Children’s Book Titles: How to Name a Children’s Book
One of my students asked a question this week about how to name a children’s book and how to come up with good book titles. It got me thinking.
In my view, good titles are:
- Catchy – They play with language, use alliteration, rhyme or rhythm, have a sense of humor, rather than just describing the events of the story. What if Where the Wild Things Are had been called Max Gets into Trouble, or The Cat in the Hat had been The Day We Had Nothing to Do?
- Short – The shorter the better. They’re easier to remember (see next bullet item), and easier for the child to ask for.
- Appropriate to the material – The Cat in the Hat tells us the book will be easy to read, playful with language and characters, and probably written in verse. Would The Day We Had Nothing to Do, The Day the Cat Came to Visit, or even The Cat, Sally and Me have been as accurate a reflection of what’s inside the book?
- Don’t directly state what the story is about, but imply it. – If your title reveals everything that happens in the story, why bother reading it? Think about Goodnight, Moon versus Little Bunny Says Goodnight to Everything and Everyone.
- Specific to your book – The House at Pooh Corner could only apply to that book. But The Toy Friends or The Woodland Animals could apply to that, and dozens of other books.
- Memorable – A title that is catchy, short, appropriate, specific and intriguing – per the above – is likely to be memorable.
Ideas for Children’s Book Titles
There are many ways to explore possible titles. Consider these ideas:
- Familiar expressions – Guess How Much I Love You? And To Think That It Happened on Mulberry Street, My Side of the Mountain, The King’s Equal
- A play on words (rhyme, alliteration, rhythm, a familiar phrase turned around, etc.) – Pinkalicious, Pete’s a Pizza, My Family and Other Animals, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
- A hidden meaning (revealed in the story). – The BFG, Frindle, Ella Enchanted, The Palace of Laughter
- Character names – Olivia, Owen, Pippi Longstocking, Knuffle Bunny, The Borrowers
- A place – Sugarbush Spring, The Little House on the Prairie, The City of Ember, Where the River Begins
- A possessive – Peter’s Chair, Charlotte’s Web, Thomas’ Snowsuit, Saffy’s Angel, Elizabeti’s Doll, Mr. Popper’s Penguins
- One or more “things” – The Hundred Dresses, The Twenty-One Balloons, The 101 Dalmatians, The 39 Clues
- Words that have a “double meaning” – The Trumpet of the Swan, Happy Birth Day
- Things that don’t usually go together – The Phantom Tollbooth, The Pushcart War, Stone Soup, The Paper Bag Princess, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
- An event or activity – Around the World in Eighty Days, The Battle for Castle Cockatrice, How I Became a Pirate
- A memorable line from the story itself – To Kill a Mockingbird, Where is That Cat? Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go To Sleep, Bad Dog, Marley! Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
- Something intriguing – A Wrinkle in Time, The Magic Tree House, Treasure Island, Freaky Friday, Math Curse
- Something ultra-simple – Fire Truck, Holes, The Snow Man, The Wish
What are your suggestions for how to choose a good title?