Writing for Children (Part 15)

The Differences

Perhaps the easiest way to present the differences between a picture book, a first chapter book, and a junior novel is to show the same opening as it is appropriate for each (taken from Gayle Roper’s Chapter 6 of The Complete Guide to Christian Writing and Speaking). Last week we presented a picture book. Here is a first chapter book scenario.

A First Chapter Book                                      Chapter 1

“That’s enough work for one night,” said Dad. He put his saw down and closed his tool box. “Don’t step in that hole in the floor, kids.”                      

The people who lived in our house before us had messed up the floor in my room, and Dad was fixing it.   

“Come on, Scooter,” said Dad to me. “Come on, Jake. Let’s go play ball.”      

“Coming!” I grabbed my jacket and my baseball glove. I jumped into the car and landed on top of my sister Jake and her bony knees. Umph!             

“Get off me, Scooter,” she yelled.               

“Get out from under me,” I yelled back. “This is my side of the car!” 

I stared at Jake and she stared at me. Then she climbed over to her side. “Thank you, Jake,” I said politely.  She made a face at me.      

Jake’s real name is Jacqueline Anne. I always kid her that she goes by Jake because she can’t learn how to spell Jacqueline. Jake’s one year older than me. She’s nine and in third grade. I’m eight and in second grade. Most of the time, Jake is a great sister.  Most of the time.      

Dad pitched to me first, and I swung as hard as I could. I missed.      

“That’s the way to hit the air,” Jake yelled.      

I made believe I couldn’t hear her. I knew I’d hit the next one out to her. Or the next one. Or the next one. And I did. I even hit one over her head. I cheered as she chased it.      

“Okay,” called Dad. “You kids switch places.”       

Jake and I were running past each other when I heard something. I stopped and so did she.       

“What’s wrong?” she asked.      

“Did you hear that?” I said. I pointed to the tall grass at the edge of the field. “Listen.” 

She tilted her head. “I don’t hear anything.”      

I walked to the tall grass and got real still. So did Jake. “There it goes again,” I said. “Did you hear it this time?”     

Jake listened hard. “Yes,” she said, excited. “I hear it! There’s something in the grass!”                 

Notice that there is much more detail in this story than in the picture book, but there still is virtually no thought or emotion developed. All is action and dialogue.