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Sherrill Joseph asks, “Do You Enjoy Easter Eggs?”

Sherrill Joseph is the author of the Botanic Hill Detectives Mystery series for middle grade kids. You can find out more about her on her website, www.sherrilljoseph.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

Who hasn’t sought those delicious chocolate-covered, candy-speckled, and rainbow-dyed eggs left by the E.B. in pretty baskets and springtime flowerbeds?

For now, however, please try not to think about chocolate as we shift to the nonedible, nondenominational types of Easter eggs—those scattered in literature and movies. The formal name for a literary or cinematic Easter egg is an allusion. You’ve probably laughed out loud when finding one of those hidden treasures, tucked into a book or film, that was designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly.

These indirect references—Easter eggs—can be an inside joke that a writer’s or movie’s fan base understands immediately, thereby creating a special bond, as if finders are suddenly part of “The In-Crowd.” Easter eggs can have a broad appeal or be subtle. They are usually somehow significant to the author or filmmaker, which is why they are included.

In addition to inside jokes, sweet Easter eggs can reference an author, character, book or movie title, setting or place from another work or time, or a piece of music or work or art, thus linking one to the other; an object or symbol that foreshadows an action in the work or a character trait; a bit of dialogue; a pop culture element; an action that harks to something seemingly and momentarily unrelated; an epigraph; and, an epigram, anagram, puzzle, or set of runes that requires the brainiest of fans to decipher their surprising and often cleverly hidden messages. Sneaky, sometimes snarky, often unexpected—magical!

Sometimes, Easter eggs reveal their hiding places and messages only when we reread a work or rewatch a movie. Those can bring extraordinary ah-ha moments.

One of the most famous and prolific literary E.B.s is Stephen King. Each of his books has a single connection, one to the other. Those of us of a certain age might immediately understand the movie’s Easter egg when in The Shining, a crazed Jack Nicholson peeks through the crack in the door, as he tries to get at his terrified wife, and says, “Here’s Johnny!” Note: That phrase is not in the book, but it duplicates King’s predilection for literary Easter eggs. A “double-yolk” Easter egg, perhaps?

Such revelations of understanding can elicit comic relief, a smile, nod, wink, OMG, or outright guffaw because an E.B. has scattered the eggs successfully.

Disney’s animated movies are replete with hidden egg treasures. Eagle-eye fans have fun hunting and finding them. They’re often objects or characters from previous films. In Tangled (2010), there is a wild scene at the Snuggly Duckling Pub. Perched high above the fray in the shadows is Pinocchio (1940)! And Mickeys abound. To see all forty-one Disney Easter eggs, google “Easter eggs in Disney movies,” and check out the Good Housekeeping article from 2020.

According to Samantha Knoerzer’s “The Best Easter Eggs in Literature,” in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, “the book has an acrostic poem that spells out ‘Alice Pleasance Liddell,’ which was the name of the real young girl who inspired the fictional Alice character.” In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, “the beginning of the book contains an epigraph . . . quoted by a man named Thomas Parke D’Invilliers. True fans should recognize the name as a fictional character in Fitzgerald’s third novel, This Side of Paradise.”

My Book 6, Upas Street: Shocking Specter, releasing in Fall 2024, will have Easter eggs of a haunted nature. Maybe that’s where I got the idea for this blog—hmmm.

But writers, be warned! Don’t be a profligate E.B. (or Wild Hare) and scatter eggs too often within a single work. By cracking too many eggs—ha, ha—you will likely lose the element of surprise and perhaps a few of your fans along the way. Wise E.B.s hide effective Easter eggs carefully so they are neither too obvious nor a stumbling block (of broken egg shells).  

So, please remember: Too many Easter eggs, hidden willy-nilly, may go undiscovered. Those will turn rotten! And no one wants to read a smelly book.

Sherrill Joseph

Sherrill Joseph is the award-winning author of the Botanic Hill Detectives series for middle graders. You can find out more about her on her website, sherrilljoseph.com, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Pinterest, or Instagram.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Colleen Winter

    I did not know these were called “Easter Eggs!” We all have had those priceless moments when we discover them. Thanks for clarifying something that can truly bond an author with their readers. Great post!

  2. Carl Vonderau
    Carl Vonderau

    What a fun post, Sherrill. I had forgotten that these allusions are called Easter eggs. Now I will be looking more carefully at movies. Would Alfred Hitchcock making cameos in each of his movies be a kind of Easter Egg?

    1. Avatar
      Avanti Centrae

      Love this post. You’ve inspired me to lay a few eggs in my current work!

      1. Sherrill Joseph
        Sherrill Joseph

        Wonderful, Avanti. I wish I had used your “lay a few eggs” phrase in my blog!

  3. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Thanks, Carl. I would say yes to Hitchcock’s cameos. Did you know that he started doing those out of necessity? He needed more extras, so he inserted himself into the scene. And kept on doing so for the rest of his films but just for fun. I do enjoy watching for an appearance by the Master of Suspense!

  4. Avatar
    saralynrichard

    I’m a big fan of Easter eggs. There are loads of them in John Irving’s works, and also in Abraham Verghese’s, a writing student of Irving. I love finding them, and I also love hiding them in my own novels. Thanks for the great post, Sherrill the EB.

    1. Sherrill Joseph
      Sherrill Joseph

      So glad to hear you’re an E.E. fan, Saralyn, as a reader and a writer.

    1. Sherrill Joseph
      Sherrill Joseph

      Well, ya learn somethin’ new every day, right? Ha, ha. It’s the teacher in me! Glad you enjoyed my post, Christine.

  5. Avatar
    Margaret Mizushima

    Wow, Sherrill! This post really has made me think about something in a formal way that I had always treated so casually! And…I didn’t realize these types of fun discoveries were called Easter eggs. Loved this post!

  6. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Sherrill — Oh, what a FUN post. Thank you! And I’m so looking forward to Upas Street: Shocking Specter. Woot, woot!

    1. Sherrill Joseph
      Sherrill Joseph

      Thanks so much, Laurie! I’m looking forward to Shocking Specter, too!!! The first draft goes to my editor this coming Sunday.

  7. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    I love fun little Easter Eggs in books and other stories. I’ve even used a couple, myself.

  8. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    I didn’t know that’s what those hidden clues were called – thanks, Sherrill!

  9. tracey64p
    tracey64p

    A friend told me about E. E.’s a few years ago. Now I have fun hiding a few. Sometimes they slip in without much thought. But fans and readers of all my books will notice them- maybe? hopefully? And now I want to look up all the Disney E. E.’s! Thanks!

  10. Valerie Biel
    Valerie Biel

    What a fun article. I never plan out Easter Eggs in advance, they just sort of sneak their way into stories. I love it when I find one in other people’s writing.

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