Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Who Needs Words?


I love wordless picture books. I am always enthralled by the way that illustrations alone can tell a compelling story. My boys' preschool teacher at Roots and Wings requested a post about this special genre and I am happy to oblige. In fact, one was already in the works! It was a good excuse to move this theme to the top of my list. They are currently exploring color and the visual arts. A perfect pairing for wordless picture books!

Wordless picture books have an important place on the shelf when considering books that support language development. They build an understanding of story structure and encourage "reading" by preschoolers. Wordless picture books can be used in the elementary and middle school classrooms as a springboard for writing lessons, while single pages or whole books can be used as writing prompts. In art class, wordless books can be used to teach visual storytelling. It is important to note that 'wordless' does not mean 'simplistic.' While most are appropriate for preschoolers, there are some that would fit better into an elementary and beyond setting, therefore I have listed my suggestions in two categories. I would love to hear which wordless books your students/children enjoy! 

Preschool and up

Mercer Mayer began illustrating in 1966.  His first published book, A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog, in 1967, was a wordless picture book.  Mayer is credited with being one of the first to use this format. His series of wordless books is very accessible to a young audience. They are ideal for letting the child tell the story, describe the setting, make inferences, and enjoy the humor apparent in the illustrations.

            •    A Boy, a Dog and a Frog (1967)
            •    Frog, Where Are You? (1969)
            •    A Boy, a Dog, a Frog, and a Friend (1971)
            •    Frog on His Own (1973)
            •    Frog Goes to Dinner (1974)
            •    One Frog Too Many (1975)

Mouse Colors by Jim Arnosky - A mouse begins to paint with the primary colors and, along the way, discovers secondary colors by accident. The color words are printed in the book as they are introduced, but the story is completely visual. My boys love how the mouse artist paints himself an adventure!

Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins - Wooden blocks are versatile toys that encourage imaginative play. Follow a toy couple as they transform their block house into various vehicles to meet their needs in any situation. A satisfying circular story.

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman - A magical book is the doorway to friendship and adventure in this surprising story. Barbara Lehman won a Caldecott Honor for this book.

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka - Daisy the dog loves her red ball. What will she do when another dog grabs it at the park? Children will relate to this book's universal themes of losing a favorite toy and accepting responsibility.

Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman - A boy makes a discovery on a rainy day that turns his lonely, boring day into an adventure. An exciting and accessible visual romp for the youngest set.

Time Flies by Eric Rohmann - A bird finds its way into a natural history museum, flying among the dinosaur skeletons when it is suddenly transported back to the Jurassic era. The rich illustrations were awarded a Caldecott Honor and will appeal to dinosaur lovers of all ages.

Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day - With only one line of dialogue on the first and last pages, this classic story of a dog babysitter still delights children with the secret and special bond between dog and child.









Elementary School and up


Shadow by Suzy Lee - A little girl explores an attic where a single lightbulb illuminates the odds and ends accumulated there. With the help of her imagination, the shadows morph and grow into creatures and a jungle. Using an innovative book design where the book is read from top to bottom, Lee allows the light and shadow to converge, drawing the reader into the the girl's play.


Flotsam by David Wiesner - Wiesner's astonishing and masterfully layered illustrations burst with color and complexity in this unexpected adventure that spans time and space. Winner of the Caldecott Medal, Flotsam suspends reality and promises surprising rewards to the observant. Watch the book trailer here.

The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang - Molly Bang creates a startling wordless story where the Grey Lady is chased by the Strawberry Snatcher, narrowly escaping again and again until her pursuer gives up and discovers a different kind of berry. A Caldecott Honor Book.

You Can't Take a Balloon Into The Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser - There is much to see in this rollicking story when a girl's yellow balloon, which she has entrusted to a museum guard, gets loose and floats around New York City. Many different characters join the guard as they strive to retrieve the balloon. The lively, cartoon-like illustrations are punctuated by reproductions of art found at the museum, which mirror the balloon's story.

Clown by Quentin Blake - Many will recognize Quentin Blake as the artist whose work illustrated Roald Dahl's books. From the back cover: "One day, Clown is thrown into the trash, but he doesn't stay there long. He tries to find someone to take care of his friends, but no one listens. Then Clown finds someone he can take care of, and together, they make a home for everyone."

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg - While technically not a wordless picture book, I had to include The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. In the introduction, the origin of the enigmatic illustrations that fill the book is addressed. Then the reader is presented with page after page of fantastical, sometimes disturbing, always surprising illustrations that include a title and a caption. This is an incredible book to use with upper elementary and middle school students as a writing prompt.



1 comment:

  1. A boy, a dog and a frog was one of my favourite books as a child and actually one I would still enjoy looking at! Too bad our library doesn't have it! Looking forward to going to the libraries in the states!

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