There are many types of children's fiction, including classic fiction, picture books, fairy tales and folklore, fantasy fiction, young adult fiction, and children's detective fiction. These are listed below with examples featuring popular children's fiction book characters that are loved across the world.

Classic fiction

'Classic' is a term used for those books that are deemed noteworthy and timeless. These books are universally accepted as being remarkable, and with each reading, they have some new insight to offer to the reader. Children's fiction, too, has its own collection of classics.

  • Anne of Green Gables (1908) by L. M. Montgomery.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) by Roald Dahl.
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) by Mark Twain.

Picture books

Who doesn't like pictures and illustrations accompanying a story? Adults today indulge in comic books, graphic novels, and mangas, just as children love a good picture book. Picture books are typically for the younger children who have just begun to learn the alphabet and numbers and add new words and ideas to their repertoire through the context of pictures.

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1994) by Eric Carle.
  • The Cat in the Hat (1957) by Dr Seuss.

Fairy tales and folklore

One of the most important characteristics of fairy tales and folklore is that they showcase the attributes of a specific culture or place. They are informed by mythical beings or legends from certain cultures. These stories were initially passed orally from generation to generation, but they became so popular and loved over the years that they continue to be published as books and retellings, often accompanied by pictures and illustrations, films, cartoons, and tv series.

Culture-specific fairy tales and folklore include:

  • Irish: Irish Fairy and Folk Tales (1987) by W. B. Yeats.
  • German: Brothers Grimm: The Complete Fairytales (2007) by Jack Zipes.
  • Indian: Panchatantra (2020) by Krishna Dharma.

Fantasy fiction

Imaginary worlds, amazing superpowers, mystical beasts, and other fantastical elements fuel a child's wild imagination. Children enjoy works of fantasy fiction. Anything is possible in fantasy fiction, and its readers can escape the mundane, everyday life and gain a new perspective of the world around them. Works of fantasy fiction are often heavy with symbolism and contain messages that the author wants to convey to its readers.

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll.
  • The Harry Potter series (1997-2007) by J. K. Rowling.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956) by C.S. Lewis.

Young adult fiction

Young adult fiction is targeted at older children, especially those in their teen years who are on the cusp of adulthood. Young adult novels are typically coming-of-age stories where characters grow to become self-aware and independent. Young adult fiction bridges the gap between children's stories and adult narratives. It allows its readers to explore themes such as friendships, first loves, relationships, and overcoming obstacles.

Although some of the series mentioned above, such as the Harry Potter series and The Chronicles of Narnia series, also qualify as young adult fiction, other examples include:

  • Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. (1970) by Judy Blume.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2007) by Jeff Kinney.

Children's detective fiction

Detective fiction is a much-loved and widely read genre among adults and children. In the case of children, although there are novels featuring adult detectives, there are also numerous series with a child or children as amateur detectives attempting to solve mysteries. Children detectives make the story more relatable for children and evoke a sense of suspense and enjoyment as the readers solve the mystery alongside the protagonists.

Series featuring a child or children as amateur sleuths include:

  • The Famous Five series (1942–62) by Enid Blyton.
  • The Secret Seven series (1949–63) by Enid Blyton.
  • A to Z Mysteries (1997–2005) by Ron Roy.

Writing Children's Fiction

While there are no shortcuts or easy formulas for writing good fictional narratives for children, here are some general pointers you can keep in mind as you plan the story:

Know your target audience

A story that might fascinate six to eight-year-old children may be dull or too simple for teenagers. If you want to write a story that your readers will enjoy, it is important to learn about who your audience is. If you are writing a story for 12-year-old children, identify what things interest, scare, delight, and fascinate them. What kind of characters and problems do they like to read about? How far can their imagination stretch? Knowing your target audience will help you craft elements of your story, including themes, symbols, characters, conflicts, and settings.

Language

Once you know your audience, it is important to consider language. Ideally, it is best to use language, including dialogues, figures of speech, and symbols, that are easy for children to comprehend. Here, you can also find the opportunity to help your readers build their vocabulary and add more complex words or phrases to their repertoire.

Action

The action in the story needs to start early on to capture your reader's attention. It is inadvisable to spend too much time and too many pages to set the premise of your story.

Length

Keep in mind that different age groups also prefer different lengths when it comes to the books they read. While 14-year-olds may have no trouble with 200 to 250-page novels, that number could intimidate younger children and discourage them from reading your work.

Illustrations

Depending on the age of your target audience, it may be a good idea to include illustrations and pictures in your work, as it captivates young readers and sets off their imagination.

Children's Fiction: influence

Children's fiction has a significant impact on developing the habit of reading among children. It encourages them to start reading at a young age and, consequently, improves their vocabulary. Also, children's fiction sparks the imagination of children and adds to their social and critical thinking skills. It is perhaps due to all of these benefits that children are encouraged to start reading at an early age.

Children's Fiction - Key takeaways

  • Children's Fiction refers to fictional narratives that are read and enjoyed by children.
  • Among children, different age groups prefer different types of children's books. For example, younger children enjoy picture books, while adolescents prefer young adult fiction.
  • Types of children's fiction include classic fiction, picture books, fairy tales and folklore, fantasy fiction, young adult fiction, and children's detective fiction.
  • If you want to write your own children's fiction, it is important to keep your target audience in mind and include characters and language that will be comprehensible to your readers.

Children's Fiction

Depending on the age group you are writing for, the word count for a children's fiction narrative would vary:

  • Picture Books can vary between 60 and 300 words.
  • Books with chapters can vary between 80 and 300 pages.

Children's fiction refers to fictional narratives, often accompanied by illustrations, meant for readers of a young age.

When writing your own children's fiction, it is important to keep your target audience in mind and include the kind of characters and language that your readers can understand and enjoy.

The 4 types of children's literature include

classic fiction, picture books, fairy tales and folklore, and young adult fiction.

Popular children's fiction includes:

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll. 
  • The Harry Potter series (1997–2007) by J. K. Rowling. 
  • Brothers Grimm: The Complete Fairytales (2007) by Jack Zipes.
  • The Cat in the Hat (1957) by Dr Seuss.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) by Roald Dahl.

Final Children's Fiction Quiz

Question

Which of the following is NOT a work of children's fiction?

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Answer

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

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Question

Which type of children's fiction includes illustrations?

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Answer

Picture Books

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Question

True or False: The author of the children's detective series Famous Five is Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Answer

False

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Question

To write your own children's fiction, it is important to...

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Answer

know your audience

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Question

Which of the following is a work of classic children's fiction?

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Answer

Anne of Green Gables

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Question

Which of the following is a popular character among young adults?

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Answer

Harry Potter

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Question

What is a common theme in young adult fiction?

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Answer

coming of age

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Question

Who is the author of the famous children's fiction, The Cat in The Hat?

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Answer

Dr. Suess

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Question

Which of the following does not feature a child or children as detectives?

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Answer

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

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Question

Which of the following books includes folktales from the Indian culture?

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Answer

Panchatantra

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