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Literary Fiction Genres

Children's Liturature Subgenres

Fiction Genre Definitions


Children's Subgenres


(Definitions and Examples - All)

Children's genre fiction (customarily spelled with the apostrophe) is easy to recognize, but hard to define with precision. What kids enjoy and what adults think they ought to read are not always the same thing. With new technology, the very definition of 'book' is getting blurry, as with 'talking' storybooks and small child-proof computers.


By Children or Juvenilia is a small but genuine subgenre. These commercially (rather than self/vanity) published tales are written, in full, by a child. A famous example is Daisy Ashford's 1919 British novella The Young Visiters, or, Mister Salteena's Plan. ("Visiters" remains in print, and preserves then nine-year-old Miss Ashford's spelling mistakes.) The youngest known author, certainly of prose in English, is Dorothy Straight of Washington, DC. She was four when her story "How the World Began" was published in 1964. In recent times, Abbey Richter of Oakland, California wrote the first of several best sellers at the age of nine.
(Several nonprofit organizations are now dedicated to publishing young writers.)

Early Readers are intended to help children master the basic skill of reading. The text is usually in large print, and most of the words are just one syllable long. Most have illustrations, but the kids are supposed to gain the meaning of-and-from the printed words. The famous old "see Spot run" books can be placed in this category.
There are countless thousands of examples, but the works of Theodor 'Doctor Seuss' Geisel are the beloved gold standard. The "Berenstain Bears" books are another long-time favorite.
(Most kids will tackle this subgenre at anywhere from 2 to 5 years of age.)

Middle or Junior Readers (chapter books)
These books feature longer words, and are usually longer overall. Such books are normally assigned according to a child's age or grade level, though there is tremendous variation in the skill level (not to mention, confidence and sociability) of individual kids. This subgenre is aimed at children of around 6 - 11 years of age. The "Amelia Bedelia" books are a quirky example.
Chapter books are, of course, divided into chapters. This is another step in developing a child's reading skills.
(Many of this subgenre's books are written for particular groups of children, by interest or background.)

Picture Books are vividly illustrated, and have minimal printed text. These are intended for a parent, teacher, or caregiver to read aloud. In recent times these books have gained more variety, with different lifestyles and ethnic groups appearing within. (Concurrently, a few have become controversial with parents.)

Pop-Up Picture Books are physically more complex, with cardboard and other three-dimensional structures affixed between the leaves. These are intended to please and interest the youngsters, as an adult reads aloud, or when they're playing directly with the book.
Beginning with pull-string devices, and now with microchips, many of these texts can literally speak aloud, under the direction of a child. (As in: "The cow says, 'Moooooooo.'")

Second Person POV tales are rare in most of the major genres, but became very popular in one long-running series of children's books. The literary term means, the author directly addresses the reader, often providing multiple plot choices. (Similar to the more-technological, if rare, 'hypertext' subgenre.) A primary example is the "Choose Your Own Adventure" book series, by Edward Packard and several other authors, as offered by a succession of publishers between 1979 and 1998.

Traditional Stories are exactly that, older tales presented in a familiar way, and perhaps refashioned in keeping with current social tastes. It's well known that Walt Disney simplified and 'cleaned up' many old fairy tales, for presentation as animated cartoons, plus their own 'picture book' versions. It's less known that the Brothers Grimm, back in the early 1800s, not only collected but considerably softened many of those same old tales. (The oldest known story versions are, in many cases, truly horrific.)
In recent times these books have shown more variety, as non-European folk tales have enjoyed widespread recognition. (The story and film Mulan is a popular example.)


The Hewlett-Woodmere public library in New York state maintains an excellent and comprehensive Children's and Young Adult genre reading list.

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