Do you dream of writing children’s literature? Are you chock full of ideas for stories that will entertain kids of all ages? Do you think you have the skills to become a successful kidlit author—or maybe even a children’s book illustrator? If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, you’ve probably wondered what it takes to break into the publishing industry. Whether you choose to self-publish your book or take a more traditional route, getting your writing out to the masses can be a long process and is quite a commitment. But you have to start somewhere! 

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There’s no end to the inspiration you can find in bookshelves.

You can begin by brainstorming and writing or illustrating your story, but it’s also helpful to do your research. The more you read across genres of children’s literature, the better able you’ll be to launch your own creative career in the space. After all, before you try to break into any industry, you need to know what you’re up against! 

There are (quite literally) years and years of kidlit history for you to absorb in the form of classic children’s literature and classic children’s novels. It’s time for a field trip! Head out to your favorite local bookstore or library and see what kind of inspiration you can find among the shelves. With all of these amazing titles out there for you to explore, there’s no way you’ll walk away without lots of excitement and new ideas. 

Classic Children’s Literature

There are practically limitless possibilities out there for aspiring writers and illustrators to read. It can be useful to pick up books that are in a similar genre or category to the books you’d like to create, but there are also some timeless classics that all burgeoning authors can benefit from reading and examining. Keep scrolling for a few ideas! 

1. Harry Potter 

harry potter
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The magic of the Harry Potter world speaks for itself. 

When you think kidlit, it’s hard not to think of Harry Potter. The author of these books has come under fire in recent years, but the novels themselves are a real master class in the art of telling stories and building worlds for children. The characters and memorable moments from the Hogwarts universe have become part of the mainstream cultural zeitgeist. If you want to write similarly memorable books for kids, pick up any one of the seven main books in the series. 

2. The Boxcar Children

boxcar children
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These six books are just a small fraction of what the Boxcar Children have to offer, a mainstay of children’s literature.  

The first installment in Gertrude Chandler Warner’s Boxcar Children series was published in 1924, and in the years since, many, many children have delighted in the independent adventures of the Alden kids. The 160 titles in this series have proven themselves to have real staying power, having been reissued and adapted repeatedly over the years. 

3. The Princess Diaries

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You’re never too old for a trip to Genovia. 

Want to write something with a little more attitude? Reintroduce yourself to Mia Thermopolis! You probably remember Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of this heroine, but the original Mia has a harder edge and a powerful, one-of-a-kind voice—and she’s a great model for leading ladies in other children’s literature. 

4. The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

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You’ll feel like you were on a road trip with the Watsons after reading this novel. 

Few children’s authors are as skilled at tackling historical events—especially historical events that can be challenging to depict for young readers—as Walter Dean Myers. His talents are on full display in The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, which was published in 1995. This award-winning, critically acclaimed book will get your wheels turning about how to create lovable characters and fictionalize current events.

5. Beezus and Ramona

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The cover might be different than the one you remember, but the story inside is just as wonderful. 

The children’s literature community experienced a major loss in 2021 with the passing of the beloved Beverly Cleary, but her legacy lives on in her impressive catalog of work. Beezus and Ramona is the entry point to many of Cleary’s most popular characters and will help you get down to the basics of story structure and characterization.  

6. A Wrinkle in Time

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The adventure and world-building of A Wrinkle in Time never gets old. 

Aspiring children’s science fiction and fantasy authors need to look no further than Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time for a little extra creative energy. You’ll be hooked on the excitement of Meg’s journey from start to finish and ready to take your future readers on a similar odyssey. 

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Start Writing! 

Creating a Children’s Book

7. Charlotte’s Web

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No one weaves animal stories quite like E.B. White. 

Charlotte’s Web is a true classic, full of themes of friendship, acceptance, and grief. It’s a beloved novel across generations and is about as timeless as it gets. If you want to write books that meet kid readers right where they are and teach them lessons without preaching to them, you have plenty to learn from E.B. White. But be warned—you’ll need to have a box of tissues nearby!

8. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret 

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Judy Blume is a true queen of children’s literature. 

Judy Blume has written dozens and dozens of novels for young people that might be considered required reading for aspiring kidlit authors, but Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is one of her most popular. Writers who want to develop the ability to teach children about challenging, potentially uncomfortable subjects in their work should take notes on the way Blume educates her audiences on puberty through Margaret. 

9. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
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E.L. Konigsburg wrote about the original night at the museum. 

For decades, kids have dreamed about the excitement of spending the night locked in a museum full of glamorous art and fascinating history… and it’s all thanks to From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg. Even as a grown-up, you might just read this book and find yourself wondering if there might be an amazing place for you to run away from home to.

10. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Even the cover of this book is striking! 

In the award-winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, author Mildred D. Taylor introduces readers to the Logan family. The Logans are doing their very best to combat racism during the Reconstruction era in rural Mississippi, and it is far from easy. The book has a lot to teach readers of all ages, both about history and about incredible writing. 

11. Bridge to Terabithia

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Prepare for some major feelings with this novel. 

Over the years, Bridge to Terabithia has introduced many kids to the experience of really feeling something while reading a book. And isn’t that kind of the whole point of great literature? Pick up this children’s novel for a refresher course on deeply relatable characters and emotional writing. Even if you cry (and you might), you won’t be sorry you did. 

Good Writers Are Good Readers! 

Many successful authors will likely tell you that a key to their success is a rich reading life. So, if you want to follow in their footsteps, it certainly doesn’t hurt to get yourself a stack of great material and seek out inspiration for your own work. 

If these suggestions don’t speak to you, no problem! Find the stories and novels that do. There’s so much classic children’s literature out there to choose from. Discover the genres and authors that spark your creativity, and get reading. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll start crafting your own beautiful books for kids. 

Take Your Story to Kindle

Turn Your Children’s Book into a Stunning Kindle Book for Free with the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator 

Written By

Alli Hoff Kosik

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