It only seemed fitting on this day, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, to talk about writing a successful children’s book. After all, he was one of the greatest (or possibly THE greatest) children’s book authors of all time. His left an unforgettable mark on society that goes far beyond his writing talents. He is and always will remain a household name. Children (and adults too) still lose themselves in his books each night before bed, they still watch movie adaptions of his work each year, and they ride Dr. Seuss themed rides throughout entertainment parks across the country. Dr. Seuss continually makes the impossible possible, even long after he is no longer with us.
Today I found myself thinking about what makes Dr. Seuss’ work so great. Why are we so captivated by his stories? Why do children of all decades continue to relate to his work? What did he figure out about writing children’s books that many authors are still trying to understand? The truth is, we will never really know. What makes a genius, a genius usually dies with them. For us regular folks, we are left sitting here asking why.
I took what I know about writing children’s books and applied it to Dr. Seuss and his work. And guess what? Each and every one of his books consisted of each and every successful characteristic of children’s writing that I could think of. So, I guess that’s a pretty good place to start.
- Make your book timeless.
One of the main reasons Dr. Seuss was, and continues to be, so successful is that he found topics to write about that are completely timeless. Be nice to one another, believe in yourself, don’t be afraid to have a little fun, take chances, and honor each other’s differences are all things that children will always be able to relate to. His characters and illustrations are also timeless. They don’t scream a certain time period or ever look outdated. If one didn’t know any better, they could easily believe that The Cat In The Hat was written just last year.
2. Your book needs to be visually appealing.
Half of the children indulging in these books, don’t know how to read yet. They are listening to their parents, grandparents, or siblings read these books to them. The catchy phrases provide a good source of entertainment, but in order to captivate there needs to be a visual element as well. Dr. Seuss’ pages are filled with all the colors of the rainbow and humorous illustrations. They are tastefully crazy and perfectly match the wild imagination of children everywhere.
3. Keep it simple and straight to the point.
When children are bogged down with detail, they are likely to stop paying attention or just might simply walk away. Less is better when it comes to writing for children. Each page of Dr. Seuss is only filled with a couple sentences. The words are simple, short, and to the point. There are no unnecessary details and each word helps him to reach his end goal-to entertain and teach.
4. Teach a lesson.
When writing for children it’s important to have a purpose. Children’s brains are absorbent sponges and we should take every opportunity we have to teach them something new or reiterate something they should already know. It can be something simple, like to remember to brush your teeth. Or it can be more complex, like recognizing everyone is different. No matter what Dr. Seuss set out to write, he set out to teach. Each book taught a different lesson that every child could relate to.
5. At the end of the book, your audience should feel good.
It’s important that children walk away from books with a good feeling. If the book is too sad or scary, they aren’t going to want to pick up another book anytime soon. We want to encourage reading, not discourage it. This doesn’t mean you can’t deal with some heavy topics, you just need to find a way to make it ‘alright’ in the end. Dr. Seuss knew just how to do this. No matter what you are dealing with, you are guarantee to feel even just a tad bit better after reading one of his books. The rhymes, illustrations, and story lines encourage smiles to form on every reader’s face.
Do yourself a favor and pick up your Dr. Seuss favorite today and give it another read. You deserve to be a kid again every once in a while.