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It's a Secret Hardcover – June 9, 2009

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Waiting is a big part of childhood. Waiting in line, waiting to grow up, waiting for something special to happen. However, now a child sets the stage and pulls the strings in a timeless, heartfelt picture book about imaginative play, friendship, and surprises. Paperback | More for ages 3-5
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Editorial Reviews


"* "It is the easiest thing in the world to be drawn into this dreamy adventure and to return exhilarated and exhausted from a trip to a party and a meeting with the Queen of the Cats." Guardian * "This is a warm read with oodles of easy charm." Junior" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Burningham, a two-time winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, is the authorillustrator of numerous picture books, including HARVEY SLUMFENBURGER'S CHRISTMAS PRESENT. He lives in London.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2
  • Lexile Measure: 610L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763642754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763642754
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 0.5 x 11.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Burningham studied illustration and graphic design at the Central School of Art, graduating with distinction in 1959. Many illustration commissions followed including iconic posters for London Transport, before the publication of Borka: the Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers, John's first book for children (Cape, 1963) which won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration and heralded the beginning of an extraordinary career.

John Burningham has since written and illustrated over thirty picture books, that have been translated and distributed all over the world. These feature his classic and much loved children's books including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, by Ian Fleming (Jonathan Cape, 1964); Mr Gumpy's Outing (Jonathan Cape, 1970) also awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal; Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (Jonathan Cape, 1972); The Shopping Basket (Random House, 1980); The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (Penguin/Puffin, 1983); Granpa (Jonathan Cape, 1984) later made into an animated film and Oi! Get off our Train (Jonathan Cape, 1989) and various books for adults England (Jonathan Cape, 1992); France (Jonathan Cape, 1998); The Time of Your Life (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2002) and When We Were Young (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2004).

Tug of War was republished in 2012, and a special edition of Borka, celebrating 50 years in print, was published in June 2013. Picnic appeared in the autumn of 2013 and The Way to the Zoo was published in the UK in 2014. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is celebrating its 50th year in print with a limited edition in hardback to be published in 2015.

John is married to the illustrator, Helen Oxenbury. They have three children, three grandchildren and a dog named Miles. They live in London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By on July 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a book about a very ordinary house cat named Malcolm. No, wait, make that an extraordinary cat who only projects the illusion of being an ordinary house cat. By day, he spends much of day sleeping on the couch curled up in a ball, but by night .... why, that's a very different story.

Each night Malcolm dresses himself in fancy duds and steps out on the town with his friends. Marie Elaine, his owner, just happens to catch him leaving one night and discovers his secret. She begs to come with him. He relents, but only if she wears appropriate party attire and "gets small" to fit through the cat door.

Mary Elaine happily meets Malcolm's conditions and they flee through the night - only to be caught red-handed by the neighbor boy, Norman Kowalski. Or course, Norman demands to come as well, and now three of them are nearly late to the secret party. They rush past a pack of dogs, narrowly escaping by dashing up a fire escape and sliding down a wire.

The feline celebration is wonderful, complete with balloons, an accordian player and festive dancing. They share a wonderful midnight feast and the Queen of the Cats presents everyone with small gifts. Nobody wants the party to end, but they reluctantly say their goodbyes and travel homeward. In the morning, Mary Elaine's mother says to her "You look as if you were out all night with the cat." Oh, if only she knew!

What a wonderfully magical story. This takes a seemingly ordinary pet and gives them a secret existence! Beautiful mixed media illustrations complete the fantasy, making this a truly lovely book. What are your own pets up to while you sleep? It's a secret!
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Format: Hardcover
By the time everyone got up in the morning Malcolm, who went out every night, was fast asleep on the green couch. Marie Elaine asked her mother where cats went at night, but she just said, "I don't know. They just go outside somewhere." That didn't seem like a very good answer, but it would have to do. One night Marie Elaine came downstairs to get a drink and spotted Malcolm "by the cat door." He was wearing a bright red coat fastened at the waist with a dandy belt, a ruffled blouse and was sporting a green hat with a feathery plume sticking out of it. Hmmmm, what was that cat up to?

Marie Elaine was really curious and asked him where he was going. "I'm going to a party, but I can't say where because it's a secret." She begged Malcolm to let her go with him and when he agreed, she hurried to get on her party dress and off they went through the cat door (of course she had to get small to do that!). Norman Kowalski soon joined them, but he only was allowed to go because if he didn't he was going to tell on her. Past those dog thugs, up the fire escape, across the top of a big crane, down the crane wire rope and they were at the rooftop party. Let the party begin!

Everyone loves a secret and the adventures of Marie Elaine, Norman and Malcolm and their madcap nighttime adventure make this one fun and endearing. The art work fully compliments this uniquely witty tale and once and for all lets us know what cats do at night. The story has a nice flow to it and the reader will have trouble with little hands turning the pages anxious to find out what the characters are up to. This would be a perfect story or circle time book for many little ones to enjoy. Now Marie Elaine and Norman know what cats do at night and so will you, but can you keep a secret?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The Upsetter on June 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Word of mouth led me to find this gem. We actually had been waiting for our library to get it and in the meantime read several other books by the author. My daughter ended up getting it for her birthday and it has been a favorite from her bookcase ever since.

This book is exactly the kind of playful, imaginative, and original storytelling I love to find for my 4 year old. Every time we get into the nighttime adventures of the protagonist and her cat, my daughter's eyes always grow wide and she gets a big grin. The art is wonderfully original, as well. A variety of techniques and texture keep the story visually compelling over several reads.

A less important quality: it's the perfect length for bedtime. We tend to follow a picture book with some chapter book reading so I love it when it's a book that takes 10 minutes or less to read!

John Burningham has been creating kids' books for over 40 years. Of all of the ones we've read, and there were many great ones, this is the best and most fun. He's an astounding talent to have pulled that off!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lori on November 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In this book "It's A Secret", author John Burningham brings out an intriguing curiosity of a little girl; by the name of Marie Elaine. Marie wonders what her cat does at night while she is sleeping. One night she had gotten up to make herself a snack, when she saw her cat all dressed up and ready to go somewhere. After she found out he was going out, she pleaded to go with him. At first the cat said he wasn't sure because it was a secret, but then he let her go after she promised to keep the secret. They flew out the door, and on their way a friend saw them and joined. Shortly after they had come to an alleyway; they had to be quit because they didn't want the dogs that lived there to hear them. To Their surprise the dogs started to chase them, but the cat knew how to ditch them. Finally they ended up to the secret place that cats go at night. Now you have to go check out this book at your local library, and find out what happens in the end! I found this fictional picture book fun and suspenseful for children. The illustrations looked as if they were mostly drawn out with pencil then covered slightly with color. I think this book would be a fun read; to use young minds imagination
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