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In this brief look at the genre of Children's Fiction, the first thing that is apparent is that there is some deliberation as to what represents children's literature. One argument is that children's literature is literature especially written with children in mind, though many books that were originally anticipated for adults are now generally thought of as works for children. This can also work both ways, for example where works of fiction that were originally written or marketed for children are now given acknowledgment as adult books.
A little bit more exploring of the Children's Fiction genre further, and there are many different book formats that all fall under the general title of "children's book". Here is a brief look at some of them:
In its broadest definition, a picture book is a book in which the illustrations play a significant role in telling the story. Traditionally, picture books (also called "picture story books") are 32-page books for ages 4-8 (this age may vary slightly by publisher).
Also called "easy-to-read", these books are designed for "emergent readers" - children who are just learning to read on their own. Most of these books are intended for primary grades i.e. children just starting to read on their own (age 6-8). They have color illustrations on every page like a picture book, but the format is more "grown-up" -- smaller trim size, sometimes broken into short chapters.
For ages 7-10, Chapter books are transitional books that help children move from early readers to full novels. Most chapter books deal with contemporary situations that are familiar to the readers, and are often humorous books.
This is the golden age of reading for many children, ages 8-12. A novel, unlike the picture book, relies entirely on text to tell the story. Kids get hooked on characters at this age. Fiction genres range from contemporary to historical to science fiction/fantasy.
Young adult novels, also sometimes called teen novels, are generally read by children anywhere from age 12 upwards. They are longer books, often 50,000 words or more. Most are contemporary stories, and often involve contemporary problems, including drugs, sex, and peer pressure i.e. popular themes are usually relevant to the problems and struggles of today's teenagers, regardless of the genre.
Before I leave this brief definition of the Children's Fiction Genre, I feel compelled to mention the Harry Potter phenomenon. The idea of a schoolboy wizard came to author Joanne Kathleen Rowling during a train journey from Manchester to London where she got the idea that would change the face of children's literature forever; she thought of writing a story about a young broken down orphan who turns out to be an exceptionally gifted wizard. By the time she arrived at King's Cross she'd devised the characters and the basis of a seven-book series.
Rowling worked on the storylines in pubs and cafes, and continued writing after moving to Portugal to take up a post teaching English.Her unique ability to bring out the child in everyone and perseverance have made her one of the best-selling authors in the world, as well as one of the richest women in Great Britain.
Her books have won her, among others, the Bram Stoker Award, the Hugo Award, the Whitbread Award for Best Children's Book, and a special commendation for the Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize. In March 2001, Queen Elizabeth named her Officer of the British Empire.
To finish this brief definition, I'd like to look back at the beginnings of Children's Literature. The earliest of what came to be regarded as children's literature was first meant for adults. Sagas, Ballads and epic tales were among the humble beginnings of this genre, where they were passed on in oral literature as myths and legends created to explain the natural wonders of night and day and the changing seasons.