How to Structure a Children’s Book Layout – Themes and Pagination

Childrens Book Layout

Have you ever peeked into a children’s book and marvelled at its ability to hold a little one’s attention for ages? It’s not just the whimsical creatures or silly adventures that do the trick! The secret tool that most authors use to captivate these little ones is the childrens book layout.

Unlike grown-up readers, young minds still have developing minds that cannot decipher words. So, just like a thoughtful teacher, you must design a book with that in mind. Not only do you have to tell the story, but make sure the child understands the story through the placement of visuals! The book layout does a swell job of guiding the child through the story. Every illustration placement, every splash of colour, and even the text placement on the page all contribute to a captivating experience.

So, if you’re an aspiring author or illustrator holding back, waiting to create marvellous and thought-provoking stories, then buckle up! This blog is your one-stop shop for cracking the code of children’s book layouts. We’ll delve into the nitty-gritty of layout and template, exploring how savvy use of space, strategic text placement, and cleverly chosen illustrations weave together to create a story that entertains and sparks a child’s imagination.

What Is a Children’s Book Layout?

The children’s book layout exactly drives the book to success or failure. But what exactly does it mean?

Think of the layout as your book’s blueprint. Before you begin writing a manuscript for your children’s book story, the layout is a factor you must consider. This includes the illustration, text placement, and blank spaces between them. The more you invest your time in layout, the better the book will turn out in the end. 

Why is a Children’s Book Layout Necessary?

The next question you might be wondering is, why is the page layout necessary? Here’s the thing: if you’re writing a picture book, illustrations aren’t just eye candy for young readers; they are a vital part of the story. Picture books are written with the intent to educate and entertain young readers. 

For instance, if the story goes like “The grumpy troll lived under the bridge.” The illustration can give an idea of the expression the troll made that will offer aid in describing the scene. 

If you’re thinking, “Surely I can just write the story first, then figure out where the pictures go later?” Well, that’s a common pitfall for amateur picture book writers! 

Planning the layout from the beginning, alongside your picture book writing,. This way, the story, text, and illustrations work together seamlessly. You can think about where a dramatic page turn would be most impactful or how much space a full-page spread illustration needs to showcase a vibrant scene.

Pro Tip: Even for chapter books that might have fewer illustrations, the layout is still important! While writing, consider which scenes might benefit from an illustration and roughly how much space it might take up. This helps ensure a smooth reading experience without awkward gaps or cramped text.

Types of Childrens Book Layout

Now that you have a good idea about the concept of children’s book layout, let’s delve deeper and understand the different types you might encounter. 

Picture Book Layout

Before we cover the specific layouts, it’s important to understand how books are constructed. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Book Signature: Imagine a giant sheet of paper folded and cut to create multiple pages. This folded sheet is called a signature. Traditionally, signatures contain 16 pages, though some can be 4 or 8. This is why most picture books have page counts in multiples of 16.
  • Book Page Numbering: It might seem obvious, but picture books typically don’t have page numbers. However, numbering pages during the planning stage help visualize the layout. Remember, the numbering goes in even-odd pairs (page 2 faces page 3, and so on). The first page you actually see is on the right-hand side when you open the book!

Ready to see a picture book layout in action? Check out this handy template for a 32-page paperback book:

32 page picture book template with no ends

Hardcover Children’s Book Layout

Hardcover books are more complex, thanks to special features like end sheets. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know:

  • End Pages: The sturdy paper pieces connect the hardcover to the inner pages (the book block). They provide stability and prevent the book block from being directly glued to the cover.
  • Self-ended Book: These don’t have separate end sheets. Instead, they use pages from the book block (like pages 1 and 32) as pastedowns, glueing them to the cover. This leaves you slightly fewer pages for your story (around 30 pages in a 32-page book).

Here’s a 32-page self-ended book template to see how it works:

32 page picture book template self-ended book

Pro Tip: Including designed end pages in a self-ended book is optional. Remember, each designed page means one less page for your story content.
  • Separate Ends (32 or 40 pages): These offer more flexibility. The eight separate end pages (not included in the page count) are glued to the cover and book block. This creates a more polished look but might be slightly more expensive.

Here’s a 32-page template with separate ends for comparison

32 page picture book template with separate ends

And a 40-page template with separate ends to show the difference:

40 page picture book template: with separate ends

A Word About Print-on-Demand: Print-on-demand books use separate white-end pages, and these cannot be customized. So, if you choose this route, keep in mind that the designed end pages won’t be visible in the final product.

Here’s a 32-page print-on-demand template for reference:

book layout template for a 32-page print on demand book

Pro Tip: Remember, these are just templates! Play around with them, find what works for your story, and don't be afraid to get creative with your children's book layout.

What are the Elements of Children’s Book Layout?

We’ve explored the different types of children’s book layouts, but what building blocks make them work? Here’s a look at the key elements that go into crafting a captivating children’s book layout:

1. Page Count

Remember those book signatures we talked about earlier? The number of signatures determines your page count. Traditionally, signatures have 16 pages, so most picture books have page counts in 16 multiples (like 32 pages). This keeps printing costs efficient. But don’t feel restricted! Some stories might need a few extra pages, and that’s okay.

2. Book Trim Size

This refers to the physical size of your book. Will it be a snug board book for tiny hands, a classic square picture book, or a taller landscape layout perfect for panoramic illustrations? Your trim size impacts how illustrations are positioned and how much text you can comfortably fit on a page.

Want to learn about book sizes for kids? You Must Read our latest blog, Choosing the Perfect Children’s Book Size: Key Elements to Consider

3. Book End Sheets

These sturdy papers connect the hardcover to the book block (the inner pages). They provide stability and prevent the book block from being directly glued to the cover. There are two main options:

  • Self-Ended Books: These use a couple of pages from the book block itself (like pages 1 and 32) as pastedowns glued to the cover. This reduces the number of pages available for your story.
  • Separate Ends: These hardcover books have eight separate end pages that are not included in the page count. They offer more flexibility and create a polished look but can be slightly more expensive.

4. Front Matter

This is the opening section of your book, typically including the title page, copyright information, and sometimes a dedication.

5. Story Pacing

A well-paced illustration children’s book layout creates a natural flow for the story. It considers how much text appears on each spread, where illustrations are placed to break up the text, and how much white space is used to avoid overwhelming young readers.

6. Page Turns

These are crucial moments in a children’s book! A well-designed layout uses page turns to build anticipation, surprise the reader, or reveal a key moment in the story. 

Choosing the Right Tools

Knowing whether you plan to use a traditional offset printer or a print-on-demand service can impact your layout decisions. Print-on-demand services often have limitations on page count and don’t allow for customization of end sheets.

Remember: These elements work together to create a seamless reading experience for children. A well-considered layout uses illustration placement strategically to enhance the text, guide the reader's eye, and ultimately bring your story to life.

What is a Children’s Book Template?

While the children’s book layout is crucial, the template is from where you need to start while writing your story. The children’s book template is also referred to as the book map.

Think of it as a blueprint for your story. It’s a rough, page-by-page plan that visually lays out your text placement, story pacing, and illustration layout. Here’s why you need to consider the template for your children’s book:

  • Visualizes the Big Picture: Imagine your entire story mapped out in front of you. A template lets you see how the different elements – text, illustrations, and page turns – work together to create a cohesive experience.
  • Ensures Visual Variety: No one wants to see pages with just text blocks! A template helps you ensure a healthy balance between text and illustrations, keeping your young audience engaged.
  • Crafting Art Notes Made Easy: With your template as a guide, you can develop clear and concise art notes for your illustrator. Imagine saying, “Here’s the dramatic page turn where the pirate finally finds the treasure chest,” instead of just, “Page 18: Treasure chest scene.

Remember: The picture book template is not the final book design! It may still need polishing by an expert book illustrator later on. However, your template is a fantastic starting point.

How to Format A Children’s Book?

1. Determining the Front Matter

The opening act of your book is your front matter. It’s where you introduce your story to the world, typically including:

  • Title Page: The grand entrance for your book’s title, often accompanied by captivating artwork.
  • Dedication (Optional): A heartfelt message to a special person or group.
  • Copyright Page: The legal stuff, establishing ownership of your work.

Front Matter Flexibility

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach! The placement of your front matter depends on how your story unfolds. Here are some options:

  • Starting with a Single Page (Story Begins on Page 3): This works well for stories that begin with a smaller scene, transitioning smoothly to the next page.
  • Starting with a Full Spread (Story Begins on Pages 4-5): Ideal for stories that require a grand opening illustration and potentially more text. Here, you can choose between:
    • Half-Title Page: Introduces the title with artwork, followed by the copyright and full title page.
    • Dedicated Page: Dedicates a page for a special message, followed by the title page and copyright on separate pages.
  • Copyright Page at the Back (Story Begins on Pages 2-3): This option works best for on-demand printers requiring a 31-page file. However, remember to check their specific requirements.
Pro Tip: Regardless of your choice, deciding where the story starts (and therefore, the front matter placement) is the first step in crafting your children's book template.

2. Establishing Scene Breaks Appropriately

Each page or spread in your book should be a mini-story in itself. Don’t worry about page count or text volume yet. Simply identify where your story naturally transitions from one scene to the next, prompting the reader to turn the page. Mark these transitions with a line or extra space.

Break the scenes where the suspense builds or the location changes. Simply add line breaks where you envision scene shifts.

3. Setting Page Numbers

Now that your scenes are defined, it’s time for some numbering magic. Begin with page 3 (single page) or 4 (full spread), depending on your front matter choice. Assign a number to each scene initially. This helps visualize the overall story length. Even-odd numbers always face each other (page 2 faces page 3).

4. Mastering the Art of Page Turns

A well-placed page turn keeps young readers engaged. Here’s the key:

  • Natural Flow vs. Page Turns: Some story moments flow seamlessly, even if illustrated separately. These might be continuations of the same scene.
  • Page Turns for New Scenes: Page turns should occur at scene shifts, physically or emotionally. Big should happen at page turns, building anticipation for the next spread.
  • Fine-tuning: Review your page numbers. Do page turns always fall on right-hand pages (odd pages)? If not, consider combining scenes or creating spreads to optimize the flow.

5. Identifying Page Spreads

Now, let’s decide which scenes deserve the spotlight of a full spread. Look at your scene breakdowns. Which scenes hold the most emotional weight or mark turning points in your story? These are prime candidates for spreads.

Once you’ve identified key moments, re-evaluate your pacing and assign new page numbers to accommodate full spreads for these scenes.

Pro Tip: Keep an eye on the overall length as you re-pace. You don't want your story to become too long or short.

6. Checking Page Word Count 

Maintaining a healthy balance between text and illustrations is crucial. Here’s a word count guideline:

  • Ideal Range: Aim for 10-30 words per page.
  • Reality Check: Most books have pages exceeding 30 words. A general rule of thumb is to keep it under 50 words per page. If a page overflows, consider trimming your text or turning a single page into a spread for more.
  • Shifting to a Spread: If trimming isn’t an option, consider shifting a page to a full spread to create space for more text. Remember, this will impact subsequent pages, so you might also need to adjust them.

7. Creating Art Notes

Art notes are your way of communicating your vision to the illustrator for each scene. After breaking down your manuscript, imagine the illustrations for each page. Jot down what you envision. Review your notes. Are too many pages visually similar? This might indicate a need to condense scenes or find ways to create more visual variety.

“Same scene as above, but from a different angle” is a red flag for repetitive visuals. Consider revising your scene flow or using alternative text to avoid monotony. You can incorporate art notes directly into your template or keep them separate.

Pro Tip: When submitting your manuscript to a book designer, provide two versions: one with page numbers and art notes and another clean version without them. This helps avoid accidental deletion of relevant text during design adjustments.

8. Deciding on Page Layout

While a book designer finalizes the layout, considering your preferences beforehand is helpful. Here’s a breakdown of common layouts:

Common Layouts


Full-Bleed Spread A single illustration spans both pages, creating a panoramic effect.
Two Full-Bleed Pages Each page has its own full-bleed illustration.
Full-bleed page and Vignette A full-bleed illustration on one page and a vignette (smaller, framed art) on the facing page. This prevents visual overload.
Full-Bleed Page with Spot Art A full-bleed illustration on one page balanced by a page with two smaller spot illustrations. This works well for showcasing multiple scenes on a spread.

9. Re-Pacing As Needed

Creating a children’s book template is an iterative process. Each change on one page affects the others. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be disheartened if it takes multiple attempts to perfect the pacing.
  • Ideally, a picture book should be around 32 pages. If not, adjust as needed. Don’t be afraid to deviate slightly from the traditional length if your story demands it.
  • Even seasoned authors and designers revisit pacing throughout the process, so be sure you do as well. 

Final Note

In conclusion, crafting a captivating children’s book layout is an art form that requires thoughtful consideration of both visual appeal and storytelling. By understanding the various elements of layout, from page flow to strategic illustration placement, you can create a book that not only entertains young readers but also sparks their imaginations.

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