Common Characteristics Of Best-selling Children’s Books

As outlined by Nodelman and Reimer in The Pleasures of Children’s Literature, here are the common-characteristics of best-selling modern children’s books.

  1. They are written and sold as part of a series.
  2. They have a simple and straightforward writing style.
  3. Central characters are enough like their intended audience for readers to relate to and identify with them. These characters tend to be underdogs (weak/poor/young/otherwise powerless). In the story, these underdogs will need to deal with theoretically more powerful enemies.
  4. There’s a clear distinction between the “goodies” and “baddies”. There’s not much moral ambiguity.
  5. The plots are straightforward and focus on action rather than description/setting/characters’ thoughts and motivations.
  6. Best-selling children’s books operate as wish-fulfilment fantasies for their readers.
  7. Despite their theoretical lack of power, main characters perform well under pressure, win against great odds and win the admiration of others as a result.

I have analysed quite a few best selling children’s books on this blog. Check out:

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On paper, things look fine. Sam Dennon recently inherited significant wealth from his uncle. As a respected architect, Sam spends his days thinking about the family needs and rich lives of his clients. But privately? Even his enduring love of amateur astronomy is on the wane. Sam has built a sustainable-architecture display home for himself but hasn’t yet moved into it, preferring to sleep in his cocoon of a campervan. Although they never announced it publicly, Sam’s wife and business partner ended their marriage years ago due to lack of intimacy, leaving Sam with the sense he is irreparably broken.

Now his beloved uncle has died. An intensifying fear manifests as health anxiety, with night terrors from a half-remembered early childhood event. To assuage the loneliness, Sam embarks on a Personal Happiness Project:

1. Get a pet dog

2. Find a friend. Just one. Not too intense.




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