Stories Without Words
* = Ms. Rosen’s Favourites
While looking at a wordless book, ask…
1. “What’s going on in the picture?”
2. “What do I see that makes me say that?”
3. ”What more can I find?”
*Anno, Mitsumasa. Anno’s Journey. New York: Philomel, 1978, c1977.
“Records in drawings the author’s journey through northern Europe and his impressions of the land, the people at work and play, and their art, architecture, folklore, and fairy tales.” – CIP.
*Anno, Mitsumasa. Anno’s Spain. New York: Philomel Books, 2004, c2003.
Aruego, Jose. The Last Laugh. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2006.
Albert wants a place where he can read in quiet. But no matter where he goes, his friends arrive and rambunctiously interrupt him. Finally, he blows up. What will happen now? This mostly wordless summer story will be appreciated by young readers looking for some peace and quiet of their own. [Books and reading; Solitude; Summer]
*Baker, Jeannie. Mirror. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2010.
Without words, 24 hours are shown in Morocco and Australia.
Becker, Aaron. Journey. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2013.
Becker, Aaron. Quest. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2014.
“In the Caldecott Honor-winning Journey, much of Becker’s energy was devoted to the story’s exquisite backdrops. Now, in the second wordless book of his planned trilogy, the focus is on his characters. On a rainy day in a city park, the girl who starred in Journey and the boy introduced at the end take refuge by a doorway under a bridge. To their surprise, a king emerges from the door just long enough to pass the two a map before soldiers apprehend him. Returning to the magical Pallonezia, they find the walled city in flames, under siege. Becker includes wonderfully evocative set pieces – a submerged city, a Mayan temple – as the pair follows the map to collect chalk markers in all the colors of the rainbow to free the king and save the city.” – FVRL.
Briggs, Raymond. The Snowman. London: Puffin, 2013, c1978.
*Cole, Henry. Spot, the Cat. New York: Little Simon, 2016.
* Cole, Henry. Forever Home: A Dog and Boy Love Story. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2022.
A forlorn little dog is left behind when its owners move. A sad little boy longs to have a dog. The two meet and find happiness in this wordless picture book by an award-winning author. The feelings of longing and love in the illustrations are enhanced by a red leash and collar, the only spots of colour in the finely detailed black and white drawings.
The little boy in this story lives with two dads. Some readers may object, saying it normalizes what they believe is wrong. Others may rejoice, saying that at last same sex couples are becoming normalized. I think that the relationship is not important to the central idea of the story: adopting a homeless animal brings love to life! Highly recommended for anyone who has longed for a pet (and would-be artists who admire black and white drawings).
*Cole, Henry. Unspoken: Story from the Underground Railroad. New York: Scholastic Press, 2012.
“In this wordless picture book, a young Southern farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding behind the corn crib in the barn and decides to help him.” – FVRL.
Colón, Raúl. Draw! New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.
Crews, Donald. Truck. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1980.
Fleischman, Paul. Sidewalk Circus. Cambridge, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2004.
“Mooch the cat helps a lonely bird find its flock, which has flown south for the winter.” – CIP.
**Guojing. The Only Child. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015.
“In this wordless graphic novel, a young girl traveling from her city apartment to her grandmother’s country home becomes lost and enters a fantastical world in the clouds.” – CIP. Recommended for readers 8 years old and up. [Adventure stories; Missing Children]
McDonnell, Patrick. South. New York: Little, Brown, 2008.
*Merveille, David. Hello, Mr. Hulot. New York: NorthSouth Books, 2013.
Mr. Hulot is a French character played by Jacques Tati, an actor and filmmaker. In this almost wordless picture book, David Merveille has created comic-strip scenes useful for learning how to infer meaning and analyze humour. But mostly, the pictures are simply fun. They will surprise and delight viewers 8 years old and up.
*Miyares, Daniel. Float. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015.
“Wordless picture book about a boy who loses his paper boat in the rain.” – CIP. The main character in his yellow slicker and hat is reminiscent of the main character in Ezra Jack Keats’s A Letter to Amy. The limited use of colour in this story could start an interesting discussion: Why so much grey? What is the significance of the yellow? And what all can we lose in life? And does the title – Float – have more than one meaning? [Boats and boating; Lost articles; Toys; Rain]
*Nolan, Dennis. Hunters of the Great Forest. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2014.
Tiny brave hunters set off on a great expedition. What will they find? A humorous wordless story with a joyous ending.
Nolan, Dennis. Sea of Dreams. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2011.
Owen, John. One Summer Up North. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020.
A family of three journeys by canoe into the wilderness of northern Minnesota. The happy family enjoys camping by a lake, catching fish, and gathering berries, as they explore the beauty of nature in this wordless picture book for readers 6 to 10 years old.
Pinkney, Jerry. The Lion and the Mouse. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009.
*Ramstein, Anne-Margot. Before After. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2014, c2013.
“Everyone knows that a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak and a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. But in this clever book, it’s also true that a cow can result in both a bottle of milk and a painting of a cow, and an ape in a jungle may become an urban King Kong. Just as day turns into night and back again, a many-tiered cake is both created and eaten down to a single piece.” – CIP.
Raschka, Christopher. A Ball for Daisy. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2011.
Slater, David Michael. The Boy & the Book (a Wordless Story). Watertown, Mass.: Charlesbridge, 2015.
“In this story without words a young boy carelessly mishandles a library book, while the other books try to rescue their friend.” – CIP.
*Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007.
“In this wordless graphic novel, a man leaves his homeland and sets off for a new country, where he must build a new life for himself and his family.” – CIP.
V., Sarah. The Old Man. Wellington, New Zealand: Gecko Press, 2018.
An old man, hungry and homeless, wanders the streets. The weather is cold and dark, windy and wet. But a little girl offers her sandwich and smiles. His heart is warmed as he trudges to the safety of a shelter. Poignantly illustrated by Claude K. Dubois and translated from the French by Daniel Hahn. Not entirely wordless, but the many pages without words are an invitation to discuss how pictures alone can tell a powerful story. Most highly recommended for readers 7 years old and up.
Walsh, Liam Francis. Fish. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016.
**Wehrli, Ursus. The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013.
What if everything was taken apart? Organized? Put in order? How would the world look then? A humorous wordless book highly recommended for all ages!
Wiesner, David. Flotsam. New York: Clarion Books, 2006.
Wiesner, David. Free Fall. New York: HarperCollins, 1988.
A wordless picture book and Caldecott Honor book about a boy who dreams of great adventures. Recommended for lovers of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.
Wiesner, David. I Got It! Boston: Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.
Dreamily illustrated by an inimitable illustrator, winner of multiple Caldecott Medals and Honors, this wordless story about a baseball outfielder will appeal to sports lovers 7 years old and up.
Yelchin, Eugene. Spring Hare. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2017.
Learn how to use wordless books during storytime:
Lambert, Megan Dowd. Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2015.