National Novel Writing Month

Not only is November the month of Thanksgiving, of bonfires, falling leaves, and a definite chill in the air – it is also known as National Novel Writing Month! What better time to cozy up inside and work on your creative writing skills than when the weather is becoming gray and cold? Or, help fuel a young one’s dreams of being a writer with some books about characters who decide to become authors themselves. When looking for books related to this topic, try searching subject terms like “authorship” and “creative writing” along with the subject terms “juvenile fiction” (fiction for young readers) or “juvenile literature” (non-fiction for young readers). For resources on writing books for children, try searching the subject term “authorship children’s literature.”

Online Resources

National Novel Writing Month website
This website describes the idea behind National Novel Writing month – it encourages anyone and everyone to write a 50,000 word novel by 11:59 pm on November 30. It is a non-profit organization that partners with educators, libraries, and communities to encourage writing and creativity. You can create an account to track your progress, find inspiration for writing, and be part of a community of writers.

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
This website gives tips on the best way to go about getting your children’s book published. It includes answers to frequently asked questions about children’s book publishing, how to prepare your manuscript for an editor, how to find the right publisher, and suggestions from a publishing editor.

Print Resources on Writing for Children

Fritz, Jean & Zinsser, William.
Worlds of Childhood: The Art and Craft of Writing for Children. 1990.
Six prominent children’s authors, including Maurice Sendak, Rosemary Wells, and Jack Prelutsky, agree that to enter the worlds that children inhabit, you must possess the magic word – honesty.
[SSHEL S Collection S.808.068 W893]

Harrison, Barbara & Maguire, Gregory.
Origins of Story: On Writing for Children. 1999.
In Origins of Story, notable writers for children consider how literature, memory, and moral passion serve the writers. Implicit in their essays is the realization that we have much to learn from literature that mirrors the lives of children.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. 808.068 Or4]

Picture Books and Early Readers

Auch, Mary Jane.
The Plot Chickens. 2009.
Henrietta the chicken loves to read so much that she decides to write a book herself, but first no one will publish a book written by a chicken, and then, when she publishes it herself and it gets a terrible review in “The Corn Book,” Henrietta is devastated.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. Au22pl]

Brown, Marc.
Arthur Writes a Story. 1996.
The class homework assignment is to write a story, and everyone seems to be writing about something interesting…except Arthur. Will he find something he cares to write about or will his story be a big mess?
[SSHEL S Collection SE. B8143aw]

Hills, Tad.
Rocket Writes a Story. 2012.
Rocket loves books and he wants to make his own, but he can’t think of a story. Encouraged by a little yellow bird to look closely at the world around him for inspiration, Rocket sets out on a journey.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. H559r]

Hobbie, Holly.
Fanny & Annabelle. 2009.
Fanny decides to make her very own picture book, starring her homemade doll, Annabelle.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. H652fa]

Kirk, Daniel.
Library Mouse. 2007.
Sam, a shy but creative mouse who lives in a library, decides to write and illustrate his own stories which he places on the shelves with the other library books but when children find the tales, they all want to meet the author.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. K634li]

Kirk, Daniel.
Library Mouse: A Friend’s Tale. 2009.
Sam, the shy mouse that lives in the library and likes to write books, collaborates with a boy in the library’s Authors and Illustrators Club.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. K634lib]

Rylant, Cynthia.
Mr. Putter & Tabby Write a Book. 2004.
During a big snow, Mr. Putter decides to write a mystery novel, but what he ends up with is entirely different.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. R983mpw]

Intermediate and YA

Butler, Dori Hillestad.
Tank Talbott’s Guide to Girls. 2006.
Tank’s three stepsisters will be sharing his cramped house for the summer vacation. Plus he needs a math tutor and must fill a notebook with his writing — just to pass fifth grade! But he comes up with a guide to girls that is sure to be a hit.
[SSHEL S Collection S. B976ta]

Cabot, Meg.
Forever Princess. 2009.
Although she has recently completed a 400-page romance novel, Princess Mia, in her last month of high school, has yet to pick a college, find a prom dress, or decide if her boyfriend J.P. is really The One.
[SSHEL S Collection S. C1121pril]

Clements, Andrew.
A School Story. 2001.
After twelve-year-old Natalie writes a wonderful novel, her friend Zoe helps her devise a scheme to get it accepted at the publishing house where Natalie’s mother works as an editor.
[SSHEL S Collection S. C5914s]

Creech, Sharon.
Love That Dog. 2001.
Slowly Jack learns the pleasures of writing poetry as Miss Stretchberry encourages him to tell his own story through verse. What emerges is a moving and memorable story about a boy and his dog and his growing passion for poetry.
[SSHEL S Collection S. C861l 2001]

Haddix, Margaret Peterson.
Dexter the Tough. 2007.
A sympathetic teacher and her writing assignment help fourth-grader Dexter deal with being the new kid in school after he punches a kid on the first day.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. H1172de]

MacLachlan, Patricia.
Word After Word After Word. 2010.
Every school day feels the same for fourth graders Lucy and Henry and Evie and Russell and May. Then Ms. Mirabel comes to their class — bringing magical words and a whole new way of seeing and understanding.
[SSHEL S Collection S. M22wo]

Russell, Ching Yeung.
Tofu Quilt. 2009.
Growing up in 1960s Hong Kong, a young girl dreams of becoming a writer in spite of conventional limits placed on her by society and family.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. R912t]

Selfors, Suzanne.
Mad Love. 2011.
When her famous romance-novelist mother is secretly hospitalized in an expensive mental facility, sixteen-year-old Alice tries to fulfill her mother’s contract with her publisher by writing a love story — with the help of Cupid.
[SSHEL S Collection S. Se486m]

Service, Pamela F.
Escape From Planet Yastol. 2011.
Eleven-year-old Joshua Higgins’ prize-winning science fiction novel draws the attention of sinister blue aliens who capture Josh and his sister Maggie and take them to the planet Yastrol, the setting of his novel.
[SSHEL S Collection S. Se69e]

Snyder, Zilpha Keatley.
The Bronze Pen. 2008.
With her father’s failing health and the family’s shaky finances, twelve-year-old Audrey’s dreams of becoming a writer seem very impractical until she is given a peculiar bronze pen that appears to have unusual powers.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. Sn92br]


Fletcher, Ralph J.
Guy-Write: What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know. 2012.
It’s no secret that many guys dread writing assignments. But writing doesn’t have to be “boring nerd-work.” Writing is about power; it’s about fun; it’s about spoofs, humor, sports, blood, farts, superheroes, giant monsters tearing down the city, and serious subjects, too.
[The Center for Children’s Books S.808.068 F6372g]

Harrison, David.
Writing Stories: Fantastic Fiction from Start to Finish. 2004.
Inspiration and guidance for gathering story ideas, writing story outlines, revising, and all the secrets good writers use to make their stories shine. Everything young writers needs to know to improve their stories: how to start a story, suggestions to help with plot, character, voice, and setting, how to end a story, and questions to ask when the story is done to help make revisions.
[SSHEL S Collection and SSHEL Oak Street S.808.3 H245w]

Mazer, Anne; Potter, Ellen.
Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook. 2010.
After receiving letters from fans asking for writing advice, accomplished authors Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter joined together to create this guidebook for young writers. The authors mix inspirational anecdotes with practical guidance on how to find a voice, develop characters and plot, make revisions, and overcome writer’s block. Fun writing prompts will help young writers jump-start their own projects, and encouragement throughout will keep them at work.
[The Center for Children’s Books S. 808.3 M457s]

Myers, Walter Dean.
Just Write: Here’s How. 2012.
An award-winning author guides readers through the writing process, and includes examples from his own works, outlines for writing fiction and nonfiction, and excerpted pages from the author’s writing notebooks.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S.808.02 M992j]

Let’s Get Metafictional

In literary terminology “metafiction” is the word used to describe works that show the audience that they are aware of themselves as a created work. Often this is done by characters interacting with the reader or the author or by characters changing the path of the work. Sounds pretty complicated for kid’s books, you say? Why no, I say! Playing with metafictional conceits in children’s books can lead to some very fun and funny concept books that can cause kids to think about the relationship between reality and fiction and between authors and characters. Picture books in particular can quite literally illustrate these ideas by letting characters change the work seemingly in opposition to the author or giving them agency outside the intended storyline. Below are listed some of the library’s picture books and intermediate and young adult fiction that use metafictional devices to create their stories. To find more metafictional children’s books, try the database Novelist from the library’s Online Journals and Databases page and search under the subjects tab for the term “Metafiction.”

Picture Books

Ahlberg, Allan.
The Pencil. 2008.
A lonely pencil timidly draws a boy, a dog, and other items but soon faces a problem as his creations begin demanding changes, and when he draws an eraser to make them happy, the real trouble begins.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books SE. Ah47pe]

Bingham, Kelly.
Z is for Moose. 2012.
Moose, terribly eager to play his part in the alphabet book his friend Zebra is putting together, then awfully disappointed when his letter passes, behaves rather badly until Zebra finds a spot for him.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books Q. SE. B531z]

Browne, Anthony.
Bear Hunt. 1980.
Hunters after a bear are constantly outwitted as Bear takes his pencil and draws his way out of each situation.
[SSHEL S-Collection SE. B8162b]

Cabatingan, Erin.
Musk Ox Counts. 2013.
Musk Ox and Zebra are trying to make it through a counting book. As usual, Musk Ox has his own ideas and Zebra does not fail to show his frustration trying to get Musk Ox back on track. Will they make it from 1-10, or will their efforts end in annoyance?
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. SE. C1116m]

Freedman, Deborah.
Blue Chicken. 2011.
An enterprising chicken attempts to help an artist paint the barnyard and accidentally turns the whole picture blue.
[SSHEL S-Collection SE. F875b]

Johnson, Crockett.
Harold and the Purple Crayon. 1955.
Harold goes for an adventurous walk in the moonlight with his purple crayon. Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of wonder and excitement.
[SSHEL S-Collection SE. J62h]

Lehman, Barbara.
The Red Book. 2004.
A book about a book, a magical red book, without any words, and the friendship that develops around it.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books SE. L528r]

McKinlay, Meg.
No Bears. 2011.
Ella is in charge of this book, and she will tell you something right now. There are NO BEARS in it. Not even one.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books SE. M2145n]

Schwarz, Viviane.
There Are No Cats in This Book. 2010.
Filled with the spirit of adventure, three cats pack their suitcases and try to escape from their book.
[RBML Oak Street and Center for Children’s Books SE. Sch966th]

Scieszka, Jon.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. 1992.
Madcap revisions of familiar fairy tales.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books SE. SCI27s]

Stone, Jon.
The Monster at the End of This Book. 2004.
Grover worries page by page about meeting the monster at the end of this book. Generations of kids have interacted with lovable, furry old Grover as he begs the reader not to turn the page-for fear of a monster at the end of the book. “Oh, I am so embarrassed,” he says on the last page … for, of course, the monster is Grover himself!
[Center for Children’s Books SE. St717m]

Van Allsburg, Chris.
Bad Day at Riverbend. 1995.
When Sheriff Hardy investigates the source of a brilliant light and shiny slime afflicting Riverbend, he finds that the village is part of a child’s coloring book streaked with greasy crayons.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books Q. SE. V263ba]

Watt, Melanie.
Chester. 2007.
Chester is more than a picture book. It is a story told, and retold, by dueling author-illustrators. M’lanie Watt starts out with the story of a mouse in a house. Then M’lanie’s cat, Chester, sends the mouse packing and proceeds to cover the pages with rewrites from his red marker, and the gloves are off.
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. SE. W341c and Center for Children’s Books S. W34c]

Watt, Melanie.
You’re Finally Here! 2011.
A rabbit has many questions involving where a friend has been and why it took so much time for the friend to appear.
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. SE. W341y]

Wiesner, David.
The Three Pigs. 2001.
The three pigs escape the wolf by going into another world where they meet the cat and the fiddle, the cow that jumped over the moon, and a dragon.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books Q. SE. W6373th]

Willems, Mo.
We Are in a Book! 2010.
Gerald and Piggie discover the joy of being read. But what will happen when the book ends?
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books SE. W667w]

Intermediate and Young Adult Fiction

Bosch, Pseudonymous.
The Name of This Books Is Secret. 2007.
Two eleven-year-old misfits try to solve the mystery of a dead magician and stop the evil Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais, who are searching for the secret of immortality.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. B6507n]

Ende, Michael.
The Neverending Story. 1983.
Shy, awkward Bastian is amazed to discover that he has become a character in the mysterious book he is reading and that he has an important mission to fulfill.
[Undergrad PT2665.N27 U513 1983 and Center for Children’s Books 835 EN21OU:E]

Griffiths, Andy.
The 13-Story Treehouse. 2013.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a treehouse? Especially a 13-story treehouse that has a bowling alley, a tank full of sharks, a library full of comics, and a secret underground laboratory. Life would be perfect for Andy and Terry if it wasn’t for the fact that they have to write their next book, which is almost impossible because there are just so many distractions, including thirteen flying cats, giant bananas, mermaids, a sea monsters pretending to be mermaids, and dangerous burp gas-bubblegum bubbles!
[SSHEL S-Collection S. G8757t]

McCaughrean, Geraldine.
A Pack of Lies: Twelve Stories in One. 1988.
MCC Berkshire tells an extraordinary story about every item he sells from Ailsa’s mother’s shop. When he walks off into the sunset, Ailsa wonders whether his stories were real or were they a pack of lies?
[SSHEL Oak Street and Center for Children’s Books S. M128pa]

Park, Linda Sue.
Project Mulberry. 2005.
While working on a project for an after-school club, Julia, a Korean American girl, and her friend Patrick learn not just about silkworms, but also about tolerance, prejudice, friendship, patience, and more. Between the chapters are short dialogues between the author and main character about the writing of the book.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. P2191p]

Townley, Rod.
The Great Good Thing. 2001.
Nothing ever changes inside the storybook kingdom inhabited by twelve-year-old Princess Sylvie, her parents, and many other characters until Sylvie discovers that by allying herself with the Reader she can experience new adventures beyond the confines of the book.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. T662g]

Willingham, Bill.
Down the Mysterly River. 2011.
Top notch Boy Scout Max “the Wolf” cannot remember how he came to be in a strange forest, but soon he and three talking animals are on the run from the Blue Cutters, hunters who will alter the foursome’s very essence if they can catch them.
[Center for Children’s Books S. W6782d]

Prepared by:
Anna Logan
Graduate Student
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign