It's a Secret Book Poster Image

It's a Secret



Whimsical story ideal for young cat lovers.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A little girl sneaks out through the pet door with her cat and parties all night, but it is all an imaginative adventure. Everyone joins in and has fun. 

Positive role models

The little girl does sneak out at night, but it's made clear that this is just a fantasy.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that kids will enjoy this pleasant little story, especially those who like cats and wonder where they go at night. The story is set in an imaginary nighttime world where animals wear clothes, talk, and dance. Also, the little girl is able to make herself small enough to sneak out through the pet door.

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What's the story?

Marie Elaine wonders where her cat goes at night, and has quite an adventure when he lets her tag along to a secret rendezvous that includes avoiding dogs, bopping out at a rooftop dance party, and dinner with the queen of cats. Is this really what cats do, or has it all been a dream?

Is it any good?


John Burningham creates a dreamy, imaginary world where cats, kids, and a couple of dogs mingle in a night full of frolicking fun and fantasy that kids will love. The story is fanciful and friendly, definitely told with a certain Alice's Adventures In Wonderland flair. And the artwork is enchanting: Burningham's illustrations are simple yet stunningly creative. His pencil-drawn, painted characters are cut out and placed against backgrounds that are either absent of color or dark with the mystery of night, all of which adds to the secret. 

From the moment Marie Elaine discovers the cat decked out in a green feathered hat and red jacket, the adventure begins. Marie Elaine is able to change size, follow the cat through a maze of buildings, and even meet the queen at the rooftop dance. And in the end, curled up on the couch with the cat, the girl is awoken from her dream by her mother. Kids may not love the ending, but they will cherish and enjoy the journey.

Multi-media artwork that includes pencil drawings, collages, and paint is expressive and whimsical, and quite unique. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about cats. Where do they go at night? Why do they sleep all day?

  • How was it possible for Marie Elaine to make herself smaller? Could a person really do that? Why is it not OK to sneak out at night?

  • What do you think about animals dressing up and talking? What about animals dancing and singing?

  • Why did the cat want to keep the party a secret? How did Marie Elaine get him to tell her? Why did they tell Norman? Do you think you could keep the secret?

Book details

Author:John Burningham
Illustrator:John Burningham
Genre:Picture Book
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:June 9, 2009
Number of pages:56
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 8

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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