What makes a children’s book ‘award winning’?
You’ve seen the medallion stickers – heard the social media buzz – been enamoured by the signage in stores… “Best Children’s Book”… “Winner of the ‘Whatever’ Award for Children’s Literature”… “Best Illustrated Book” etc., etc., but ever wondered how they achieved these honours? Was it marketing? Special connections? Pure luck?
The answer is both simple and complex. Each component that goes into creating a beautiful book for children plays a part in its success but the bottom line – and the simplest aspect – is it a great story? Can a child in its target audience connect with the book, its characters and become enchanted with its unique storyline. Again – it’s simple and yet complex in achieving.
If you look into the many lists and awards for the best children’s books you’ll be surprised to find that very little is provided in the way of explanation as to what constitutes ‘best’. You’ll often find a history of the award, perhaps where it got its name, who the adjudicating committee is made up of, what the criteria for entering is, but rarely is any advice/suggestion given on what they are truly looking for. The reason may simply be that there are far too many aspects to consider to give a definition – basically ‘they’ll know it, when the read it’.
That is not to say that new writers can’t find some common parameters to draw upon. If you look at the winners or top-of-the-list entries you’ll see they usually are:
- Age-level appropriate in language/subject and illustrations
- Interesting (i.e. not boring!) – is there a ‘take-away’ or learning twist?
- Original, or at least an original ‘take’ on a subject (perhaps by ensuring the author’s perspective/personality comes through in the prose)
- Memorable or endearing characters that are relatable, unique and interesting
- For picture books – engaging illustrations that truly bring the characters to life
- Diverse in characters/perspective
It’s also a good idea to immerse yourself in the genre you’ve chosen to write about. Go to the book store or library and actually read the award winners and top-of-the-list entries – as many and as often as you can – you will soon understand the difference between just telling your story and creating a memorable book children will actually want to read and share!
Once you’ve published your book – get the word out! Goodreads is an excellent place to start, but using social media, setting up a Blog, arranging book signings and attending community events are all part of building a ‘buzz’ around your book. And don’t hesitate to research and enter competitions (you must make sure to read and follow their guidelines carefully – some exclude self-published titles) – as you never know – you just might find your book as the next big winner!
More on the topic…