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.
- They are written and sold as part of a series.
- They have a simple and straightforward writing style.
- The 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.
- There’s a clear distinction between the “goodies” and “baddies”. There’s not much moral ambiguity.
- The plots are straightforward and focus on action rather than description/setting/characters’ thoughts and motivations.
- Best-selling children’s books operate as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their readers. 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.