How to End Your Picture Book

Last week, I read Dibs! by Laura Gehl.  In this story, Julian has to learn to deal with being a big brother. He tries to do this by calling dibs on various things.  Because we need a plot, obviously this does not work.  I’m not going to review the book here.  You can click through using the link above if you want to read my review.  But I am going to include plot spoilers here as I discuss the ending.

Writing a satisfying ending to your picture book can be tricky although there are several that work well.  These include:

Call to action. This is popular in nonfiction where you challenge the reader to go forth and . . . conserve, recycle, feed the hungry, etc.

Circular ending.  I really like well crafted circular endings.  This ending somehow connects to the beginning.

The surprise ending. In my mind, this is the trickiest type of picture book ending.  It surprises the reader while also flowing from what happened earlier in the story.

Dibs! does two of the three.  It has a circular ending that is also a surprise.

First we’ll discuss the surprise.  Early in the story, Julian deals with Clancy by callind dibs on all the things he is afraid Clancy will take from him – a special plate, cookies, and  an astronaut costume.  Clancy goes bigger and calls dibs on the bakery where the cookies are made, the White House and NASA.  When he travels to space, he and the rocket are grabbed by aliens and he has to be rescued by Julian.

Space, space and more space.  And brothers.  And family.  That’s what the reader has been experiencing through the last two-thirds of the story as they approach the last spread.  Another spread about space wouldn’t be especially surprising so how does Gehl shake it up?  Julian teaches Clancy a new word – jinx!

We’ve been so deep in the space theme, that returning to the theme of an all powerful word is a delightful surprise.  But it works because on the previous spread, the brothers both call dibs on a plate of star cookies.  Unlike earlier times, they are both laughing and we know they are going to share.  Dibs leads us right into jinx in a way that is believable, fun, and surprising.

And circular.  Because we are back to the idea of a key word.

I have to admit that endings are not my strength and when I come across one that works this well . . . wow!  It really wins me over.  Now I just have to develop the perfect ending for my own manuscript.