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Recommended Picture Books: Wordless Picture Books

becker_returnBecker, Aaron  Return
Gr. K–3    40 pp.     Candlewick

This third wordless installment (Journey; Quest) brings the story full circle. The father of the lonely girl with a red crayon follows her into the steampunk-meets-fantasy kingdom to share in the adventure. Becker is at his best creating lush, mysterious landscapes. Return‘s plot is, happily, simpler than Quest‘s, but observant readers will still find plenty of questions to ponder.
Subjects: Picture Books; Wordless books; Imagination; Drawing; Voyages and travels; Family—Father and daughter

FlashlightBoyd, Lizi  Flashlight
Preschool    40 pp.     Chronicle

Silvery-gray gouache illustrations on thick black pages set the tone for this nighttime nature walk. A boy trains his flashlight on various items, making full-color details visible in its arc. Small die-cuts and occasional spots of color highlight other details. In a gently fantastical turn, the animals he’s been observing use the flashlight to get him safely back. An inventive wordless offering.
Subjects: Preschool; Animals; Night; Light; Nature; Wordless books

cole_spot the catCole, Henry  Spot, the Cat
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Little Simon

This wordless, oversize, black-and-white picture book follows a cat who escapes out an open apartment window and explores its city — all the while sought by its worried owner. Each double-page spread is a marvel of (pen-and-ink crosshatched) detail; viewers will need time and patience to find boy and cat on each spread. Fortunately, the locations are teeming with activity and objects of interest.
Subjects: Picture Books; Lost and found possessions; Animals—Cats; Picture puzzles; City and town life; Wordless books

idle_flora and the peacocksIdle, Molly  Flora and the Peacocks
Preschool     40 pp.     Chronicle

Flora’s third wordless picture book is, appropriately, about a three-way friendship and the tricky dynamics thereof. This book’s rhythm is like Flora and the Flamingo and Flora and the Penguin, but the addition of that third character adds a storytelling layer. Idle again sticks to a limited color palette, here peacock blues, greens, and yellows; the last, glorious flap is a showstopper.
Subjects: Preschool; Wordless books; Toy and movable books; Animals—Peacocks; Dance; Emotions—Jealousy; Friendship

lawson_sidewalk flowersLawson, JonArno  Sidewalk Flowers
Gr. K–3     24 pp.     Groundwood

Illustrated by Sydney Smith. A man and child walk through a rundown city and through a park. The man listens to his phone; the child gathers wildflowers from pavement cracks, then begins giving them away. Ambiguities are subtly hinted at in this wordless book. The pen-and-ink art is well paced, with broad, assured lines in dramatic black enhanced by gray wash. Significant details appear in increasingly vibrant watercolor.
Subjects: Picture Books; Family—Father and daughter; City and town life; Flowers; Wordless books

lee_poolLee, JiHyeon  Pool
Gr. K–3     56 pp.     Chronicle

In this quietly engrossing wordless book, a boy dives into a pool — neatly swimming below a disagreeable mass of grownups bobbing about on inflatable tubes — and meets another young swimmer. Together, boy and girl discover a strange and beautiful underwater world of fantastic Shaun Tan–esque creatures. Colored-pencil and oil pastel illustrations use color to contrast the two realities.
Subjects: Picture Books; Sports—Swimming; Wordless books; Imagination; Fantasy

merveille_mr hulot at the beachMerveille, David  Mr. Hulot at the Beach
Gr. K–3     56 pp.      NorthSouth

Hello, Mr. Hulot borrowed the character from Jacques Tati’s iconic films; this sequel echoes the setting of Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. What is original to this wordless, black-and-white picture book are the scrapes that Mr. Hulot gets into: a folding beach chair fights back, a seagull lays eggs in his shoe. Except for a few contemporary touches, this is a timeless world of summer, sweetly funny.
Subjects: Picture Books; Cartoons and comics; Wordless books; Motion pictures; Humorous stories; Beaches; Tati, Jacques

miyares_floatMiyares, Daniel  Float
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Simon

A boy and his caregiver fold a paper boat, then he pretends to sail it outside. After a downpour, the boat floats for real—into a sewer grate. Once comforted at home, the boy soon ventures out again with a paper airplane, this time embracing the moment his creation is set free. With a limited palette, each wordless scene is full of reflection, shadow, and texture.
Subjects: Picture Books; Lost and found possessions; Toys; Vehicles—Boats and boating; Weather—Rain; Wordless books; Paper airplanes

newgarden_bow-wow's nightmare neighborsNewgarden, Mark and Cash, Megan Montague  Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors
Preschool     64 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter

Stalwart canine Bow-Wow (Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug) sets out to retrieve his stolen doggy bed from the ornery ghost cats who live across the street in a haunted mansion. Through expert use of comic-book panels, Newgarden and Cash play with perspective and timing. The palette is predominantly grayscale; carefully placed flourishes of color amp up the humor at just the right moments.
Subjects: Preschool; Wordless books; Animals—Dogs; Animals—Cats; Holidays—Halloween; Neighbors

savage_whereswalruspenguinSavage, Stephen  Where’s Walrus? And Penguin?
Preschool     32 pp.     Scholastic

Walrus and a penguin make a dash to the subway — with the always-one-step-behind zookeeper in hot pursuit. This wordless book follows the same search-and-find-adventure format as Where’s Walrus?, and Savage’s cleanly designed illustrations help Walrus and Penguin hide in plain sight. A chance meeting with an attractive walrus-shaped nurse sets Walrus on a new course — this time for a happily-ever-after ending at the zoo.
Subjects: Preschool; Animals—Walruses; Animals—Penguins; Zoos; Animals—Zoo animals; Zookeepers; Wordless books

sturm_birdsongSturm, James  Birdsong: A Story in Pictures
Gr. K–3     69 pp.     TOON

In this complex wordless narrative inspired by kamishibai (Japanese paper theater), a pair of children are transformed into monkeys by an angry mountain wizard after they terrorize forest wildlife. For much of the book, only the recto pages feature narrative images, leaving the verso pages blank and inviting readers to create their own words. A brief history of kamishibai is appended. Reading list, websites.
Subjects: Picture Books; Wordless books; Graphic novels; Cartoons and comics; Animals—Monkeys

mr wufflesWiesner, David  Mr. Wuffles!
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Clarion

Cat Mr. Wuffles toys with a tiny spaceship. Inside, the little green creatures regroup. Helped by a ladybug, they flee to the space under a radiator, which harbors a thriving insect civilization. Friendship ensues, food and technology are shared, repairs are made, and the cat is foiled. This exemplary almost-wordless book incorporates the delights of Borrowers-style innovations, quintessential cat behavior, and Wiesner’s exquisite art.
Subjects: Picture Books; Wordless books; Animals—Cats; Toys; Extraterrestrial beings

From the December 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good Picture Book?”

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