How to generate children’s non-fiction titles that stand out from the crowd.

The children’s non-fiction genre is exploding with innovative content and creative book titles to hook young readers. Want to keep up with the competition? Read on!

  • A title always speaks to the child reader.
  • A title should be original and memorable. 
  • A title indicates the genre and content of the book.
  • A title suggests the style and tone within the pages.
  • A title should stand tall amongst the competition (which of course you have researched thoroughly.) 

Now this is writing for children so before brainstorming flex those creative writing muscles, tickle your funny bone, break out the coloured pens and regress to your seven-year-old self.

While not forgetting…

Alliteration, humour, emotion, rhyme, meter, metaphor, simile, assonance, consonance repetition, exaggeration, dialogue, sound effects and powerful verbs

… are your friends. 

Now generate some words and phrases:

  • Around the theme and message of your book.
  • Around the characters/animals/things in your book.
  • Consider puns, popular phrases and metaphors linked to the topic of your book.

And to raise the bar high! Consider these examples of lots of different types of titles in children’s NF today. 

What type of title fits your book concept? 

What if you were to try out some of the other styles? 

Pose a question or problem:

If Sharks Disappeared. 

The entire Who was/What is series. 

Who Says Women can’t be Doctors?

Can you hear the Trees Sing?

How to… /directory/guide/handbook:

A Wild Child’s Guide to Endangered Species. 

How to save the Whole Stinking Planet.

Astronaut Handbook

Main character and mission:

Ada Bryon Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. 

The Girl who thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple.

Character related quote or quirk

Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child. 

Me… Jane. (In case this is lost on you: Watch Tarzan.)

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes her Mark.

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Common phrase, expression or play on words:

Seeds of Change. 

What a Waste. 

Beauty and the Bin. 

Poetic/descriptive:

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein. 

I am the Seed that Grew the Tree. 

Red Rover. 

Drum Dream Girl. 

The Street Beneath my Feet.

Inspires curiosity

Everything. Everywhere. (this is in fact an encyclopaedia)

When the Whales Walked.

The Surprising lives of Animals. 

Single word = Big concept:

Locomotive.

Moonshot

Migration

Surprising = Juxtapositions, opposites and contradictions.

A Butterfly is Patient. 

Over and Under the Snow

The Not Bad Animals.

Pink is for Blob Fish

Pigeon Math

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Hyperbole:

THE BIG BLUE BOOK. 

Amazing Islands. 

Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings and Defences.

Inspirational:

My Journey to the Stars.

See you in the Cosmos

Personal (sometimes emotive) statement:

We Build our Homes. 

I am Anne Frank. 

We are Water Protectors.

Don’t call me Refugee

Topical (often emotive) statement:

One Plastic Bag. 

No Ballet Shoes in Syria.

Exactly what it is (but more interesting than saying encyclopaedia or biography)

The Bee Book

Atlas of Ocean Adventures. 

Greta’s Story.

Bird Builds a Nest.

The Big Book of Blooms.

This Book is about Rockets.

Galaxies. Galaxies!

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Quirky Facts or Alternative Angle:

Earth! My first 4.54 Billion Years. 

Her Right Foot (which is actually about the Statue of Liberty)

The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry

Call to action:

Don’t let them Disappear: 12 Endangered species across the globe.

You’re Invited to a Moth Ball: A night-time insect celebration. 

Plastic Sucks! You Can make a difference.

Look up!

An extension of the above theme but a more subtle way to engage the reader:

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different.

You are the First Kid on Mars.

Unusual or invented words:

Animalium.

Plantopedia

Some titles pack a mega punch using a combination of techniques. Check these out!

A TRAPEZIOD is Not a DINOSAUR!

How does Chocolate Taste on Everest?

Fugus is Among Us! 

Here we are. Notes for Living on Planet Earth.

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NOW BRAINSTORM BRAINSTORM BRAINSTORM

After you’ve doodled to death your ideas, play with words and phrases and see if you can combine any?

Create a list of favourites. Then pause for a moment. 

Do your favourite titles still reflect the style of the book you want to write? 

Maybe they inspire you to rewrite your book from a new angle that might be more ownable?

Ask your crit group or target reader (preferably both) what they think of your proposed titles and hook – this can be enlightening – individual experiences can skew preferences in unexpected ways.

By using a combination of these creative techniques and checks, there’s a good chance your title is catchy and original and will stay that way in a competitive market.

But even if you’re over the moon about a title, always have a couple of alternatives handy, just in case the publishing team say, ‘we love the concept, but not so much the title.’

That happens. A lot.

Publishers have house style, list fit and possible sequels to consider, as well as translation and foreign rights and don’t forget every title has to be checked by the legal department.

Titles are tricky for everyone, but they can make or break a book, so give title creation time and attention and it will pay you back in spades – and hopefully royalties too.

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