Purposeful Page Turns in Picture Books

We all know how crucial the first line is when writing a story: we have to hook the reader and make them want to read more. (See Laura Cooper’s post on Fabulous First Lines here) But sensational writing can’t stop on the first page. We need to entice the reader to keep turning the page, over and over, til they reach the end. How do we do that? One way is with a purposeful page turn.

Some page turns happen because it’s the end of a scene or a moment. Some happen to provide a break in the tension. But a purposeful page turn is different. It can be a cliffhanger, a set-up, to add surprise and engage the reader toward a satisfying payoff. Here are some great examples of books with purposeful page turns:


Albert’s Almost Amazing Adventure by Marty Kelley-

Ex: “We climbed aboard the boat and as soon as we set sail, we found out that the captain was really a—”


Snappsy The Alligator Did Not Ask To Be In This Book by Julie Falatko and Tim Miller-

Ex: “He prowled through the forest, looking for victims, when he came to a—”


Be Quiet! By Ryan T. Higgins

Ex: “A cucumber!” “We’ll just draw a smile on it and add some googly eyes…”


The Friend Ship by Kat Yeh and Chuck Groenink

Ex: “‘The answer is right in front of us!’

And she pointed- straight at the sunset.”


First Grade Dropout by Audrey Vernick and Matthew Cordell

Ex. “’Anyway, what happened to me was worse. I raised my hand. I waited my turn. And when Ms. Morgan called on me…I accidentally…called her…’”

If you don’t paginate your manuscript while you write, take some time to do it before you submit. You may find some great places to add in purposeful page turns to engage your reader. Oh, and a purposeful page turn bonus? Books with great page turns make for great read alouds!

What books can you think of that have purposeful page turns?


  1. Great post! One of my favorite page turns is the next to last page of Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly. After trying out several inanimate objects as pets, since her parents won’t let her have one, they finally give her a cat. “What will you name him?” asks Dad. The last page is a fun, full-circle surprise.


  2. Great post, Kim. Yes, those page turns are imperative to think about. There are so many books with great page turns. You mention wonderful examples. But of course, the ones I’m most familiar with are my own. (Sorry. This business requires shameless self-promotion.) One is in BEFORE I SLEEP: I SAY THANK YOU – the next to the last page says, “…And the last one is…” and I always have kids guess before I turn the page. And the other is in my new book, YOU KNOW WHAT? one of the pages shows Oliver upside down looking under his bed saying, “Okay, Mommy. They’ll probably still be here in the morning. I’m not afraid.” Perfect time to pause and have them think what’s under the bed before I turn the page. Page turns are one of the reasons I love picture books so!


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