Last week I indulged my dark and twisty side with my list of "Picture Books With Surprise Endings & Dark Humor" (which I've recently updated), so now I'll balance that with some lighter reads that have surprise endings (or at least a slight twist). These are my favorite kind of books to use in storytime, and I think the kids really like them, too. Unlike the darker books, these can be safely used with the preschoolers as well, though the younger ones may not always follow the plot twist or humor.
The first of these will be ones I've actually used or previously read, but I also got some great suggestions from several other youth services professionals over at Storytime Underground that I'll add too; thanks to all of them for their awesome suggestions!
Bark, George by Jules Feiffer, 1999.
A classic! Everytime George tries to bark, a different animal sound comes out of his mouth. His distraught mother takes him to the vet, and much to everyone's surprise, he pulls out a cat, a duck, a pig, and finally, a cow! Then George is finally able to bark. After they leave, his mother wants to show off his new bark, but when he opens his mouth, out comes "Hello." Did George swallow the vet??
Carrot Soup by John Segal, 2006.
Rabbit can't wait to harvest his carrots and make carrot soup. But, when he arrives at the field they are gone! One by one he asks the other animals if they know what happened to his carrots. Observant children will notice the other animals in the background making off with the carrots. Are the other animals stealing Rabbit's carrots?? In the end, when Rabbit arrives home, we see that there were no nefarious activities after all.
The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett, 2009.
All of the birds have laid eggs, except for poor Duck. But then he finds the most unusual egg and decides to adopt it. One by one, the eggs hatch, except for Duck's. He waits, and waits, until finally, "Crack!", it hatches, but everyone is shocked and frightened by what comes out!
It's A Tiger! by David LaRochelle, 2012.
The story begins in the jungle, with us swinging from vine to vine. But wait, one of those "vines" is not really a vine. It's a tiger! RUN! We are surprised over and over by the ferocious tiger, who in the end just wants to be pet and take a nap. So, let's tell him a story.... "It begins in the jungle, we are swinging from vine to vine. But wait, that 'vine' looks like a ..." I LOVE this book! It is great for a movement storytime and keeping restless, fidgety ones engaged.
Are You A Horse? by Andy Rash, 2009.
Another recent classic. Cowboy Roy's friends give him a saddle for his birthday, with the instructions to "1. Find a horse," and "2. Enjoy the ride." There's just one problem, Roy doesn't know what a horse is! But, he set's off to find one, and after several missteps, finally does. But, as it turns out, the instructions needed to have been just a little more specific!
This is very funny, but runs a little long, so you might want to skip one or two of the animals to shorten it.
Sometimes It's Turkey, Sometimes It's Feathers by Lorna and Lecia Balian, 2003 (originally published in 1973).
A Thanksgiving classic. Mrs. Gumm finds a turkey egg and raises the turkey to have for Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey eats, and eats, and eats; getting fatter and fatter, just in time for Thanksgiving.
But, in the end the turkey turns out to be their guest rather than the main course! Was that Mrs. Gumm's plan all along, or could she just not bring herself to eat him after all?
Hieronymus Betts and his Unusual Pets by M. P. Robertson, 2005.
Hieronymus Betts has some very unusual pets, such as the slimy slugapotamus, the fierce grizzly hare, and the stinky bog hog. But Hieronymus knows of something even slimier, smellier, noisier, fiercer, scarier, and stranger than all of his unusual pets! What could it be?
Older siblings, especially sisters of little brothers, will really appreciate the humor of this book.
You Can Do It, Bert! by Ole Konnecke, 2013.
Today Bert is trying something for the very first time. He walks to the end of the branch to check things out. Then he walks back to take a running start....and has a snack instead. Finally after some encouragement he is ready, and takes a running start and jumps, covering his eyes.
The audience can cheer Bert on as he tries to fly for the first time. But, wait, that's not what he was trying to do after all, and he knew how to fly all along!
I'm Bad! by Kate and Jim McMullan, 2008.
Look out! The big, bad, fierce T. rex is on the hunt, looking for his dinner. However, time after time, he fails to catch his prey. He begins to get very upset and frustrated, and the audience may wonder at his lack of hunting prowess. But in the end, he is saved from starvation.....by his mom. As it turns out he wasn't really a big, bad T. rex, but a baby one just learning how to hunt.
Tyson the Terrible by Diane and Christyan Fox, 2006.
Stegg, Serra, and Plod are playing soccer when they hear a loud "Boom! Boom! Boom!" in the distance. The sound gets closer, and they fear it is the rumored Tyson the Terrible, the biggest, meanest dinosaur around. They quickly hide, but then hear the sounds of someone crying and find a tiny dinosaur, sad because no one will play with him. The three laugh at themselves for being scared of such a small dinosaur, and invite him to play. When he asks if his little brother can join them, they agree. But his "little" brother isn't what they expected!
The Doghouse by Jan Thomas, 2008.
Mouse, Cow, Pig, and Duck are playing a game of ball when, oh, no! The ball goes into the DOGHOUSE! Who will be brave enough to go into the doghouse and retrieve their ball? One by one the animals go into the doghouse to get the ball, and don't come back out!
Finally, Mouse is the only one left. Fearing the worst, he finally gets up his nerve and braves going inside, to find a very different scene than he expected!
Alan's Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis, 2016.
Alan is a big, scary alligator with big, scary razor-sharp teeth. Every morning he polishes his scales, brushes his teeth, and practices making scary faces. Then he spends his day frightening all the other animals. At night, he likes to sit back and relax, taking out his teeth, which turn out to be dentures!
One day Alan loses his teeth, which are found by the other animals. They refuse to give them back unless he promises to stop scaring them. But what else can he do??
The Wolf's Chicken Stew by Keiko Kasza, 1996.
The wolf wants some chicken stew, but Mrs. Chicken is a little too thin, so he decides to fatten her up first. Every day he leaves yummy goodies at her door, until she catches him. She and her many chicks are so grateful for the treats, giving him a hundred kisses, that he changes his mind. Mrs. Chicken fixes him a nice dinner, and he leaves, planning the next treat he will bring them.
Keiko Kasza has authored several other picture books, most of which have a humorous twist at the end, including The Dog Who Cried Wolf and My Lucky Day, among others.
The following were suggested by some of the great storytimers at Storytime Underground:
Wolf's Coming by Joe Kulka, 2007.
A wolf's howl is heard throughout the forest. "Wolf's coming, wolf's coming!" the other animal cry. "Wolf's coming!" mothers whisper urgently as they urge their children along. "Wolf's coming!" they say as they all rush to hide. Wolf gets closer, and closer. Wolf opens the door and walks in, and...
"SURPRISE!" the other animals all shout. It's a birthday party for wolf, with pizza and cake for everyone! This one looks perfect for my storytime kids.
Hippospotamus by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, 2012.
Poor Hippopotamus has a red spotamus on her bottom. What could it be? A bite? A sting? A blister? Hippopox? Jungle fever? Hippolumps? Hippoflu? All the other animals have different theories, but no one knows for sure, and poor Hippopotamus is frantic with worry. Then, a young boy comes up, and says, "That's not a spot; that's my....."
Hint: This story would be great to pair with the "Icky, Sticky Bubble Gum" song. Can't wait to use this one!
Always In Trouble by Corinne Demas, 2009.
Both of these books are about very badly behaved dogs who get into all kinds of trouble. They both go through training and seem to mend their ways and be on their best behavior. That is, until you get to the last page!
I'd Really Like To Eat a Child, by Sylviane Donnio and Dorothee de Monfried, 2007.
One day a young crocodile decides that he really wants to eat a child, and refuses all the other food his parents offer him. Later, he spies a child down by the stream. What luck! As he moves in to attack, suddenly the tables are turned, and Achilles finds out he's not yet big enough to eat a child!
Shark's Big Surprise by A. H. Benjamin and Bill Bolton, 2013.
Shark is big and scary, so none of the other sea creatures want to hang out with him, and he is lonely. One day, he sets out and one by one, snatches up Lobster, Octopus, Starfish, Turtle, and Jellyfish, stuffing them in his collection bag. The creatures are frightened and fear the worst.
The audience will be sure he plans on eating them, but, surprise! He only wanted them to come to his party.
Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown, 2012.
Jasper Rabbit loves carrots, especially the wild carrots that grow in Crackenhopper Field. He eats them all the time: on the way to school, on the way to practice, on the way home, etc. Until one day the carrots start following him! Or are they? Is it real, or is his mind playing tricks on him?
Finally, Jasper can't take it anymore and builds an impenetrable wall around the carrot patch. Which is exactly what the carrots wanted him to do!
Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox and Lydia Monks, 2003.
The prince hears Rapunzel crying about a bad hair day and thinks she is trapped in the tower. He calls for her to let down her hair, but she thinks he says "underwear." This continues until he finally calls for her to let down her braid, but she sends down her maid. The prince and the maid fall in love and ride off together. Rapunzel is happy for them and hopes they come back to visit, but simply knock on the door next time!
This is one "fractured fairy tale" that is short enough for the younger kids! The text is short and silly, and you know the mention of "underwear" will bring lots of giggles and cries of "ewww, nasty!"
Snip Snap! What's That? by Mara Bergman and Nick Maland, 2005.
A big alligator comes creeping up the stairs, closer and closer, opening it's jaws wide. Were the children scared? You bet they were! It slithers closer and closer, until it's right in front of them, and the children have had enough! They shout, "Alligator, you get out!" And was the alligator scared? You bet he was!
A great story for building suspense!
The Little Mouse Santi by David Eugene Ray and Santiago Germano, 2015.
The once was a little mouse named Santi who wanted to be a cat. He practiced acting bored and ignoring everyone, and watched the other cats. He didn't care that the other mice laughed at him, and one day decided to go out and sit with an big orange cat, practicing being a cat. He finally asked the other cat if he though Santi made a good cat, to which he replied, "How would I know? I'm a dog."
Grandpa's Teeth by Rod Clement, 1999.
Grandpa's room looked like it had been ransacked, and his false teeth are missing and presumed stolen. There is a huge investigation, sparking so much suspicion that everyone has no choice but to smile all the time to prove their teeth are their own, which is very exhausting and weirds the tourists out! Finally, in order to get everything back to normal, the town takes up a collection to buy Grandpa some new teeth. Finally, things are back to normal. But, on the very last page, the culprit is revealed!
This one is funny, but while it's only 32 pages, there is a lot of text on each page, making it very long. I would save this for kindergartners and up.
The rest of these are titles that were suggested, but I was unable to get my hands on a copy to review, so I'll just list the titles. It's possible that some of of these may have been intended for the dark humor list or are just funny but don't necessarily have a surprise ending, so definitely pre-read before using, just in case.
Little Bee by Edward Gibbs
I'm Coming To Get You by Tony Ross
Gorillas In Our Midst
The Icky Sticky Frog
Our Tree Named Steve
Donna O'Neeshack Was Chased by Some Cows by Bill Grossman
White Dynamite and Carly Kidd by Bill Martin
Whatever by William Bee
Hello, Doctor by Michael Escoffier
Baaa by David Macaulay
The Book of Mean People by Toni and Sladd Morrison
Some Things Are Scary by Florence Parry Heide
Frog On A Log (I don't really consider this a surprise ending, but it's funny)
And I'm sure there are still some that are not on this list, so if you know of a picture book with a good twist or surprise ending, please add it in the comments on this blog post! I've definitely learned of some new ones, and been reminded of others, that I can't wait to use in storytime soon!