Wordless Picture Books

Recently, I ordered three picture books that included no words other than their titles.

I wondered if I had made a mistake and should have passed on these book selections. So, I perused these wordless picture books first by myself, and then I shared them with children ages two to five who attended story time. The children had wonderful comments about the books; let me share the books and their responses!

Near, Far by Silvia Borando (published by Minibombo Books and digitally created by Candlewick Press)
Near, Far by Silvia Borando (published by Minibombo Books and digitally created by Candlewick Press)
As I turned the unnumbered pages, every child focused on the vivid drawings and colorful background pages. As I flipped through the first two pages, their faces looked puzzled and their voices asked, "Miss Sue, what is that?" I said, "Wait and see." Then I flipped to the next page and they saw an object (an alligator). The children exclaimed, "Look! It's an alligator, a bird, a worm, a rabbit, a mouse, a porcupine, and a rhinoceros!" One preschooler's sibling (age seven) commented, "When you look close, I see a small part of the animal, but, when you look far, you see the whole animal." The preschoolers chanted, “Read it again!" I laughed to myself and thought, I'm reading a wordless book!

The White Book by Silvia Borando (published by Minibombo Books and digitally created by Candlewick Press)
A little boy holds a paint roller and paints different colors on white walls. The youngest child in the group yells out the correct color of the wall from the clue of the color on the paint can. The other children notice that there are white spaces not covered by the paint and laugh at the objects. Clearly, this wordless picture book teaches very young children the concept of color.

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t by Silvia Borando
Now You See Me, Now You Don’t by Silvia Borando (published by Minibombo Books and digitally created by Candlewick Press)
This book was a great hit! All the children noticed that the animals were disappearing, depending on the color of the animal and the color of the page. The children all noticed that the chameleon was hiding on every page. But, those animals' eyes on the very last page gave the children a spooky feeling. Boo!

An MCLS blog post written by my colleague, Betty Jane O., on November 15, 2013, entitled, "A Plea for Picture Books," states that wordless picture books are even more important for small children in developing their vocabulary, helping them to decode the illustrations, and allowing them to tell the story in their own words through their observation of the pictures. Frog on His Own by Mercer Mayer is a wonderful example of how the absence of written words can create oral language. A child can point and tell the characters [boy, dog and frog]; describe the plot in sequence, [frog eats nectar, gets into a picnic basket, ruins a sailboat, drinks a baby bottle, almost gets eaten by a cat, and leaves the park in the loving hands of the little boy] and tone [lightheartedness and humor].

Mr. Hulot at the Beach by David Merveille
School-age children can also benefit from "reading" a wordless picture book. I just read Mr. Hulot at the Beach by David Merveille. In this book, the main character loses his shoe on the beach to a seagull; smokes a pipe only for a little boy to find it in the ocean; falls asleep on a lounge chair with a wet newspaper; and floats to a different country. In my opinion, Merveille's imagination and humor would also appeal to middle schoolers.

According to CassadyNote 1Cassady, J. (1998). "Wordless Books: No Risk Tools for Inclusive Middle Grade Classrooms." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 41, 6, March 1998, 428-33. the creativity stimulated by wordless books encourages older students to look more closely at story details and to carefully consider all story elements. Cassady further states, "Wordless picture books can counter struggling readers' and ESL students tendency to focus on the words to a degree that interferes with a reader being able to make sense of the story and predict outcomes."

You can find wordless picture books in the MCLS catalog under Subject: stories without words. Presently, there are more than 200 books. Check them out!

NOTES

Cassady, J. (1998). "Wordless Books: No Risk Tools for Inclusive Middle Grade Classrooms." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 41, 6, March 1998, 428-33.

—Susan Seidenberg 

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