9 PJ Library Books With Surprise Endings

surprised child reading a book

What makes picture books fun to read? Sometimes it’s the relatable characters, other times it’s the detailed or colorful illustrations. And sometimes it’s the twist at the end that keeps things exciting.

The value of hakarat hatov (literally “recognizing the good”) is about expressing gratitude for life’s joys, and books that surprise and delight you and your family are definitely something you can be grateful for.

In this collection of PJ Library books, all the stories have something in common: a twist! From animals that do unusual things, to surprise visitors, to the magic of nature, all of these stories have fun little surprises at the end that will delight both the kids and grown-ups reading them.

We’ll try not to give too much away in case you haven’t read any of these selections, but chances are these favorites are already in regular rotation in your house.

The Apple Tree’s Discovery book cover

The Apple Tree’s Discovery
by Peninnah Schram and Rachayl Eckstein Davis

Recommended for ages 4 to 5

Little Apple Tree wishes she had stars hanging from her branches, instead of just ordinary apples. But as time goes by, she recognizes that everyone has something special shining inside. As a bonus, the secret revealed at the end also makes a fun and quick hands-on activity for kids.

Engineer Arielle and the Independence Day Surprise book cover

Engineer Arielle and the Independence Day Surprise by Deborah Bodin Cohen

Recommended for ages 4 to 5

This follow-up to Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride is set in modern-day Israel during Yom Ha’Atzmaut, when engineer Ari’s great-great-granddaughter, Arielle, drives a light rail train through Jerusalem. Throughout the story, Arielle gives hints about how her brother will be participating in the celebration, but you don’t find out until the end what his unique role really is.

First Rain book cover

First Rain by Charlotte Herman

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

When Abby moves with her family to Israel, she misses her grandmother and remembers the fun they had with each other. Writing to each other helps, but it doesn’t take the place of spending time together. At the end of this sweet story, the two of them get to share a special experience.

Oh No, George! book cover

Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton

Recommended for ages 3 to 4

George is a dog who means well. He really does. But he keeps making mistakes. Soon George learns how to take responsibility for his behavior, make amends, and try to do better the next time. What makes this surprise ending unique isn’t what’s revealed at the end, but instead what isn’t revealed.

Picnic at Camp Shalom book cover

Picnic at Camp Shalom by Jacqueline Jules

Recommended for ages 6 to 7

When Carly laughs at Sara’s last name, her bunkmate at Camp Shalom refuses to be consoled. Little does Sara know that Carly has a reason for her outburst. When their mutual love of music brings harmony to Shabbat dinner as well as to their friendship, Carly finally gets the chance to reveal her secret.

Shabbat Hiccups book cover

Shabbat Hiccups by Tracy Newman

Recommended for ages 4 to 5

Jonah got the hiccups -- and it’s Shabbat! How can he get his hiccups to quiet down? Everyone has a remedy in this fun story that shows a full Shabbat celebration all the way through Havdalah on Saturday night. There’s just one minor hiccup at the end!

Shmulik Paints the Town book cover

Shmulik Paints the Town by Lisa Chottiner

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, is here -- and the mayor wants Shmulik to paint a mural to celebrate. But when Shmulik can’t decide what to paint, it turns out he has a secret helper.

Tea with Zayde book cover

Tea with Zayde by Barney Saltzberg

Recommended for ages 2 to 3

Teatime with Zayde is always fun! Lucky for this little one, he’s never far away, either -- thanks to the miracle of the digital age.

The Vanishing Gourds: A Sukkot Mystery book cover

The Vanishing Gourds: A Sukkot Mystery
by Susan Axe-Bronk

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

Sara and her mom make a special trip to the country to choose decorations for the family sukkah. Who’s responsible for the fact that Sara’s favorite gourds disappear, one by one, from the sukkah? What’s fun about this story is that the disappearing gourds isn’t the final mystery. The real surprise is what happens during Sukkot the next year.


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