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Started by Richard Horan, November 09, 2023, 07:56 AM

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Richard Horan

Need help with a category term. I have written what I call a fairy story in the vein of "Wind in the Willows," "The Jungle Book," "The Wizard of Oz," et al. It's an important story as it deals with our current climate crisis, featuring animals as the central characters. Is "fairy story" a legitimate category for the CB market, or do they need a term like "young adult" or "middle grade"? I am a novelist and non-fiction writer, so the children's market is a black hole for me. Thanks.


By CB do you mean chapter books?

Chapter books, middle grade, and YA are separate age categories, in ascending order. Lots of people think they're all "chapter books," but they aren't. "Fairy story" is a genre. Other examples of genre are historical, sci-fi, contemporary, high (or low) fantasy, and so forth. You can write any genre within any age group (although some genres will sell better in some categories than others as the market cycles).

If you have animals as characters, I would call your genre animal fantasy. Your target age category is a separate thing. 


I think there's also a genre called climate fiction these days.
Cheer Up, Blobfish! (Affirm Press, 2024) -


Richard, once you've determined what age group you've written for, be sure to check the length to make sure your manuscript is within normal limits for that age group.
Learning to Swear in America, 2016
What Goes Up, 2017
The Constitution Decoded, 2020
The Presidents Decoded, 2023
Hearts on Thin Ice, 2024


You could probably call it a fairy story, or climate-based fantasy, or animal fantasy, or something like that. There are middle grade books and series where the characters are animals. (I think far less so in YA.)

As said above, you can find just about all genres at each age level, but the way you address those genres will be different considering on the age group you're targeting. The way you talk about climate issues to a group of second graders reading a chapter book (let's clean up our planet and recycle trash, kids!) will be very different from how you'd address it with a group of high school students (who probably have read more current articles on it than most adults, may care about the environment more than older generations, and also be more likely to take action than their elders. However, they still lack the life experience that adults have.) Meanwhile, middle grade readers are NOT YA and will have their own perspectives, too.

You'll want to figure out what age your book is aimed at (chapter book, middle grade, YA) and then read current books aimed at that same target audience so you can present your book well in that environment. "Children's books" is definitely not a monolith, and what interests a first grader may be treated with distain by a 17YO.


As an editor, I recommend that you do some reading in current children's books to get some feel for the different age levels and formats. It's difficult to write successfully for a market that is a "black hole" for you. A list like the American Library Association's "Notable Children's Books" list might be a good place to start.
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site:

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