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

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 two: Chapter Book Ideas

Younger fiction is more likely to be published as a series rather than standalones. There are two types of series: sequential, so you have to read the series in order; or a series featuring the same main characters, which overlap in plot threads, but which essentially could be read as a standalone or in no specific order.

So, what sort of ideas and themes are suitable for 5-8s?

Have a think about what sort of things might have really mattered to you when you were between the ages of five and eight. Finding relatable ideas means that it will appeal to a wider audience. 

Some powerful and relatable themes for younger readers:

-       Friendship (always a popular one)

-       Family (in many different shapes and sizes)

-       Identity/belonging (everyone wants to feel a part of something)

-       Jealousy (this is especially a theme with an antagonist, but even protagonists have flaws)

-       Firsts (day at school, pets, dentist, etc.)

Make lists of possible characters. They could be human, dinosaurs, alien, mythical, animals, anything you like. Then, make another list of possible locations, be as random as you can, even if it feels silly, just write it down, because you never know what exciting ideas might pop up.

When you’ve made your lists, you can mix and match to see what combinations you can create to see if it sparks an idea for younger fiction. For example: hedgehogs in space, fish in a graveyard, witches in a dance academy! 

Have a look at some recent releases to get a feel for what’s popular in younger fiction. For example, Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door series written as Lola Morayo, Perdita and Honor Cargill’s Diary of an Accidental Witch; Hotel Flamingo series by Alex Milway; Harriet Muncaster’s Mirabelle series; Hannah Shaw’s Unipiggle series, The Pug Who Wanted to be a Unicorn and many others by Bella Swift to name a few.

There are lots of wonderful books for younger readers that you can dip into for research and reading will really give you a sense of the tone, language and themes being written about, and might just spark some ideas of your own.

The first in Emma's fabulous new series, Autumn Moonbeam: Dance Magic is out on the 7th July. The second book will follow in October 2022.

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 on 7th July 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. 

Got an idea for KnowHow, or a subject you’d like to hear more on? Let us know at

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