Genre is something that is often debated, and with so many crossovers and subgenres, it’s not surprising. This series of articles will focus on genre; giving definitions and examples of great Canadian authors in each one.
Let’s begin with Children’s fiction. Seems simple. If it’s meant for anyone under 18 then it’s children’s, right? Wrong. There are several categories for Children’s literature that you must consider. Although children’s books can include any genre (except erotic, obviously) there are certain guidelines that are must haves if you want your work to fit into the accepted categories.
The age levels of these categories will vary depending on publishers, but only by a year or two at most.
- Baby and Toddler Books — For ages 1-3, these books are usually lullabies, nursery rhymes, or wordless books. The length and format varies but they’re all simple stories and usually under 300 words. The stories reflect a child’s everyday life, or are concept books that teach colors, numbers, shapes, etc. The formats for range from hardback and paperback to board books, pop-up or novelty books that make sounds and have different textures.
- Picture Books: Illustrations play an important role in telling the story in this category. . Usually they are 32-pagebooks for ages 4 to 8.
- Pre-readers or ‘easy to read’: ages 6 to 8 who are beginning to read on their own. They are illustrated, but the format is more “grown-up” The length varies depending on the publisher, ranging from 32 to 64 pages. The stories are grammatically simple, using only one idea per sentence.
- Transition and Chapter books: ages 6 to 9. As the category title describes, these books bridge the gap between easy readers and chapter books. Written like easy readers in style, transition books are longer and broken down into short chapters. They are illustrated, but the pictures are done in black and white and only used every few pages. Chapter books, ages 7 through 10 ,are about 45-60 pages, and broken into 3-4 page chapters. Stories have more meat than books geared to younger ages, but they still contain a lot of action. The sentences in chapter books become more complex, but paragraphs are kept relatively short.
- Middle grade: ages 8 through 12. Often called the ‘golden age’ of reading for many children. Books are 100-150 pages and stories start to include sub-plots involving secondary characters that are woven through the story. The themes also become more advanced.
Young Adult: ages 12 to 18. Up to 200 pages long, although some go well over that maximum, like the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Plots are complex with several characters, although the focus of the book is usually on one major character. Themes are related to the problems and struggles of today’s teenagers. A new age category (10-14) is emerging. These books are slightly shorter than the 12 and up category, and topics are meant for children who have outgrown middle grade but aren’t yet ready for the more mature themes of YA.
Some great Canadian authors to check out:
Robert Munsch Children’s author of the classic tales; Love You Forever and The Paperbag Princess.
L.M Montgomery Beloved author of the timeless Anne of Green Gables series.
Polly Horvath: author of award winning YA novel, The Canning Season
Look for the next article in this series: Canadian Author Spotlight: Robert Munsch