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Children's and Young Adult Literature: Genre and Formats

This guide includes resources and information about children's and young adult literature

Reference Resources

Check these special bibliographies located in the reference collection at Keffer Library.

Book formats


  • Picture books: usually 24-36 pages in length, and large in physical size, these combine words and pictures for nonreaders, or early and beginning readers. Some have no words at all, and the child must "read" the pictures in order to understand the story.
  • Early readers: often used in grade 1-3 classrooms, these are often approximately 6" x 9" in size, have more words and fewer pictures than a true picture book.  Sometimes referred to as leveled readers, they may have brief chapters.
  • Chapter books: this is the common term for fiction aimed at the grade 4-6 range, they have chapters, and the number of illustrations decreases as the reading level increases.
  • Graphic novel: story told in a comic book format, for any age, and not limited to fiction anymore.
  • Novel in verse: a young adult format for novels written in (usually) free verse style.
  • Story in rhyme:  a picture book where the story is told using a rhyme-scheme.  These can range from very basic (1,3,2,4 pattern), to rather sophisticated.



  • Poetry: Features condensed language, is an expression of imaginative thoughts, often containing rhythm and other devices of sound, imagery, and figurative language.
  • Folklore: Includes traditional stories, myths, legends, nursery rhymes, fables, fairy tales, tall tales, and songs. These come from an oral tradition and may not have a known author as they are passed from generation to generation.
  • Fantasy: Stories set in places that do not exist, about people and creatures that do not exist or events that could not happen.  Features make-believe and imaginative worlds.
  • Science fiction: Based on extending physical laws and scientific principles to their logical outcomes, often futuristic, perhaps even dystopian.  Describes worlds that are plausible and could exist someday.
  • Contemporary realistic fiction: Stories that could happen in the real world, have a contemporary setting, and characters that seem real.
  • Historical fiction: Stories reconstruct life in the past, using realistic actual and fictional characters, events, and historical setting.
  • Biography: An account of a person's life, written by another person (autobiography if written by the subject him/herself).  This genre also includes memoirs, letters, diaries, and journals.
  • Nonfiction: Information books that explain a subject or concept using facts about the real world.
  • It's not always easy.  In recent years authors have been blurring the boundaries between some of these genre.  For example, The Obsidian Blade, by Pete Hautman is considered to be both fantasy and science fiction; or Splendors and Glooms, by Laura Schlitz is considered to be both historical fiction and fantasy.

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Conrad Woxland
Charles J. Keffer Library | MOH 206F
Subjects: Education, Psychology