Artwork from the book - Picture Books for Children – Checklist by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג - Illustrated by cover by Etzion Goel -
I'm a writer, scientist, musician, inventor and lecturer. During the daytime I am advisor to the President of Shenkar College. In the evening I write children's books, satire, and "how to" manuals ("Mel's ten tips). I'm co-founder of Ourboox and married to Ourboox CEO Shuli Sapir-Nevo.
Oct 2013
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Picture Books for Children – Checklist

by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג

Artwork: cover by Etzion Goel

Title – Is it catchy, does it convey the basic idea of the book, does it contain keywords for search engines?

Can you think of some catchy book titles?


From Darcy Patterson:

  1. Use Characters’ names
  2. Include verbs or strong action words
  3. Use a metaphor
  4. Find a catchy phrase from the text
  5. Rhyme the title
  6. Play off a famous saying
  7. Include emotion
  8. Use something concrete
  9. Stick with the simple
  10. Be unexpected

Opening sentence(s) – Does the opening scene hook you into reading the entire story? Does it tell you something tantalizing about the main character, the atmosphere, the time, the situation?

I’m always reminded by the opening sentence of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.”


Who – Who is the main character?

What questions could we ask about the main character that would help us understand him/her, feel empathy towards him/her? Let’s make a list



Who – Who is the main character? Is he/she/it a character that we are going to feel something about? What is the fatal flaw of the character? Anger? Pride? Deception? Envy? Avarice? Fear? Gluttony? Lust? Sloth?

Creating empathy for the protagonist (and to an extent, the agonist as well) is a real challenge. What makes us love Bemelman’s Madeline so much? What is the secret sauce of “Finding Nemo”, “Lion King”, “Casablanca”?



From “Writing Picture Books” by Ann Whitford Paul:

…we want our characters in our stories to be:

someone the reader cares about


a child, or a childlike adult, or animal

an imperfect character

someone who behaves in consistent and believable ways

assertive and resolute; activee, not passive

a problem-solver.


What – What is the book about? What happens? What challenges does the hero face? What is the story arc?

In a good book, the plot makes us eager and curious to wonder what will happen on the very next page. Kind of like a TV series.


Where – Where does the story take place? Is there a unique atmosphere, use of language, feeling?

There is nothing like hitting the ground running. What is special about your story that you can convey very quickly to your audience?



When – When does the story take place (young children have their own thoughts about the progression of time).

Time of day? Season of year? When Grandma was a little girl (whenever that was)?



Why – Why have you written this story? Children like a good plot. They don’t like books that are meant to ‘teaching them something.’

Amusing yourself by writing a story is actually a very good reason. If you are still amused after you have written it.



Ending – What surprising ending can you think of that will make your book memorable?

Good endings have a twist. They are surprising, unanticipated and rewarding.


Rhyme? – Children love good rhyme, yet good rhyming is hard to do.

It’s not just about the words at the end of the line. Rhymes have to have a rhythm pattern, and unless you are a musician, a poet, or particularly gifted, it’s hard to master this craft.

Publishers are wary of taking on rhyming books because they are so hard to translate well.



Length – Many agents and publishers prefer picture books with less than 500 words of text. Can you convey your message in few words? Can you leave space for the imagery of the illustrator? Can you write a story in less than 100 words? Fifty?


More in the next pages!

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