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by Deanie Humphrys-Dunne

An important element you need for a successful children’s story is theme. What exactly is a theme?

 

Last time we talked about the importance of conflict, or a problem involved in your children’s story. We learned that you can’t have a good story without including a problem for the main character to solve. It’s the conflict that propels the story forward.

Today we’re going to discuss another important element you need for a successful children’s story: theme. What exactly is a theme?

*It’s the underlying message the author wants you to ponder.

*It’s an overall idea that the author wants you to think about.

*Generally, it appears in the story several times.

For example, when I wrote Tails of Sweetbrier, the main thing I wanted my young readers to consider is that you shouldn’t abandon your dreams when things don’t go the way you’d like. How do you know that was the theme? There were many times throughout the story where the main character (in this case, me) could have given up. I wanted to become an excellent horseback rider. But my legs weren’t as strong as most children’s because I have cerebral palsy. I’d fall off when my legs got tired. I’d fall off if my pony stumbled. I’d repeatedly lose my balance when I was learning to jump.

During all of these incidents, readers found that I often reminded myself that giving up was not an option. They learned that I could have given up, but I realized that would prevent me from ever reaching my goal.

Is there a difference between a theme and a moral? Yes! A moral is usually clearly stated. For example, in the story, ”The Tortoise and the Hare,” the author tells you, “Slow and steady wins the race.” But, theme is something that readers need to discern for themselves. I think it’s more valuable to them because they’re likely to remember it, since they discovered it themselves.

Now you know more about themes. You can explain the difference between a theme and a moral. I hope these hints help you to create stories that are irresistible to children.


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Deanie Humphrys-Dunne is the author of three children's books including Tails of Sweetbrier. She is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, as well as a member of Cambridge Who’s Who. All of Deanie’s books are beautifully illustrated by her sister, Holly Humphrys-Bajaj. Visit Deanie's PDB profile here.