How to Write a Children’s Picture Book That Kids Will Love in 2023

Picture books are a magical and essential part of a child’s reading journey, fostering a lifelong love of literature and storytelling. In this guide, we’ll explore the exciting process of creating a children’s picture book from start to finish, including the crucial steps of choosing a theme, crafting a storyline, and creating relatable characters. We’ll then give tips on crafting engaging text, collaborating with illustrators, and publishing your book.

Make sure to check out The Ultimate Guide On How To Write A Children’s Book Manuscript.

Brainstorming and Choosing A Theme and Storyline

Understand your target audience

Understanding your target audience when writing a children’s picture book. It’s essential to know what age range you’re writing for and what their needs and interests are. For example, a book targeted at young children may have simpler language and bright, colorful illustrations, while a book targeted at older children may have more complex themes and a longer word count.

Choose a unique topic

Before you start writing your children’s picture book, it’s important to choose a theme and storyline that will capture the attention of your young readers. Ideally you want a concept that is both original and engaging, and you can do this by searching for similar books on Google or Amazon to see what themes and storylines have already been done. By doing this, you’ll be able to see what’s been successful and popular, and also ensure that your own story is unique and fresh.

Potential themes for a picture book

To create a compelling picture book, brainstorm potential themes and story ideas that resonate with children. The key to creating a unique and engaging theme is to make sure that it resonates with your target audience and offers something valuable for young readers to take away from the story. Here are some examples:

  • Overcoming fears or challenges
  • Celebrating diversity and inclusivity
  • The power of imagination and creativity
  • Friendship and teamwork
  • Protecting the environment and nature
  • Coping with loss or change
  • Learning new skills and trying new things
  • Building self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Understanding and managing emotions
  • The joy of exploration and discovery
  • Family and love
  • Growing up
  • Helping others and making a difference
  • Acceptance and forgiveness

Creating a Plot and Story Structure

Story Structure

Developing a strong story arc with a beginning, middle, and end is vital to keeping young readers engaged. 

The key to creating a compelling problem or conflict in a children’s picture book is to make sure that it resonates with your target audience and is age-appropriate, while also offering some type of valuable lesson or message. 

Additionally, incorporating tension and suspense can help keep young readers engaged and eager to turn the pages.

Problems or conflicts that drive the story in a children’s picture book can range from simple to complex, but they should always be relatable and engaging for young readers. 

Here are some examples of common problems or conflicts that can drive the story in a children’s picture book:

  • Overcoming fears or challenges (e.g. fear of the dark, fear of spiders, learning a new skill)
  • Coping with loss or change (e.g. moving to a new home, losing a beloved pet)
  • Learning important lessons (e.g. the value of honesty, the importance of sharing)
  • Standing up to bullies or overcoming adversity
  • Building friendships or teamwork
  • Solving a mystery or a problem
  • Protecting the environment or nature
  • Navigating difficult family relationships or dynamics


When crafting characters, it’s important to create ones that are active in the plot and make bold decisions, as well as ones with colorful personalities that resonate with younger readers.

appealing characters are those that young readers can easily identify with and root for. Some examples of appealing characters for a children’s picture book might include:

  • Animals, such as a friendly dog, a curious cat, or a brave mouse
  • Children, such as a mischievous toddler, a determined young athlete, or a brave adventurer
  • Mythical creatures, such as a friendly dragon, a mischievous elf, or a magical unicorn
  • Objects, such as a talking toy, a sentient car, or a friendly robot
  • Anthropomorphic characters, such as a dancing pencil, a singing teapot, or a mischievous apple.

Ultimately, the key is to choose characters that are relatable, engaging, and memorable, and that will capture young readers’ imaginations and emotions.

To build a character, you should start by asking yourself a few key questions, such as:

  1. What does your character want or desire?
  2. What is your character’s backstory or history?
  3. How does your character speak and act?
  4. What are your character’s strengths and weaknesses?
  5. How does your character change or evolve throughout the story?

By answering these questions, you can develop a well-rounded character that readers can connect with and root for throughout the story. You can also use character questionnaires or worksheets to help you flesh out your character’s personality, appearance, and background in more detail.

Crafting Engaging Text

Creating an engaging story is the cornerstone of a successful picture book. Here are some tips to help you craft text that will captivate young readers:

Write the Right Length

Picture books should never contain more than 800 words, including the front and back matter. Stick to simple, easy-to-understand language and sentence structures.

Here is a general guideline for word counts for various age groups:

Age 0-2: Board books or picture books with simple, repetitive text and illustrations. Word count can range from 50-100 words.

Age 2-5: Picture books with more complex storylines and illustrations. Word count can range from 500-800 words.

Age 6-8: Early readers with simple, easy-to-read text and illustrations. Word count can range from 1,000-1,500 words.

Age 9-12: Chapter books with more complex storylines and fewer illustrations. Word count can range from 10,000-25,000 words.

Here’s a chart that summarizes the recommended word counts for each age range:

Age GroupWord CountDescription
0-250-100Board books or picture books with simple, repetitive text and illustrations.
2-5500-800Picture books with more complex storylines and illustrations.
6-81,000-1,500Early readers with simple, easy-to-read text and illustrations.
9-1210,000-25,000Chapter books with more complex storylines and fewer illustrations.

Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and you should always prioritize telling the story in the best way possible rather than trying to meet a specific word count.

Start the Story Quickly

Grab the reader’s attention from the first sentence. Children have short attention spans, so it’s important to hook them from the start.

An example of a hook for a children’s picture book could be a question or a statement that immediately grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to continue reading. For example:

“Have you ever wondered what it would be like to explore a magical forest?”

“Once upon a time, there was a little girl who could talk to animals.”

“There was a mysterious package waiting for Alice when she returned home from school.”

These hooks are intriguing and immediately pique the reader’s curiosity, encouraging them to keep reading to find out what happens next in the story.

Figure out the Main Problem

Your story should have a clear conflict or problem that the main character needs to overcome. This will keep readers engaged and invested in the outcome.

It’s best to subtly weave lessons and morals into the story and characters rather than making them too obvious, so as not to turn off young readers who can easily detect preachy content.

Use Repetition

Repetition is a great way to create a cohesive reading experience and help young readers remember key elements of the story.

Write for Illustrations

Remember that illustrations play a vital role in picture books, so leave room in your text for the illustrations to tell part of the story. More on that in a bit.

End the Story Quickly

The ending should resolve the conflict and wrap up the story in a satisfying way.

Here are some elements that can make a satisfying ending:


The ending should provide a sense of closure to the story, tying up any loose ends and leaving readers with a feeling of completion.

Resolving the problem

The main problem or conflict in the story should be resolved in a way that feels natural and satisfying for the reader. This can be done through character growth, the revelation of new information, or the introduction of a new solution.

Emotionally satisfying

The ending should be emotionally satisfying for readers, leaving them feeling a sense of fulfillment or happiness. This can be accomplished through a happy ending, a bittersweet ending, or a hopeful ending.

Message or lesson

A good children’s picture book should have a clear message or lesson, and the ending should reinforce that message in a way that feels natural and organic to the story.

Surprise or twist

A surprise or twist ending can be effective in providing a satisfying resolution, as long as it doesn’t feel forced or out of place with the rest of the story.

Use rhythm and repetition for a cohesive reading experience. 

A consistent rhythm and repetition can make the story more engaging for young readers.

Repetition to create a sense of rhythm in the story. For example, repeating a phrase or sentence can create a pattern that helps the story flow and become more memorable.

Here are some examples of repetition and rhythm patterns that can be used in a children’s picture book:

  • “The wheels on the bus go round and round” (repeated in the popular nursery rhyme)
  • “Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere” (repeated at the end of each page in the classic children’s book “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown)
  • “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam-I-Am” (repeated in the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham”)
  • “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me” (repeated in the book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle)

By using repetition and rhythm in your writing, you can create a sense of musicality that will keep children engaged and help them remember the story.

Create a Catchy Title

A catchy and interesting title with a clear indication of what the book is about and using a subtitle to enhance marketing efforts can go a long way in attracting readers.

A memorable title for a children’s picture book should be catchy, intriguing, and easy to remember. Here are some tips for creating a memorable title:

Use alliteration

Using the same sound or letter at the beginning of each word in the title can make it catchy and memorable. For example, “Silly Sally’s Spinning Spatula” or “The Lion Who Lost His Lunch.”

Use strong verbs

Using strong verbs in the title can make it more memorable and engaging. For example, “Runaway Robot,” “Gigantic Giraffe,” or “Swirling Sea Monsters.”

Make it unique

Try to avoid generic or overused titles, and instead aim for something unique and specific to your story. For example, “The Day the Crayons Quit” or “Interrupting Chicken.”

Keep it short and simple

A shorter title can be easier to remember and more attention-grabbing than a longer one. Aim for a title that is 3-5 words long and easy to pronounce.

Use wordplay

Incorporating puns or wordplay in the title can make it clever and memorable. For example, “The Cat in the Hat” or “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Check out How to Write a Picture Book for more information on writing techniques.

Planning the Illustrations

The illustrations in a picture book are just as important as the text in conveying the story. 

When writing a children’s picture book, it’s important to keep the illustrations in mind and write in a way that complements them. Here’s an example of how to write with illustration in mind:

Let’s say you’re writing a picture book about a bear who goes on a fishing trip. Instead of just describing the bear catching fish, you could write something like:

“The bear cast his line into the glistening water, his paw gripping the fishing rod tightly. He waited patiently, watching the ripples spread out from the bobber. Suddenly, a fish bit! The bear’s eyes widened as he felt the tug on the line. He pulled with all his might, feeling the weight of the fish as it fought against him.”

By incorporating descriptive language and action verbs, this text creates a clear image in the reader’s mind of what’s happening. It also leaves plenty of room for the illustrator to add their own creative touches, such as showing the bear’s facial expressions or the colorful underwater world beneath the surface of the water.

Another way to write with illustration in mind is to use page turns to build suspense or surprise. For example, you could end a page with a question or cliffhanger that’s resolved on the next page with a surprising illustration.

Overall, writing with illustration in mind means using descriptive language, action verbs, and page turns to create a cohesive and engaging story that complements the illustrations.

Here are some tips for planning and executing illustrations:

Use high-quality illustrations

The illustrations should be of high quality and match the tone and style of your story.

Hire a professional illustrator or create your own illustrations

If you’re not an artist, consider hiring a professional illustrator to create the images. Alternatively, you can create your own illustrations if you have the skills and resources.

Storyboarding the illustrations

Before illustrating the entire book, create a storyboard to plan out the placement and flow of the images.

Check out How To Illustrate A Children’s Book for more information on illustrating techniques.

Designing the Layout

A well-designed layout can make or break the success of a picture book. Here are some tips for designing an effective layout:

Choose the book size and format

Consider the age range of your audience and the format that will best suit your story.

Formatting the text and illustrations

Pay attention to the placement of the text and illustrations on each page to create a visually appealing layout.

Creating a visually appealing layout

Use color and white space effectively to create a visually appealing layout that enhances the story.

Designing the cover and back cover

The cover is the first thing potential readers will see, so it’s important to make it eye-catching and representative of the story.

Check out Children’s Picture Book Template Layout 32 Page for a pre-designed layout template to make the process easier.

Revising and Editing

A Revision Strategy: Walk the Plank

Revising and editing are essential steps in the picture book writing process. One helpful strategy is the Walk the Plank approach, where you read your story out loud, imagining you are walking a plank suspended over shark-infested waters. This approach can help you identify parts of the story that need revision.

Getting Feedback from Beta Readers

Having a fresh pair of eyes look at your manuscript is important. Beta readers can provide invaluable feedback to help you improve your story. Reach out to fellow writers, parents, or educators to get feedback on your book.

Revising the Text and Illustrations

Based on feedback, revise the text and illustrations as needed. Ensure the story flows and is engaging for your target audience.

Proofreading for Errors and Inconsistencies

Proofread your manuscript thoroughly, checking for grammar, spelling, and consistency. Ensure that the text and illustrations complement each other and provide a cohesive reading experience.

Learn more from Picture Book Manuscript Formatting Tips and Tricks.

Click here for a checklist for writing your children’s picture book

Publishing & Marketing

Learn about marketing and promotion.

Learn more about The Ultimate Guide to Publishing Your Children’s Book: Traditional, Indie, and Self-Publishing Explained

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