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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Wordless Picture Books: A List

So I was at the New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators this weekend.  It turns out, this is the largest regional chapter in the States.  And viewing the 700+ attendees myself firsthand I can certainly believe it.  Many thanks, then, to Josh Funk, Sera Rivers, & Marilyn Salerno for inviting me.

Lots of folks came up to speak to me after my talks, but one in particular is the inspiration for today’s post.  She mentioned to me that she’s hoping to work with a program offering books to refugee children, and she wondered where she should go for wordless book recommendations.  She’d searched around but at this time there’s no blog that specifically reviews and recommends wordless (or, as they call them in Britain, “silent”) picture books.  There is, however, a Silent Book Contest out there that is given annually.  That’s pretty good, but it does tend towards the European side of things, so if you’re looking for American fare where do you go?  I thought it over and told her that I could probably whip up my own list, if she wanted.  This is by NO means meant to be a complete list of recommended titles, but if you’re looking for good, high-quality books of this sort, it might be a nice place to start.  Here then is the list.  Enjoy!

Recommended Wordless Books

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Arrival

A book told in pictures.  Not a “picture book” in terms of its length or intended audience (this adheres closer to the graphic novel world in many ways) it is still the best book about the immigrant experience I’ve ever read.  No list of wordless titles would work without it.

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

BallforDaisy

A co-worker of mine correctly predicted that this book would win the Caldecott in the year of its release.  At the time I pooh-poohed the notion.  This slim little thing?  The wordless one?  But sure as shooting she was right.  If I’d had half a brain I would have had her purchase me a lottery ticket too.

Bee & Me by Alison Jay

beemecover

This isn’t Alison Jay’s first run around the park, if you get my meaning.  She’s been perfecting the wordless form for years and this book has the extra added touch of including information about real bees as well.

BirdCatDog by Lee Nordling

BirdCatDog

The line between wordless picture books and wordless comics is tenuous at best.  In this book we follow three animals as they interact, only the storylines and featured on top of one another.  It’s almost cinematic in the end.

Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug by Mark Newgaarden and Megan Montague Cash

BowWowBugs

The book so nice they made a series of board books and sequels to accompany it.  I’ll always love the first the most, though.  If only because it gets so sweetly nightmarish towards the end.

The Boys by Jeff Newman

theboys

You know, I adored this book.  I really did.  And I feel like it didn’t get enough attention at all when it was released.  It’s possible I just identified too closely with it.  After all, it’s about a kid who’s comfortable with adults and not kids, so he starts acting like the elderly guys in the park to avoid his peers.  That may as well have been the story of my childhood.

The Chicken Thief by Béatrice Rodriguez

the-chicken-thief-cover-image

Okay, so I know plenty of folks would call this “Stockholm Syndrome for Kids” but doggone it, I love this book.  I mean, can YOU think of a book where the fox wants the chicken so badly because he’s in love with her?

Fish by Liam Francis Walsh

Fish

Hmm. Can a book be considered wordless if there is one, great big, glaring word in the text?  Survey Sez: Yes.

Float by Daniel Miyares

Float

This was Daniel’s debut, wasn’t it?  Extraordinary.  It’s little wonder that the book garnered Caldecott buzz.  A different committee and it might have been so.

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle

FloraFlamingo

Boy I liked this body-positive tale of dance and finicky birds.  Idle has done other Flora books since, but this one will always be nearest and dearest my heart.

Flotsam by David Wiesner

flotsam

I decided to be economical in my Wiesner inclusions.  After all, he sort of pioneered the form in recent years.  This one was gutsy and risky, but he pulled it off.

Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam

FoxsGarden1

I just adored this odd, unspeakably lovely book.  A grand winter’s tale.

Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

GoodnightGorilla1

Where have you gone, Peggy Rathmann, our nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you.  Woo-oo-oo . . .

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley

HankEgg1Come for the shocking attention to detail.  Stay to see how Ms. Dudley does hummingbird wings.  Clever doesn’t even begin to encompass it.  Plus this is one of the sweetest of the stories I’ve included here today.

Here I Am by Patty Kim, ill. Sonia Sanchez

HereIAm

Kirkus called this book “The Arrival for kids” and they weren’t wrong. Again it’s a book about how immigration affects an individual, but this time it’s clearly a picture book intended for younger kids.

Ice by Arthur Geisert

ice

Geisert may be considered an acquired taste for some, but for folks that love technical acuity combined with just the slightest hint of eccentricity, this book is for them.

Journey and the other books by Aaron Becker

Journey

Oh, I just adored this series!  My kids are big fans of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, and these books really spoke to them beautifully.  Good for any kid that insists on reading books with a “bad guy” as well.

The Land of Lines by Victor Hussenot

LandLines

Loved this. It’s what you hand your doodler kids.  Someday those doodles might become comics of their very own.

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

LionMouse1

The ultimate ultimate.

Mirror by Jeannie Baker

cover-mirror-front-back-1

Jeannie Baker is another author/artist that found her footing in the wordless realm.  Now if someone would be so good as to convince her to move to America from Australia so that she can start winning a few awards, I’d be grateful.

Moletown by Torben Kuhlmann

Moletown1

A bit of a change of pace for Mr. Kuhlmann, who likes to make these epic picture books like Lindbergh and others. This book is sort of like a smaller, sweeter Lorax tale.

Once Upon a Banana by Jennifer Armstrong, ill. David Small

-1

Well, I absolutely adored this when it came out.  David Small shows off how adept he is at created complicated scenarios that Buster Keaton would be proud of.

The Only Child by Guojing

onlychild

I know I keep talking about The Arrival, but this story of a lonely child also reminded me of Shaun Tan’s classic.

Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna

pinocchio

For anyone who’s ever thought, “I like wordless books, but where can I find one that’ll make me feel like a genuine lead-headed fool for not comprehending all its intricacies at first glance?”

Pool by JiHyeon Lee

Pool

This Korean import really drives home how many of the books on this list hail from other countries.  Or maybe it’s just that American publishers much prefer overseas titles that don’t have any words.

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman

RedBook

It’s good to mention this book now since the sequel will be publishing later this year.

Shadow by Suzy Lee

Shadow

Man, can you image what it would have been like if I’d printed this entire list and then just completely forgot about Suzy Lee?  A nightmare scenario.

Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischman, ill. Kevin Hawkes

51A5Fr2eH6L

I always like to include a few oldies but goodies on this list for good measure.  Keeps the blood pumping.

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith

SidewalkFlowers1

One of my favorite books of the past 5 years.  It holds up and will continue to hold up for years to come.

A Small Miracle by Peter Collington

SmallMiracle1

Tuesday by David Wiesner

Tuesday1

Aaaaaaand there’s the second Wiesner book.  I know he’s done more.  I just wanted to put a spotlight on my favorite favories.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

WolfInTheSnow

Wordless books win Caldecotts all the time, by the way.  Just sayin’.

Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu

WonderBear

He’s kind of like the Cat in the Hat, only better hat.  The monkey in this story, however, could give Thing 1 and Thing 2 a run for their money.

Zoom and Re-Zoom and The Other Side by Istvan Banyai

Zoom

The books in this series are probably the closest you can get to silent adult picture books.  Yet for all that, kids just adore them.  Go figure.

What favorites did I miss? Add them here.

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About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. What an amazingly comprehensive list, Elizabeth! Thank you!

  2. Lisa Lehman says:

    This is a great list! The only glaring omission for me is Chalk by Bill Thomson. Thanks for compiling this list.

  3. Betsy,

    What a great list! To save you some time, I compiled the opposite list for you—Picture-less Picture Books. Luckily it didn’t take me long:) The Book With No Pictures by B.J Novak and coming soon, The ABC Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.

  4. ALL the Peter Collington books, of course–THE TOOTH FAIRY, THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS, THE ANGEL AND THE SOLDIER BOY…and Alexandra Day: I can’t be the only one who lost my heart to Carl, the Rottweiler!

  5. Interesting, though curiously US-centric list – several titles I’ve not heard of before. Off the top of my head I’d add Alistair Graham’s “Full Moon Soup”, Mitsumasa Anno’s “Anno’s Journey”…. there are many more truly great wordless books, the most international of genres!

  6. Allison Jackson says:

    Bluebird by Bob Staake

  7. candlepick says:

    Mercer Mayer’s great, just-the-right-size-for-children’s-hands series starting with A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog.

  8. Rachel says:

    Thanks for the great list! Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin is another.

  9. I love The Adventures of Polo, and Polo: The Runaway Book by Regis Faller. Not sure if these are technically graphic novels or picture books, but we have them shelved with picture books at our library because of their appeal to young children.

  10. This list is amazing! I can’t wait to read the Sanna book. I loved “The River.” How about Unspoken, by Henry Cole?

  11. Rania Turk says:

    Hi. I wanted to take a minute to mention that I founded a startup publishing house called Hikayati (based in Jordan) that specialises in wordless books with an Arab context. We currently have three publications and are in the process of publishing another three. Since the person mentioned in your post expressed interest in working with refugees, I thought it worth mentioning our work. Our books are on tour as part of a wordless book road show organised by the Italian chapter of the International Board on Books for Young People, and are always part of the library they have built on the island of Lampedusa. http://www.hikayatibooks.com

  12. Mariellen says:

    Another international title is BOAT OF DREAMS. an amazing story by a Brazilian artist/storyteller.

  13. Laura D says:

    Draw! by Raul Colon

  14. Lorrie Hansen says:

    Hi, Betsy. I was in Munich in March completing an independent study project of wordless picture books, and compiled an extensive spreadsheet before my trip including wordless picture books that have been recognized by the Caldecott committee, Notable Books for a Global Society, USBBY’s Outstanding International Books lists, the Silent Book contest, and the International Youth Library’s White Ravens, as well as those that were sent to establish the first library for refugees and the children on the island of Lampedusa. They aren’t all easy to access from the U.S. (the Silent Book contest winners and honor books are available at amazon.it) but I would be happy to share the list. And perhaps now would be an ideal time to start a blog for all of the books that I reviewed — these books have a special place in my heart and I would love it if they were easier for people to find and use!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Oh, that would be lovely! Would you be willing to share your independent study here? I’d love to post it, if I could. Email me and we’ll work out the details.

      • Lorrie Hansen says:

        I just posted the first three posts of my new blog, which can be found at worldwidewordless.blogspot.com. The first post has a link to the Google spreadsheet of all of the books on the lists I mention above, and I plan on sharing a couple of posts each day until all of the books that I reviewed are included, along with some new and noteworthy wordless titles to keep the conversation going. Many of the photographs in my independent study project can’t be posted online publicly, so the new blog is my attempt to share these amazing books while avoiding that concern. I hope that you all find it useful and join the conversation there!

  15. Lindsey Dunn says:

    FYI, NoveList has Recommended Reads list of Wordless picture books. Search in NoveList: UI 445194

  16. The copy of Bunny Days I grabbed at my library does have text. Is this something new for the american edition?

  17. Christina H says:

    Dear all – thank you for contributing to this list and especially to Betsy for posting. Wordless books are special, capable of crossing all sorts of boundaries with the turn of a page. I’m hopeful we’ll make our small project a reality and though progress is slow, we’re inching forward. For anyone who searches along similar lines in the future – I would like to add to this list: The Farmer and The Clown by Marla Frazee, South by Patrick McDonnell, Flashlight by Lizi Boyd and The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett. I’m also looking forward to exploring more international titles and will certainly reach out to the posters above, again thanks to all.

  18. Jarrett says:

    This list jams the jamming jammer. THE ARRIVAL and ONLY CHILD are ingenious books. Thanks.

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