Are you trying to write a children’s book? While there are a lot of craft books out there on writing, the best way to learn is by actually studying already popular published books. These children’s books are also known as mentor texts.
I’ve taken the liberty of compiling some of my favorites spanning across most categories for you to peruse. Check out the complete list of 30 children’s book mentor texts below! 👇
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30 Children’s Book Mentor Texts to Help You Write a Better Story:
Want to learn how to write for your specific children’s category. Start by reading children’s book mentor texts that are best-sellers and popular themselves.
I’ve broken the list of 30 into the different categories to help make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for. (But if you don’t know your category, read this article first.)
Board Books –
Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering by Ruth Spiro (Charlesbridge 2016)
A story on big, brainy science for baby — this story helps you see how you can write a STEM focused board book and turn it into a series. Read more here.
Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz (Little Brown 2017)
A book that talks about just what you’d expect: feminism. Except for babies to understand — this story shows you how you can intertwine relative topics of today into stories that are perfect for our youngest readers. Read more here.
Baby Loves Green Energy by Ruth Spiro (Charlesbridge 2018)
A story about loving the planet — this story allows you to see a continuation in the series that doesn’t necessarily tie together into a neat little bow. Read more here.
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi (Kokila 2020)
A story that shines a light on relevant social issues that even a baby can understand — this story shows you how you can break down some hot button topics into easy-to-understand board books. (So easy a baby can do it!) Read more here.
(Note: If you plan to write a board book series anytime in the future, you need to use some of these modern children’s book mentor texts to teach you because shapes, colors, and baby animals aren’t going to cut it anymore. )
Picture Books –
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds (Simon & Schuster 2012)
A story about a rabbit who angered one too many carrots – this story is a great mentor text if you’re planning to write a spooky, suspenseful children’s book. (Check out his sequel, Creepy Pair of Underwear, too!) Read more here.
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin (Dial Books 2012)
A story about a party with dragons that goes horribly wrong — this story helps you learn humor and the use of great storytelling. Read more here.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (Philomel 2013)
A story about a box of crayons who go on strike — this story helps you see what it’s like to write a story based on a message (like caring for others and treating others with respect) while still telling a story. Read more here.
The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat (Little Brown 2014)
A magical story with imaginative creatures — this is a wonderful story to for author/illustrators and anyone looking to understand how art and words work together to create a picture book. Read more here.
Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett (Templar 2015)
A story about a boy who goes on an adventure with his greatest fear: the dark — this story shows you how to imaginatively teach a child an important skill (like overcoming fear) but in an enjoyable and fun way. Read more here.
We Forgot Brock! by Carter Goodrich (Simon & Schuster 2015)
A story about a boy and his imaginary friend — this story spins humor and imagination about such a common thing we all experience on our journey as kids. A wonderful read to help you stretch your imagination and think of your story as more than just a tool. Read more here.
Prince & Pirate by Charlotte Gunnufson (G. P. Putnam 2017)
A modern-day tale of two cities, this book is about a prince and pirate fish that couldn’t be more leagues apart — a story with dual perspectives to help you learn how to write from 2 different points of view. Read more here.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller (Roaring Brook Press 2018)
A story about being kind — this book teaches you how to share an important message that all kids should learn without being too heavy handed. Read more here.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen 2018)
A fantastic story about overcoming anxiety and feeling different — this story teaches you how to start with a common problem we all face, but do it in a poignant and heartening way that encourages the reader. Read more here.
The Rough Patch by Brian Lies (Greenwillow Books 2018)
A story about dealing with loss through the relationship between an owner and his dog — this story helps you learn how to write about tough topics for a young audience. Read more here.
This is a Taco by Andrew Cangelose (Oni Press 2018)
A humorous, almost nonfiction about squirrel facts — this story shows you how you can have fun as a nonfiction writer with interesting facts that don’t read like a book report. (Warning: not a great children’s mentor text if you enjoy following the rules.) Read more here.
P is for Pterodactly by Raj Haldar (Sourcebooks 2018)
A humorous look at the odd rules in the English language — this story shows you how to take a modern twist on some of the popular concepts. (IE: the alphabet.) Read more here.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry (Kokila 2019)
A sweet story about a daddy-daughter relationship — this story shows you how to write a story without focusing on stereotypical gender roles. Plus, it has a great publishing story that you should read into! Read more here.
Magic Ramen by Andrea Wang (Little Bee 2019)
A true story about ramen creator, Momofuku Ando — this story is a great mentor text for anyone hoping to write a picture book biography or even a not-really-written-about-before nonfiction. Read more here.
Remarkably You by Pat Zietlow Miller (HarperCollins 2019)
A story that encourages kids they can do anything, no matter their background — this story shows you how to connect a message to a reader using 2nd POV and empowering them to take action. (Also a great rhyming example!) Read more here.
The Boy with Big, Big Feelings by Britney Winn Lee (Beaming Books 2019)
About a boy who has exactly what you’d expect: some big feelings he’s having troubles handling — this story is great for anyone writing about anxiety or children that have been diagnosed with autism. Wonderful mentor text to see what it’s like to write about kids who aren’t stereotypical viewpoints. Read more here.
The Sad Little Fact by Jonah Winter (Schwartz & Wade 2019)
A story about a fact who couldn’t lie, yet no one believed him — this is a great story for anyone trying to right a politically sensitive or timely book and wanting to make it fun and engaging for young readers. Read more here.
Chapter Books –
Moldylocks & the Three Beards by Noah Z. Jones (Scholastic 2014)
A hilarious fairytale retelling that’s the opposite of what you’d expect from a traditional princess or her friend, Goldilocks — this story shows you how to be imaginative with common stories that have stood the test of time. Plus, it also shows you how to thread an overaching theme (like icky fairytales) throughout all your different word choices. Read more here.
Potterwookiee by Obert Skye (Square Fish 2016)
A imaginative read about a boy who finds bizarre creatures in his closet — this story shows you how to be inventive and entertaining for reluctant readers by stretching your imagination and even leaning on some popular pop-culture references. Read more here.
Zoe & Ssafras by Asia Citro (Innovation Press 2017)
A magical series about science and mystery with a girl and her cat — this story shows you how to write mysteries for our young independent readers while including some STEM elements. (Plus, who doesn’t love magic & kitties?) Read more here.
Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi (Picture Window 2018)
A fun new chapter book series about a spirited 2nd grader always looking for ways to solve problems — this is a great starter story for anyone hoping to dip their toes in chapter book writing. Read more here.
Max & The MidKnights by Lincoln Peirce (Crown Books 2019)
A splendid retelling of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table — this story teaches you how to blend illustrations and text in a chapter book (similar to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books). Really great read for reluctant readers and voice. Read more here.
Middle Grade & Young Adult –
Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow (HarperCollins 2019)
A coming of age story about a girl who goes to band camp — this story is a great LGBTQ+ story that helps you understand young love and character development for younger readers. Read more here.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (Quill Tree Books 2018)
A real and honest story about being a high school girl and growing up — this story is written completely in verse, which will serve as a great children’s mentor text for all my poet friends. (Plus, you’ll see awesome voice and character development with very few words! Amazing. 😍) Read more here.
House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (Tor 2020)
A story about a magical island and 6 odd children in need of a home — this story is a must-read to exist as a human. (Personal opinion but I love it so much. 🤣) But the writing in it is so amazing and it’s an example of an adult love relationship in a children’s book. Read more here.
Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Scholastic 2020)
An adventurous read about a boy named, Max, who discovers an epic family secret and decides to find the answers on his own — this story is a wonderful children’s mentor text to teach plotting, the hero’s journey, and a great sense of family and character development. Read more here.
The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Katherine Tegen Books 2020)
A mystery read that spans across a series, this book follows a trio of siblings on the quest to find their mother — a great read for multiple perspectives in novels, plus creating interesting and engaging plot twists for young readers. Read more here.
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord (Wednesday Books 2020)
A witty rom-com made for today’s teens — this story is a fantastic read for anyone who grew up loving John Green and doesn’t know that other writers exist. Wonderful mentor text on characters and plotting a sweet romance read for teens. Read more here.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (Scholastic 2020)
A coming-of-age story about dreams that don’t go as planned, family, and high school — this story is a great mentor text for anyone looking for unique voices, awesome character development, and a twist on a common coming-of-age story plot. Read more here.https://amzn.to/2Tr3oJX
Reading children’s book mentor texts can teach you plotting, voice, character development, reader expectations, and more about what already exists in the market. A fantastic way to learn! I recommend starting with 10-20 books in your category before you write your next story.
Bonus Tip – Try typing out the full story or 1st chapter to get a better sense of what it was like to be the writer of the book. It will help you learn word choice, sentence structure, and voice. My favorite writing trick!
Want to learn more? Check out these other articles:
- Template to write a children’s book
- Books on writing craft all children’s writers need to read
- Everything you need to know about writing for children