Recently I have seen some confusion about what is a picture book vs a chapter book (don’t chapter books have pictures too?) and what is a middle grade title. Obviously there are some gray areas, and some titles that cross genres. But I thought I’d do a post on the difference, in general.
Picture Books – Picture books are relatively short and, as the name implies, have illustrations. They are designed for a parent or adult to read to the child and the illustrations are a fun addition. Barnes and Noble’s website has most of their picture books in the age 0-5 category, though there are some picture books (often non-fiction or lavishly illustrated) that older readers can also enjoy.
Chapter Books – Chapter books seem to be the least understood of children’s books. They are often seen as this weird agree between picture books and middle grade. They do contain pictures, typically. But that is because they are designed for children who are just beginning to read for themselves. The pictures may be there to help a young reader understand the text.
This is perhaps a terrible example, but when I was a kid everything was Sweet Valley related. The Sweet Valley Kids series, when Elizabeth and Jessica were in elementary school were chapter books.
Middle grade novels are for kids who are better readers. (Think Sweet Valley Twins!) At this age, kids try to start reading up so the age of the protagonists can get wonky. I usually say “middle grade books are for middle school kids” but that might be a tad simplistic considering that I, a 35-year-old woman, love middle grade books. In Barnes and Noble, these book are shelved in the “Young Readers” section, just to make everything more confusing.
There is a middle area here too. Some publishers publish Tween books. Typically middle grade doesn’t have much romance. Tween titles are often aimed at girls who are starting to have first crushes and things like that. I don’t know that this ever really caught on. You may continue to refer to these projects as “middle grade” if you so choose.
Young adult are put in the “teen” section at Barnes and Noble. They are the Sweet Valley High books of my dumb analogy. Often they are actually for readers 12 and up, because many readers do read up. If you turn published YA books over they usually say 12-17 or 13-17. They are all shelved in the teen or young adult section, but the latter type tends to have a bit more maturity involved.
Currently, no one at Fuse Literary represents picture books or chapter books. So it’s middle grade and up for us. (Frowny face!) But hopefully this helps you figure out who to send your query to.