Posted by: nancyisanders | January 8, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book: Narrow Your Topic

If you’ve already narrowed your topic for the nonfiction picture book you plan to write, you’re good to go. But if not, now is the time.

Here are some tips to guide you:

Start with your broad topic. There are two basic choices you can make:

#1. Choose a broad topic that every student studies in elementary school.
#2. Choose a broad topic that’s not been written about before in a children’s book.

IF you choose #1, a broad topic that every student studies in elementary school, you’ll know for sure that your topic fits the target age for picture books. This is a big benefit. Picture books are usually divided into 3 age categories:

4-7 year olds (these broad topics include losing a first tooth and other topics for the very young)

5-8 year olds (these can be a little bit more sophisticated such as learning the life cycle of a butterfly in basic steps)

8-12 year olds (these can be quite technical such as history of the Civil War)

Another benefit is that it’s often easier to experience breakthrough with a new publisher if you are writing about a broad topic that is on the so-called “Top 100” topics every kid should know.

If you’re not sure if your broad topic fits these parameters, refer to Lynne Cheney’s book, America: A Patriotic Primer. Nearly any topic in that book will work for your broad topic.

If you choose #2 and write about a broad topic that’s not been written about before in a children’s book, one of the benefits is that you’re probably very passionate about this topic. It may be a bit tricker to get published because your research sources might be limited or publishers may not want to take a gamble on a topic that doesn’t yet sell well.

But if you’re really passionate about this broad topic, go for it! Let your passion carry you through.

Okay. You’ve got your broad topic picked out. Now it’s time to brainstorm a unique angle for your broad topic by narrowing your topic down to the smallest concrete idea possible. I’ll talk about this in my next post.


  1. Thanks, Nancy. I put Patriotic Primer on hold at my library to get some broad topics, but I also have two never published figures that I’m crazy about. Really appreciate this series.

    • You’re welcome, Pat! And how fun that you’ve got not just one, but TWO people you’re passionate about. Fun stuff ahead!

  2. Good suggestions on how to do this difficult task. This is a terrific series of articles. Thanks for doing this.

    • Glad you’re finding this helpful, Rosi!

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