The best picture books with unexpected endings & terrific twists

Why am I passionate about this?

Simon is obsessed with picture books: reading them, writing them, buying them, smelling them. His own have been published in more than 20 languages. You Must Bring a Hat won the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book of the Year, and I Really Wany the Cake was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. He particularly enjoys funny, deadpan picture books. After gaining a 1st class degree in History, he put his skills to use as a barman at a local pub, grew tired of the owner calling him Andy, left to fail a teaching degree, then turned to writing. He lives in England, although occasionally leaves to buy milk.


I wrote...

You Must Bring a Hat!

By Simon Philip, Kate Hindley (illustrator),

Book cover of You Must Bring a Hat!

What is my book about?

Come join the fun—but only if you have a hat. And you know the entry rules. Unfortunately, there seems to be a surprising number of those, as a young boy discovers. Will he—and the cool collection of animals he befriends along the way—ever get in? Gloriously illustrated, the art contains loads of details that serve as clues to the satisfying surprise ending. Kids will read this thoroughly hilarious cumulative picture book again and again!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of I Just Ate My Friend

Simon Philip Why did I love this book?

The title and cover of this brilliant picture book called out to me as soon as I saw it, and I was pleased to discover that the rest of the book lived up to my high expectations.

The main character is wonderfully, comically expressive, and, despite the sparse text, experiences a range of emotions; guilt, remorse, frustration, desperation, despair.

Despite its abundance of humour, this book touches on several themes, including friendship and the notion of belonging, and the importance of impulse control. And, like all of my favourite picture books, it ends with a delicious twist. 

By Heidi McKinnon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Just Ate My Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

SHORT-LISTED: CBCA Book of the Year, Crichton Award for New Illustrators, 2018

I just ate my friend. He was a good friend. But now he is gone. Would you be my friend?

A hilarious story about the search for friendship and belonging... and maybe a little bit about the importance of impulse control... from an amazing new creator.


Book cover of Toto's Apple

Simon Philip Why did I love this book?

A worm wants an apple. 

The worm is down low, and the apple is up high. 

But Toto has a plan…

I love so much about this picture book: the simple but humour-laden premise; Toto’s inventiveness, creativity, and perseverance in his quest to reach his goal (and the apple); the bold illustrations and striking design; and, of course, the twist at the end that will leave readers chuckling.

By Mathieu Lavoie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Toto's Apple as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 2, 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

Creativity and perseverance lead to unexpected success for a little worm who goes after an apple high up in a tree

The apple is up high. Toto is down low.
A bird flies by. Toto has an idea.

And so this hilariously expressive little worm gets busy creating plan after plan to reach his desired meal. His crafty strategies are successfully executed but miserably unproductive... until the opportunity presents itself and Toto seizes the moment without foresight. With just the perfect balance of predictability and surprise, this tale reads like an animated short that the reader will want to see…


Book cover of The Disgusting Sandwich

Simon Philip Why did I love this book?

In my opinion, there just aren’t enough picture books about ravenous badgers that are willing to eat almost anything. But this is one of them, and it’s a corker.

I love the escalating desperation of the hungry badger as it follows an increasingly revolting sandwich across a park as it's spurned by a range of animals, who all deem the sandwich too disgusting to eat. But, the badger’s persistence pays off, and it finally gets its paws on the slug-covered sandwich, and the tasty meal it’s been chasing – but not the one you expect!

By Gareth Edwards, Hannah Shaw (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Disgusting Sandwich as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 2, 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

A hilarious picture book about a very hungry, and rather
unlucky, badger in search of a sandwich - with a wickedly funny
twist in the tale

One day, a boy drops his sandwich in a sandpit, and the
race is on! A very hungry badger wants it, but he's just
not quick enough. The sandwich is dropped, squashed and slithered
over by everyone from a squirrel, to a fox, to a band of
slugs.

Will the badger ever get his paws on that sandwich? And will he even
want it if he does, or will it just be too disgusting?…


Book cover of Llama Destroys the World

Simon Philip Why did I love this book?

Another excellent title, as far as I’m concerned.

Possibly one of the most bonkers picture books I’ve ever read – incorporating cake, cosmic vibrations, black holes, and cheese-salad sandwiches – it’s an absolute riot, and I loved the twist, which happens a bit before the end but is hilariously satisfying after all the madness leading up to it.

By Jonathan Stutzman, Heather Fox (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Llama Destroys the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Llama, a true hero for the ages, who has most definitely driven a bus and who loves cake way more than you.

On Monday, Llama discovers a pile of cake, which he promptly eats.
On Tuesday, Llama squeezes into his dancing trousers, which he promptly rips.
The force of the rip creates a black hole (naturally).
By Friday, Llama will (indirectly) destroy the world.

In their debut picture book, author/illustrator team Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox introduce young readers to the hilarious, the oblivious, the apocalyptically adorable Llama.
So grab some cake and prepare to dance . . .…


Book cover of The Odd Egg

Simon Philip Why did I love this book?

Emily Gravett is a picture book maestro. I’m a big fan of her work, and The Odd Egg is yet another brilliant picture book, with glorious artwork.

All the birds have laid an egg and are awaiting the arrival of their chicks. All except for Duck, that is. But Duck claims a big, spotted egg as their own – and whilst they have to wait a little bit longer than the others for their egg to hatch, when it finally does, the creature inside it is…unexpected...and…spectacular….

By Emily Gravett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Odd Egg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett is a beautifully illustrated tale with a surprise ending bound to ruffle some feathers!

All the birds have eggs to hatch. All except Duck. Then Duck is delighted to find an egg of his own to look after. It's the most beautiful egg in the whole world! But all the other birds think it's very odd indeed - and everyone's in for a big surprise when it finally hatches.

With split pages, this fun format will keep children in suspense as the story unfolds. And they'll love joining in - creak! crack! as each…


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Totally Turtles!

By Ginjer L. Clarke,

Book cover of Totally Turtles!

Ginjer L. Clarke Author Of Animal Invaders: Creatures Causing Trouble

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Hiker Reader Dancer Nature & science lover Social justice activist

Ginjer's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Did you know that leatherback turtles can weigh up to 2,000 pounds? Or that the Florida softshell turtle can breathe through its snout and its skin? Turtles have been around for millions of years, and we’re still learning more about them!

With simple language and vivid photographs, Totally Turtles! is perfect for emerging readers curious about turtles and how they have managed to adapt, survive, and thrive for so long. Learn about the fascinating world of turtles, from sea to land and everywhere in between.

Totally Turtles!

By Ginjer L. Clarke,

What is this book about?

Learn about turtles and their many talents in this nonfiction leveled reader perfect for kids interested in these shelled creatures and their lives on land and in the water!

Did you know that leatherback turtles can weigh up to two thousand pounds? Or that the Florida softshell turtle can breathe through its snout and its skin? Turtles have been around for millions of years and we're still learning more about them!

With simple language and vivid photographs, Totally Turtles! is perfect for emerging readers curious about turtles and how they have managed to adapt, survive, and thrive for so long.


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