6 Wordless Books to Inspire Little Readers
If it’s true that a picture tells a thousand words, then a wordless picture book tells that many more. They can be “read” with an adult or on a child’s own time; they age well as little readers grow up and the story changes and evolves; they encourage creativity and provide an opportunity for starting a conversation. Just like some of the most popular wordless books, such as Pancakes for Breakfast or the graphic novel Robot Dreams, these titles take on new meaning with every reading (and are perfect for going “off book” when you want a short n’ sweet story time before bed).
Here I Am by Patti Kim
A modern immigration story, Here I Am follows a boy who has just moved to America and landed in Manhattan. For him, the city itself is essentially wordless, as he doesn’t speak the language—it’s noisy with gibberish. We follow him from his goodbye to his former home, through the isolation and confusion of being somewhere unfamiliar. In time, we watch him become drawn to some of the new sights, sounds, and scents around him—and begin to connect with others.
Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle
Like the first two books in the “Flora” series, Flora and the Flamingo and Flora and the Penguin, this follow-up is—as the title suggests—one of the most beautiful books to be found on any child’s bookshelf. Flora, a robust and determined little girl, approaches a pair of peacocks to dance. After some serious feather fanning (the book’s color scheme mimics the vibrant blues, greens, and yellow of the peacock tails), they enter a pas de trois. The challenge: sorting out the dynamics of friends playing together—a task that will be familiar to many kids (and parents). Young readers will also like the lift-the-flap aspect, with hidden pictures revealing more details of the story as it moves along. The color scheme, a mix of blues and greens, mimics the vibrant peacock tails.
Where’s Walrus by Stephen Savage
A sophisticated look-and-find book, the biggest success of Where’s Walrus is its design. Help the zookeeper find the escapee walrus (hint: no telltale toque or striped shirt in these pages)—or rebel, and help Walrus run free! You might find him lined up along a diner counter with men in grey suits, on stage with can-can dancers, or painting in Central Park. A delightful introduction to stylish wordless books for the youngest members of your family.
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith
This poetic look at a little girl’s walk with her father has been winning awards at every turn—from the New York Times to the New York Public Library, and beyond. It’s no wonder, considering what this wordless tale is able to capture. Unable to gain the attention of her distracted father, a little girl starts gathering flowers from the sidewalk cracks. She begins gifting them to others, but only a few take notice. Illustrated primarily in black and white, the book shows more and more color as the tale unfolds—lanterns in front of a restaurant, a fruit stand, and eventually her mother and brothers back at home. Sidewalk Flowers shows how paying some extra attention and taking time to step out of daily distractions can make you notice things you wouldn’t otherwise—and make the world a much more colorful place.
Birdsong by James Sturm
Wordless comics can take various forms; they can be narrative, like the Adventures of Polo series, or more open to interpretation. Birdsong is intended as the latter, and mimics Japanese kamishibai (“paper theater”), which invites the reader’s input as well. Upon opening the book, we see children with sticks and scowls go into the forest. They meet a bird and are turned into monkeys in order to be taught a lesson. While the story can be confusing, it is also ours to elaborate on—we don’t choose our own adventure entirely, but we are asked to think a bit harder than is perhaps the norm. What an exciting challenge…
Shadow by Suzy Lee
Shadow shines a spotlight—or rather, a flashlight—on a little girl exploring her family’s attic. Turn the book sideways, as the pages make most sense when opened vertically, and play along as she makes shapes with the different items she finds. Everyday objects like a broom and a shoe inspire her to create intriguing scenes, from dancing atop a swan to chasing a wolf. In the end, the power of imagination shines through.