CHAPTER BOOK KNOWHOW with Emma Finlayson-Palmer (part one)


We hear a lot about picture books, Middle Grade and Young Adult, but what about younger fiction? SCBWI's Emma Finlayson-Palmer, author of forthcoming Autumn Moonbeam: Dance Magic, investigates in this three-part series

Part one: The difference between CBs and lower MGs 

Chapter books are probably one of the age groups that is most tricky to pin down. Often people think of chapter books in the literal sense, a book with chapters. 

Chapter books are usually stories that are aimed at children aged between five and eight, a bridge between moving up from being read to and more independent reading closer to age nine and up. Often heavily illustrated, but less so than picture books, they are a great combination of the two, whilst having a higher word count.

Lower MG on the other hand, is the next stage up, and usually cover ages seven to nine. They can be anywhere between 15k to 35k approximately. Whilst they often have illustrations, it is less so than with chapter books.

Both age groups follow the same basic structures of beginning, middle and end, with satisfying story and character arcs, exploring similar themes and concepts. So, there’s lots of crossover between chapter books and lower MG, but one main difference between the two is the actual content. 

Plots for chapter books need to be simpler and not have quite so many subplots.

Just in the same way that MG is often less complex in content than YA, they can explore the same themes but pitched at different levels.

The best way to see the differences in chapter books and lower MG in action, is to read. See what is available at your local library, some will be more than happy to order in specific books.

Swapna Reddy’s Ballet Bunnies series illustrated by Binny Talib is a great chapter book example. Whilst Swapna’s other CB series, Dave Pigeon, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey, is closer to 10k, and the longer length in this age group.

Mo O’Hara’s My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish, illustrated by Marek Jagucki, is a fun series that is at the longer length of CBs and at 19k approx. it sits between CB and Lower MG.

The Amelia Fang series, written and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson, is a lovely example of lower MG, and how the plot can be a little more complex than with CBs.

Header illustration by Heidi Cannon


Emma Finlayson-Palmer is an autistic, working class writer who lives in the West Midlands with her husband and a multitude of children, cats and chickens. Autumn Moonbeam: Dance Magic, will be released by UCLan in 2022. Emma runs #ukteenchat, a writing themed chat on Twitter, and edits, mentors and reads competition entries for #WriteMentor and also reads flash fiction entries for Retreat West. She’s also one half of Word Witches, as a children’s fiction editor.




Jo E. Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant and Words & Pictures’ KnowHow editor. 

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