Like dessert, the ending of a story stays with us. Here are some endings (without spoilers!) to picture books for children: the simple (but total!) surprise; the minor twist; the totally predictable (and utterly charming); and the sweet and satisfying.
Wolf’s Coming! by Joe Kulka
There’s a delicious kind of fear when we’re reading a scary story—not too scary, but scary enough to make us quiver with excitement.
Just ask the kindergartners.
“Are you sure you want me to turn the page?” I ask them. “You’re not too scared?” No, they aren’t, but I certainly have their attention right up to the denouement on the last page.
Rated for kindergarten to grade two, this story even has nine-year-old Tina mystified at first. I think it’s the marriage of text and illustrations that does us all in. Kulka’s bright, almost garish portrayals of the night sky, drooling wolf, and alarmed prey animals set everyone from kindergartners to sophisticated grade threes to the story lady herself up for the ending.
And it’s a good one.
Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
Three would-be mighty hunters have a plan, the mini-might has bread, and Albert Einstein has a quote.
The text is sparse and effective, and the illustrations are most dramatic—humans and scenery in shades of black and blue, prey in bright colors. The ending is cute—and leaves us without a speck of worry about the fate of the hunted. Although I like the story, I’d have liked it even better if the hunters had learned something. However, your color-loving correspondent would also recommend Haughton’s book for the artwork alone.
Where Is That Cat? by Carol Greene
Who doesn’t know that none of the would-be pet owners is going to find the elusive feline? The only mystery is where he’s going to hide next. But, like those who watch “The Sound of Music” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas” every year, children take great pleasure in knowing what’s going to happen next–and perhaps they will also enjoy your “surprise” at their confidence.
Chaucer’s First Winter by Stephen Krensky
This happy little bear proved very popular with the kindergartners. When Chaucer’s older friends, Nugget the Fox and Kit the Squirrel, tell the cub he’ll be sleeping the winter away, he’s understandably disappointed—and curious.
So, certain that his parents are asleep in the den, Chaucer sneaks outside for a fun-filled winter. His friends are apt teachers, and Chaucer loves sliding, snowball fights, icicles . . . and he even builds a snug snow house for them all before a storm hits.
But where are his parents? Snoozing peacefully? Look around the corner, behind the tree, and even in the snowstorm, and you’ll see that Chaucer’s watchful parents are never far away.
When his beloved snow melts into puddles, Chaucer heads back to the cave to tell his parents all about his adventures. And then . . . the sweet ending.
So there you have it–the mystery dessert, the apple pie with a new spice, Grandma’s traditional Christmas cake, and a piece of fudge. Enjoy the stories with your little ones, and savor the flavor long after the children have gone to sleep.