14 Picture Books With Twist Endings Kids Won’t See Coming
by Janssen Bradshaw
Is there anything better than a twist ending?
We’ve all had that moment where the last seconds of a movie takes us completely by surprise (The Sixth Sense, I’m looking at you!) or a book where at the last possible moment, the person you thought was good turns out to be the villain, or vice versa.
And picture books don’t want to be left out of the fun either!
We’ve collected some of our favorite books with twist endings to surprise and delight both you and your children.
The Monster at the End of this Book
In this Sesame Street Big Golden Book, wide-eyed Grover is oh-so-desperate for the reader to stop turning the pages — there’s a monster at the end of this book, and Grover has no intention of meeting him! Anticipation (and giggles) build up as you get closer and closer to the end, which sweetly reveals that Grover had nothing to fear all along.
Cookie, Pretzel, and Cheese Doodle embark on a fun-filled adventure in the kitchen, which quickly spirals into a mission to escape snack time with a hungry Monster Kid. The snacks are determined to leave no crumb behind, but that’s easier than it looks. Children will be totally amused by the role they’re cast in this comical story.
Pete needs someone to play with. So when a monster arrives, Pete is over the moon. He can’t wait to play cars and pirates. Then we discover the monster isn’t actually there to play. He’s there to EAT PETE! But will he?
Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise
In the sequel to the beloved Interrupting Chicken, little red chicken is studying the element of surprise in stories — only she mishears her papa’s phrase as the “elephant of surprise.” While they read classic stories together so Papa can prove there’s no such thing, a whole herd of elephantine surprises comes knocking.
I Want My Hat Back
The bear’s hat is gone. He’s determined to get it back, visiting each animal and asking if they’ve seen his missing hat. Just when all hope is lost, a deer wanders by and asks a question that reminds the bear of where his hat might have gone. The ending of this bestseller isn’t at all what you’d expect.
One Cool Friend
During a trip to the aquarium, Elliot decides he REALLY wants a penguin. And happily, his father says yes. However, it turns out that his father might have been thinking of bringing home a stuffed plush penguin, not a real-life one.
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
This book became an instant favorite when it was published. The narrator wants to make sure you understand what happened to your missing sandwich. You see, there was this bear. He got lost. He found your sandwich. And then ... well, you know what happened next. Or do you? (If you can't get enough of silly stories about hungry bears, check out Sarcone-Roach's new book There Are No Bears in This Bakery.)
Life on Mars
Jon Agee’s Life on Mars is entertaining from start to finish. With cupcakes in tow, a young astronaut is searching for life on Mars, but he finds only a lone flower. Unbeknownst to the astronaut, a Martian’s been following him around the whole time! Readers will love being in on the secret — until they, too, get a surprise at the end.
From the author of the beloved Lunch Lady graphic novels comes a tale that is equally uproarious. Josh decides to wear a paper bag over his head to school. His mother, his bus driver, and even his soccer coach disapprove. They can’t figure out WHY Josh would be hiding his head. You’ll have to read it to find out.
From the creators of Dragons Love Tacos and High Five comes a wildly inventive picture book about the wonder of robots. A total joy of a read-aloud, Robo-Sauce is stuffed with Rubin and Salmieri’s irreverent humor and silliness, and the ingenious fold-out ending is like nothing you’ve ever seen.
If your child loves the format of the beloved If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, they’ll love this one too. When a hat lands in the woods, each woodland creature that finds it thinks they know just how to use it and claims it for their own. But that hat keeps moving on, only to be used in new creative ways!
Ramsey must figure out what to do— and fast — when the octopus his grandma was cooking for stew grows in size and captures her! How will he free his grandma? You'll never guess what happens next in this funny two-fold read-aloud that features Puerto Rican culture with a recipe to match.
Charlotte and the Rock
When Charlotte’s parents surprise her with a pet rock for her birthday, she tries to make the best of the situation. She’s always wanted a pet, after all, so she names the stone Dennis. Every night, Charlotte kisses her pet rock good night in the hopes of teaching Dennis how to love her back — and one night, something totally unexpected happens.
The Giant Jumperee
I love anything Julia Donaldson writes and anything Helen Oxenbury illustrates, so it’s no surprise this one immediately earned a place on our bookshelf. In this retelling of a classic fable, Rabbit arrives back at his cozy burrow to a booming voice coming out of his home, declaring, “I’m the Giant Jumperee and I’m scary as can be!” It takes all of Rabbit’s friends to get to the bottom of this mystery and the resolution is sweet and surprising!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2018 and updated in 2021.