100 Scope Notes
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Putting Your Book in Your Book

So last night I was reading Count on the Subway (illustrated by Dan Yaccarino) to my daughter. We turned the page and her eyes lit up. Here’s what she saw:

Yep, that’s Doug from Doug Unplugged – a book my daughter and I have read a bunch of times. Doug appears on a poster in the background. My daughter loved seeing a familiar face.

Since the dawn of the dawn, illustrators have been sneaking stuff into their pictures – this includes call-backs to their own work. There are a million examples of this. I don’t know if it’s becoming more popular, but it seems that way, doesn’t it?

The way I see it, there are three main variations on putting your past book in your new book:

1. An image from a previous title appears in your new book. This is what happens in Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales, which features an image from her book Just a Minute as a puzzle.

2. A character from a previous book appears in a new book. This is what happens in Extra Yarn, which brings in the bear from I Want My Hat Back. Also the new Number One Sam by Greg Pizolli, which features the croc from Pizolli’s The Watermelon Seed.

3. A character from a previous book is hidden in all of your books. This is the Mo Willems approach. Pigeon is in all of them.

So, how do you feel about it? Do you have any great examples?

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. LOVE this post! Thanks for pointing these out!! I recently did a similar post on picture and children’s books that reference other books:


    These feel like companion posts. :)

  2. Sara Ralph says

    My kids love finding the pigeon in Mo Willems’ books. We read Let’s Go For a Drive last night and my daughter in kindergarten cracked up at spotting the pigeon on the pirate flag on the end papers at the end of the book.

  3. RetAZLib says

    Marc Brown would hide his children’s names in his ARTHUR books.

    • Travis Jonker says

      I didn’t know that! I know here’s added classic books into his illustrations at times (Born to Read features a who’s who of children’s lit staples).

  4. I love this stuff. I’ve also noticed authors doing this sort of thing in novels. Gary Paulsen often includes Hatchet references in his funny, realistic fiction books. C. Alexander London put a cameo by his Accidental Adventurers Oliver and Celia in his YA book Proxy. And even more often, there are tributes to other people’s books and characters, such as Christopher Healy mentioning a hummingbird named Ruby, as a tribute to Barry Wolverton’s Neversink.

    When you read widely, this is the fun stuff you notice!

    • Travis Jonker says

      This should be a whole other post! More and more my pal John and I have been noticing the idea of a well-known book turning up in another book. This has reached it’s apex with I Killed the Mocking Bird, where a classic drives the whole story.

  5. A husband and wife one: Donald Crew’s Truck is one of the toys in Ann Jonas’ Holes and Peeks.

  6. I love finding the little shout-outs in books. I remember reading Extra Yarn, and going around saying that the rabbit wasn’t really dead…
    Also, since I have started telling kids to look for the Pigeon, they seem even more eager to take out Willems’ books. I even had one class at an outreach that wouldn’t let me put away an Elephant and Piggie book until they could find the Pigeon on the back flyleaf…

  7. That image from Extra Yarn made me laugh as I recently had the privilege of watching Jon Klassen deliver a storytime a few weeks ago as part of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It was a small group, maybe less than 10 kids and another 10 or so adults. When he got to that page, Jon deadpanned “Many people think that’s the same rabbit from my other book, but it’s not. Because he’s dead.”

  8. Marc Brown put an Arthur balloon in the Macy’s parade in his new “In New York” book.

  9. You forgot me. I illustrated the book cover of MY FATHER’S LUNCHEONETTE/ Dutton into a spread for IT’S MY EARTH TOO/ Random House

  10. Karen Gray Ruelle says

    I put my daughter’s name in several of my Harry & Emily Adventure easy-readers–hidden in newspapers in the illustrations, etc. Fun to do. Kind of a tribute to Al Hirschfeld (my daughter’s name is Nina.)

  11. Peggy Rathmann played around a lot with this. In 10 Minutes Till Bedtime you can see the animals leaving the zoo from Goodnight Gorilla and there are Office Buckle and Gloria toys on the computer.

  12. I just read The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall, and noticed that the 2 bedtime stories seemed to be Locomotive and Bear and Bee, so calling out to other authors she must like…

    • Travis Jonker says

      Yes! I haven’t seen the book yet, but my pal John passed that along to me. I love it.