I think a great children’s book is one which views life through the eyes of the child so the characters come to life as real people. It doesn’t matter what genre it is, what point of view it is in, or what age it is aimed at, if the characters are believable and you can really live their experiences as you read each page, you’ve written a great book.
A gripping plot, strong characters and active narration and dialogue go a long way to making a children’s book a success. We all know a good story is the battle between good and evil. It has to have characters you can like and introduce a new place. It should leave the child with a feeling of hope.
Yes, you need great characters, you need atmosphere and emotional intelligence but it is the narrative drive that makes a great book, not the story. Narrative drive is the way the story is told as a whole package that includes character and plot. A great book plunges characters into terrible situations and draws you in to find out how they deal with them.
Point of view can make the difference between whether the book is an adult or a children’s book. In picture books, it works well to put in something to keep the adult amused, especially if it meant to be a book to be read aloud at bedtime, or in the classroom. Adults can see the bigger picture. But remember as a writer you must still keep your eye firmly on the kids.
Publishing is led by fashion and there will always be a tension between what adults want for them and what children get from them. If you want to keep ahead of the game, you must analyse what is currently selling. Being aware of what sells is crucial for a writer, especially if you want to make a living out of it.