There has…been a notable shift in Western children’s fiction, beginning in the 1960s, toward a more profound interest in character, toward psychological, character-oriented children’s novels. In many contemporary novels for children, we observe a disintegration of the plot in its traditional meaning; nothing really “happens.” There is no beginning or end in the usual sense, no logical development toward a climax and denouement; the story may seem to be arbitrarily cut from the character’s life, or is even more often a mosaic of bits arbitrarily glued together.

– Maria Nikolajeva, Rhetoric of Character In Children’s Literature

This isn’t to say plot is no longer of central concern.

From What Publishers Look For In A Children’s Book: An Editorial Perspective from Tina Nichols Coury

Is my plot compelling? Why will my readers want to turn the page?

  • The story has “a great beginning,” “a well-crafted narrative arc,” and “a satisfying ending.”
  • The story is built on “conflict,” “friction,” “tension.”
  • The story has “internal logic,” “believability.”
  • The story is “artful,” “crafted,” “rhythmic.”
  • The story “invites the reader to turn the page.”
  • The story creates urgency in the reader: “Must…find…out…what…happens!”
  • The story is full of “clever twists.”
  • The story is “exciting,” “compelling,” “fast-paced.”
  • The story “is not didactic.”

I don’t want to lift too much, but if you go to the article and read the bit about ’emotional impact’, it’s clear — without it being named as such — that character development is also important in modern kidlit.