This list was challenging for me to put together. The first six were easy but then the digging got hard. Did you know that Goodnight Moon has a little white mouse hidden on the full-page color illustrations? OK, it took me a while to learn about that.
This book was a gift my oldest received as an infant and is a cherished book that I read over and over and over again. I think I must have read it more than 25 times WITHOUT noticing the little white mouse when a mom friend casually mentioned it (who knows exactly what we were talking about?!).
All of a sudden, the book was fresh again. AND that little white mouse was surprisingly hard to locate. As the kids grew older, they delighted in spotting it and continued to struggle with certain pages if we had long lapses between readings.
And then I noticed the red balloon (plus the mouse with the banana) in one of my favorite books, Goodnight Gorilla. And I LOVE Peggy Rathman. On the umpteenth reading, my husband noticed the photographs on the walls of the zoo keeper’s house… I appreciate that the author/illustrator realizes that the adult might be reading their book 2650 times so they’ve added a little twist to keep us going.
And these twists are not advertised anywhere in the book; they are just there for those who need a little something because repetition is numbing their mind. I love their creativity and the fact that the hidden things are under the radar. It feels like a secret club.
Here’s the secret handshake to join … tell me your favorite book like this. I am still struggling to find one more! Thanks!
Secret Things (Easter Eggs) to Spot in Picture Books
10. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Find the little white mouse on the full-color spreads. The mouse is somewhere in the bedroom. It’s on everyone but some of them are tricky!
9. The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
There are fish shaped like seaweed leaves hidden on some of the pages. Can you find them? Also, Pout Pout’s friend is hiding on most of the pages.
8. I See the Sun In … series by Dodie King
In the book about Nepal, find the yellow kite. In the book about China, find the red lantern.
7. Halibut Jackson by David Lucas
Can you spot Halibut Jackson as he tries to blend into his surroundings? And here’s a real-life “Halibut Jackson” artist in China.
6. Dotty by Erica S. Perl
Find the teacher’s imaginary friend.
5. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Baillet
The clues for solving the mysteries are hidden in the book. I read this book a while ago and I wasn’t able to solve the mystery myself with the pentominoes so I am getting an assist here from Ashland Schools: Throughout the book, many clues are given to the reader to help solve the mystery. The clues involve, the use of pentominoes and illustrations. Pentominoes are a mathematical tool consisting of twelve pieces. Each of the pieces is made up of five squares that share at least one side.
To print out your own set of pentominoes, or learn more about the book, click here. On this website, you will find copies of the pictures and letters from the book. These will help you uncover the clues necessary to solve the mystery.
If you look carefully at Brett Helquist’s chapter illustrations, you will find a hidden message. It is related to the pentomino code in the book, but not presented exactly in the same form. A certain living creature plays a part in deciphering this code, and pieces of the message appear in the artwork at regular intervals that create a pattern within the book. HINT. This pattern is even, but odd. it has as many pieces as a set of pentominoes.
4. Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems
My Kindergarten son and I are HUGE fans of Mo Willems and we’ve read nearly all of his books. I had a feeling that Mo would do something fun in his books and when I read this last night, I found: a stuffed animal of Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus, and the squirrel from Elephant and Piggie I Love My New Toy scattered throughout this book. Maybe there are more references to his other books? Let me know if you find anything else!
3. 93 in My Family by Erica S. Perl
Can you find Ed, the gerbil? He’s on every page spread and he’s easy to identify because he’s the only one wearing a shirt with his name on it!
2. Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
There are lots of fun things to spot. On every page spread, look for the red balloon. It’s there but it gets tricky to find because some of the pages only have part of it showing! There is also a mouse carrying a banana on every page spread. That is less challenging to find but also fun. Finally, check out the photographs the zookeeper and his wife have in their house. Notice anything?! I love this book!
1. Arthur series by Marc Brown
Find Marc’s children’s names hidden throughout each book (Tolon, Eliza, and Tucker) … and I noticed there are more names in recent books so I am guessing that grandkids are being added as well!
Thank you to reader Kate for Mr. Magnolia by Quentin Blake who says, “I’d like to add Mr. Magnolia by Quentin Blake, which I didn’t realize was a counting book, as well as a brilliant rhyming and story, for an embarrassingly long time.”
To examine any of the items listed, please click on image of item.
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p.s. Related posts:
Best Picture Books You’ve Never Heard Of
3 Fun Picture Books for Father’s Day
Great STEM Picture Books paired with Fun Activities
Funny Picture Books About Summer Camp
5 Fun Interactive Picture Books
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
18 thoughts on “Top 10: Secret Hidden Things in Picture Books”
Wow – I never knew about these! Thanks for such fun information!
This is so cool – and I didn’t know any of this, thank you!
This is a really lovely idea for a post and a great list. I’d like to add Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake, which I didn’t realise was a counting book, as well as a brilliant rhyming and story, for an embarrassingly long time.
Thank you for the book! I’ll add to the list!!
Mo Willems books–the inside back cover–all of the characters are the same, but one. The pigeon shows up a lot amongst a lot of Elephants or a single hot dog amongst a lot of pigeons.
Thank you! I love that about Mo Willems! His covers are such fun!
Most of Jan Brett’s books that are not about Hedgie still have a hedgehog in the illustrations somewhere.
Thank you for that tip! I didn’t know that and I’ve enjoyed Jan Brett’s books for years! I gotta go get them now to find the hedgehog!
My little ones love searching for the mouse and spider in Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter books. And each of my books has references to previous books in the series that children will be delighted to find along with other little details my illustrator has woven in that observant parents will appreciate. I won’t give them away, but I will say he’s got a very quirky sense of humor, lol.
Hi Little Hearts,
We’ve read Little Critter books but never really honed in on the mouse and spider! I’ll have to take a closer look! Thanks so much for pointing the secret hidden things out in kids’ books! It’s so fun to discover these!
This is really cool! My kids have always liked examining the pictures, but I am not sure if we’ve ever noticed any of these before.
Thanks so much! It is fun to discover these secret hidden things. Like you are on the inside of a joke or that you are the only one who realizes this!
Goodnight Moon has a few more hidden surprises. The book on Bunny’s nightstand is Goodnight Moon, there is a copy of Runaway Bunny on the bookshelf, the three bears picture has the cow jumping over the moon on their wall also.
Oh, THANK YOU for pointing that out! I missed that and I love it! I’m going to take a closer look! This will delight my kids even though they are older now, but still, never too old for Goodnight Moon!
In Goodnight moon. The time on the clock changes every page. It takes little bunny over an hour to fall asleep!!
I love that and, of course, I totally missed that! Poor mother bunny! Her bedtime routine takes as long as mine! Thanks so much for pointing that out! I love finding these great surprises in picture books!!!
Giraffes Can’t Dance is another book we’ve discovered has a hidden cricket, plus a red, blue & yellow bug hidden on each page!
LOVE that! I need to get a copy of Giraffes Can’t Dance!!!