Writing fiction for children is one of those genres that plenty of people think is easy. It can't be that hard to throw a few words together for kids, right? Wrong! It's one of the trickiest genres to write, that's why we've just launched a wonderful new course - Writing Fiction for Children - just for you! But, before you get as far as writing your own children's fiction, you may want to have a look at the competition.
So where can you go to find out about the best children's fiction out there? Lots of places, is the answer. One of the first you should visit is The Guardian Children's Books website. It has a 'What's Hot' section so you can see what's getting read by kiddywinkles all over the country. There are also varying top ten lists to peruse and interviews with established authors. And, kids are encouraged to send in their reviews of recent books they've read - you can see the potential for fee promotion here, can't you? That is, of course, assuming they actually like what you've written. It could go the opposite way if they don't like your story, but that's a risk you'll always have to take and something we'll discuss in more detail another time, in another blog.
The Booktrust also has an 'ultimate' list!It's 100 of, what they consider to be, the best children's books out there. Unlike the previous website, which features only new titles, this list has some classics too, such as Tin Tin, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Borrowers. And it's worth realising that classics are still as read and loved as they always have been. Recent film versions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Tin Tin are testament to their enduring appeal. So, add a few classics to your reading list too.
Goodreads is another site to refer to. This list is for the Popular Children's Book Shelf and it's decided by votes so you know that it's what the kids really like.
Now that you know what to read, where can you find them? Beg, borrow and steal would be my advice, unless you are super rich and can afford to buy all the titles! If not, ask friends and relatives if they have copies or know of anyone that has them. You can find a lot of books online these days, especially those that are now out of copyright. Here's a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, online for free - no registration needed. Have a search to see what other classics you can get for free. Don't forget to check your local library too, they'll almost certainly have the classics and any popular modern tales too!
Not only does this process show you what topics kids are interested in, it can also help you improve your writing too. If you read really good writing and try to emulate it, hopefully, your writing will improve too. And, don't forget to enjoy the process - you are reading children's books as part of a legitimate research process, there aren't many people who can say that.