The first part of creating a children's book is of course the idea. Coming up with an original, clever concept is one of the hardest parts of the process. With millions of children's books published throughout the world it is easy to end up with a similar concept than something that has been done before. In this post I will go over some different strategies for coming up with an original concept and how authors have been successful with these strategies.
The strategy a lot of successful authors use is taking inspiration from situations in their own lives. This can be anything from noticing something interesting while walking down the street to a funny incident or situation they find themselves in. The advantage of using a real life concept is that there is a sense of human truth which automatically relates to the reader. It is easy to make something believable if it has already happened. The problem that can arise from using real life inspiration is getting to attached to the real life version of the story and not experimenting with it and developing it into a stronger plot.
One of my favourite examples of this strategy is an author illustrator from Korea called Baek Heena. Heena now creates and publishes her own fantasy children's books which have been best sellers in Korea and some of them have been published into different languages. Her story 'Moon Sherbet' was inspired by looking out of her apartment at the moon on a boiling hot night. In the story the moon gets so hot it melts then a little old lady catches the drips in a pot and turns it into Popsicles and feeds it to everyone in the apartment building. I think the reason her stories work so well is she doesn't get to attached to reality but is able to keep enough human truth to draw you into the story. If you would like to read more about her work click here
Another strategy that seems to work quite well is taking a very human idea and applying it to another creature or species. For example if you are wanting to create a story around the theme of sucking your thumb. You don't have to have a human sucking their thumb. You could write a bout a baby bear who keep sucking is thumb. The advantage of this method is you automatically broaden you market. Now every little girl or boy can relate to the story as there are no cultural or social indications in the characters and setting. As with featuring humans you have to bear in mind the race and culture of the characters. If you were writing a book about a possum your potential market is limited to the places possums live. However some animals will be recognised and understood by children everywhere like an elephant or bear.
There was a best selling children's book in New Zealand in 2010 about dealing with a death. The book was written around a family of huhu grubs. The whole topic of death is a very tricky thing to write about for children however by changing the characters to huhu grubs it worked. The book is called 'The Old Hu-Hu.'
Another great example of this is a book called Uncle Bobby's Wedding. It is about two male guinea pigs getting married. It is automatically more appealing to young readers because its written around animals not humans.