Sometimes writers get an idea for a title even before a story is written. That happened to me for a picture book called My Dog Never Says Please. Most of the time, however, titles come while you are writing a story, or even after the story is written. Since I find it hard to work on a story until I have a title for it, I usually put some kind of title on it, even if it’s not a very good one, knowing I will change it later.

A good title makes your reader want to know more. (What do you mean your dog never says “please?” Dogs don’t talk!) It should also give a hint as to what the story is about, without giving away any surprises.

If a good idea for a title doesn’t jump out at you right away, don’t panic. Finish your story. Then read through it and list all the words and phrases that seem important – like character names, words that show setting (where and when the story takes place) or theme (what the story is about), striking bits of dialogue, etc. Next, play around with these bits and pieces using some of the models below. I can almost guarantee you’ll come up with a title to tantalize. And if all else fails, let your friends help!

P.S. All of the titles below are from actual children’s books. How many have you read?

Rhymed titles
Benjamin Koo, We Love You
Sheep in a Jeep
Amelia Bedelia
Angelina Ballerina
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher

Six-dinner Sid
Maniac Magee
Where’s Waldo?
Aldo Applesauce
Library Lil
Horror at the Haunted House

Question titles
Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?
Do Bananas Chew Gum?
Where Does the Teacher Live?
What Happened to Patrick’s Dinosaurs?
How Much Is a Million?
Who’s That Stepping on Plymouth Rock?

Character’s something
Charlotte’s Web
Martin’s Mice
Christina’s Ghost
Barney Bipple’s Magic Dandelions
The Monster’s Ring
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Jennifer Murdley’s Toad

A Command
Wait Till Helen Comes
Eat Your Poison, Dear
No Jumping on the Bed!
Don’t Eat Too Much Turkey!
Stop That Noise!

Character/Noun in (the) setting
Dead Man in Indian Creek
Alistair in Outer Space
Castle in the Attic
Indian in the Cupboard
King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub

Character and (the) Character
Tortoise and the Hare
Alex and the Cat
Ramona and her Father
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Commander Toad and the Space Pirates
Borreguita and the Coyote

(The) Character and the Noun
The Emperor and the Kite
The Unicorn and the Lake
Piggins and the Royal Wedding
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Anansi and the Moss-covered Rock

(A/The) Adjective Noun
Freckle Juice
Owl Moon
Rough-face Girl
Rotten Ralph
The Napping House

Talking Titles
I Hate Being Gifted!
Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret
I’ll Fix Anthony
Can I Keep Him?
My Parents Think I’m Sleeping
Germs Make Me Sick!

Surprising sentence
Mommy Doesn’t Know My Name
Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash
Aliens Ate My Homework
Amber Brown Is Not A Crayon
Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You

The boy/girl/animal who/with…
The Boy Who Lost His Face
The Girl Who Owned a City
The Boy Who Turned Into a TV Set
Cat Who Went to Heaven
Dog Who Had Kittens
The Boy With Square Eyes
The Girl With the Silver Eyes

There’s a (character)….(place)
There’s a Monster Under My Bed
There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom
There’s a Witch Under the Stairs

___of (the) ____
Afternoon of the Elves
Summer of the Swans
Call of the Wild
Night of Fear
Agony of Alice
Burning Questions of Bingo Brown
True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

___ for ____
Roses for Harry
Aliens for Breakfast
Caps for Sale
Encore for Eleanor
Soup for President

Character the noun
Harriet the Spy
Louis the Fish
Kermit the Hermit
Anansi the Spider

Especially for mysteries: Case of ____ ; Mystery of _____
Case of the Elevator Duck
Case of the Weeping Witch
Mystery of the Flying Orange Pumpkin
Mystery of the Gold Coins

Adverbial phrase
Where the Red Fern Grows
When the Elephant Walks
How The Reindeer Saved Santa

Puns in titles
From Spore to Spore: Ferns and How They Grow
Is it Soap Yet?

Nonfiction titles need to clearly state the topic. Still, nonfiction titles don’t have to be dull!: What Good Is a Tail?; Insects Do the Strangest Things; When Grown-ups Drive You Crazy; What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?; There’s a Monster in Your Closet: Understanding Phobias; Click! A Story About George Eastman.

The titles modeled above present only a few of the possibilities. Start looking at the titles of books in libraries and bookstores and you’ll find many more models to spark your creativity.

Have fun!

From the Writing Curriculum Files of Children’s Author, Suzanne Williams