Saturday, May 12, 2012

How to Research Before Writing a Children's Book

What?  Do you really have to research a book for kids?  I mean, they're not sophisticated in any way.  What's the difference?

Of course, we all know kids deserve better than what's written in the paragraph above.  But the question still remains, "How much research?"  And the answer is, As much as it takes for accuracy.  Complete accuracy.

When I begin a child's fiction or non-fiction book, research is pivotal.  Whether I'm writing about pelicans harmed in an oil spill, manatees being rounded up for food or a mystery in Namibia, the facts must be accurate, straightforward and compelling.

Although the Internet has made research a dream (I remember 4x6 inch cards in a box), the sources must be stellar.  I use sites such as National Geographic, Moat Aquarium, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to name but a few
Katrina and Nancy researching material for Katrina
and Winter:  Partners in Courage
It is always good to cross-check your information, stats, etc. against another source to be totally sure.  For me, only then will I find the material acceptable to use in a book.

Another way I research is to read other children's books on the same topic.  Analyzing authors’ styles, how they build scenes, develop characters and advance their plots has been a wealth of information.  It needs to built around the excellent research you've found. 

When you come to the story, biography, narrative non-fiction or straight non-fiction, with all your research well and truly in place, the sky's the limit.  Have fun, be creative, let your mind soar, all safe in the knowledge you're creating a worthwhile piece of literature that rings true from beginning to end


  1. Thanks, Nancy, it is great to have all this underlined and to know some of the reliable sources you use. Have to say "mystery in Namibia" intrigued me as I worked there for a few months!

  2. Hi, Joanna, So nice of you to comment. I'm finishing a middle grade book called Lost on the Skeleton Coast and am hoping (as one does) that it will become a series. It's about an archaeologist and his niece and nephew who have many adventures, including with diamond smugglers, out there.

    What were you doing there? I assume you were in Windhoek? My son is an archaeologist who digs in S. Africa but goes there quite a bit.

    Again, thanks!