November 19


Top Ten Picture Books that Play with Perception and Perspective by Megan Lingo

Are your eyes playing tricks on you?

There is something so enjoyable about optical illusions and other images that test the limits of our visual perceptual processing—the brain’s ability to make meaning of what we see. Much of the workaday world is invisible in its familiarity (the same button, same bus stop, same barista), but playful visual incongruities give us a chance to stop, look more closely, and marvel.

Tricks of perception and perspective are more than just trippy fun, though. Visual processing ability is critical for learning to read and succeeding in school, and learners benefit from engaging with images that let them practice this set of skills. What’s more, images that force us to question what we see invite us to evaluate our outlooks on a much deeper level. Visual perspective can be a powerful metaphor that reminds us to empathize, respect multiple viewpoints, and put value on diverse life experiences.

Here are ten books with illustrations that play with perception and perspective and open us to new points of view.


They All Saw a Cat

Brendan Wenzel

Chronicle Books

Ages 3 to 5, Grades P to K

When you see a cat, what do you see? Well, it depends on if you are a fox, a fish, or a number of other creatures depicted in this breakout success. This book has major buzz, and it is the new show-don’t-tell go-to for teaching about empathy in homes and classrooms.


duck rabbit

Duck! Rabbit!

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Chronicle Books

Ages 4 to 8, Grades P to 3

Well, which is it? You tell me. Are you sure? How do you know? Better look again.



Undercover : One of These Things is Almost Like The Others

Bastien Contraire

Phaidon Press

Ages 3 to 6, Grades P to 1

The high-contrast color palette and large size of this book are so appealing that you might not notice that it is giving the brain quite a workout. Each of its pages presents a group of objects, and readers must find the one that doesn’t quite belong. A wordless format and subtle jokes add to the fun.



Look! A Book!

Bob Staake

Little Brown BYR

Ages 4 to 8, Grades P to 3

Seek-and-find books are enjoyable for all ages and exercise the subset of visual processing known as figure-ground perception. This helps you find the homework assignment on the teacher’s white board, that elusive four-leaf clover in the outfield, or—you know—seven miniature pizza slices and an underwater honeybee.



ABC: The Alphabet from the Sky

Benedikt Gross, Joey Lee

Price Stern Sloan – Penguin Young Readers Group

Ages 3 to 5, Grades K And Under

This is not-your-mama’s alphabet book. Its creators used satellite technology to compile photos of letters “hidden” in neighborhoods, roads, waterways. The world looks a lot different from the sky, and readers are left wondering which letters might be too close for us to see.



The Great Journey

Agathe Demois, Vincent Godeau

Tate (Abrams)

Ages 5 to 7, Grades K to 2

Use a cellophane view-finder to discover what is hiding on each page, where fanciful scenes play out in blue ink behind a screen of tightly-patterned red. A great choice for igniting scientific inquiry or hooking kids into discussions of filtered media messages.



Palazzo Inverso

D.B. Johnson

HMH Books for Young Readers

Ages 4 to 7, Grades P to 3

Have you ever owned an MC Escher poster? His famous Relativity lithograph (the one with the staircases) is a right of passage, and this fascinating picture book riffs on the concept by adding a narrative element. Read the book through once, then flip it over to read an alternative version of the story. The truth is relative, man.




Suzy Lee

Chronicle Books

Ages 4 to 8, Grades P to 3

Suzy Lee’s “Shadow” is a wordless ode to solitary play. Using two-color charcoal drawings and double-page spreads, this Seoul-based artist creates an immersive experience that blurs the lines between real and pretend and illuminates the magic in a child’s imagination. (Click!)



Follow the Line

Laura Ljungkvist

Viking BYR

Ages 3 to 5, Grades K And Under

I’m a fan of Laura Ljungkvist’s aesthetic, my kids are drawn in by her simple text, and we all love the interactions we have around this counting book. The illustrations are one continuous line that turns, twists, and loops through the city, over the sea, into the sky, and more. It’s a cool concept made cooler when you consider that tracking the line with your eyes is a prerequisite visual processing skill for reading, which requires that eyes track a line of text from left to right.



The Pruwahaha Monster

Jean-Paul Mulders, Jacques Maes, Lise Braekers

Kids Can Press

Ages 4 to 7, Grades P to 2

Just saying the name of this book aloud is both spine-TINGLING and spine-TICKLING, and I’m in awe of how the book achieves this magical mash-up. At first, The Pruwahaha Monster seems to be a terrifying creature—a large-clawed stalker who lurks through the autumn woods, but when the words and the pictures collide in the final pages, readers are left with happy, warm hearts. What you think you see is not always what you actually see.


Megan Lingo is a veteran reading teacher and Educational Therapist, a mom to three kids under three, and a lifelong lover of books. She isn’t bragging, but she does have Mac Barnett’s autograph. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook @ChickadeeLit, Instagram @chickadee.lit, or her, where she writes about reading for kids and families.