12 Wordless Picture Books 

If you have not explored the world of wordless books or stories without words, I would like you encourage you to give it a whirl. My first exposure was with board books and preschool books, where you don’t even realize there are no words such as Good Night, Gorilla (love that book!) by Peggy Rathman, but it wasn’t until I discovered Anno’s books that I became fascinated with how much can be communicated with illustrations alone. But how do you “read” a wordless books with a child?
Recently, on a Facebook page, a group of us were chatting about wordless books. One of the moms and a librarian from Maine, Jennifer Lewis, shared this with us:” I had always assumed one should make up a story to go with wordless picture books when sharing them with children. I always dreaded doing this and so generally avoided them altogether. When I attended a workshop on sharing wordless books with children, the very first point they made was: don’t narrate the story. Just don’t do it. The pictures are designed to tell the story themselves. Just turn the pages and examine the artwork with the children. Answer questions if they ask, but otherwise, let them explore each page for themselves and form the story in their own mind based on the pictures. Immediately after attending the workshop I took a pile of wordless picture books home for the library and tested them on my six-year-old without doing any narration, and guess what: he LOVED them! We “read” each book over and over and noticed new things on each page with each re-read. They are wonderful. My two new favorites are Journey and Quest by Aaron Becker. I would highly recommend giving them a try!

I thought her comments were very helpful and wish I had known this when my kids were young. Thanks, Jennifer! In addition, to the two amazing books that Jennifer recommended, Journey and Quest by Aaron Becker, I would like to share some of my favorite wordless books, not as recent as Aaron Becker’s but great books to add to your home library:
  
 1. The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher (1996) by Molly Bang 

I remember reading this book to my children when they were young. It was one of those books that keeps little eyes glued to the page and begs to be “read” again and again. The climax of the book brings comic relief, easing the tension in a very deeply satisfying way for children. This is one of my kids favorite wordless books that they as young adult remember as a sweet childhood memory! (for ages 5-8)

  
2. Clown (1998) by Quentin Blake 

I just discovered this gem of a book. This is my favorite of Blake’s books. A humorous, tender story of abandoned toys who find a home again with the help of a toy clown, who takes matters into his own hands, faces rejection time and time again, until he finally finds a place where he is loved and needed and rescues his other discarded friends in the process. An action-packed, irresistible story all without words. Another more recent clown book that I would also recommend (also worldless) is The Farmer and the Clown (2014) by Marla Frazee.

  
3. The Snowman (1978) by Raymond Briggs 
Using over 175 colorful wintry picture frames, Raymond Briggs, an award-winning illustrator, creates a world of wonder and adventure. When a little boy’s snowman comes to life, he invites him to his home and shows him all the things that make up his world. The snowman in turn takes the boy on a trip out over a wintry city. An enchanting tale, perfect for that first snow or on a cold, winter’s night. (for all ages)

  
4. Pancakes for Breakfast (1978) by Tomie dePaola 
Be prepared to make pancakes after reading this book. Follow a jolly, elderly woman as she enthusiastically gathers all the ingredients for pancakes, mixes the batter, and prepares a huge steaming plate of mouth-watering pancakes with a big grin of her face! (for ages 4-7)

  
5. The Story of a little Mouse trapped in a Book (1991) by Monique Felix
Monique Felix is a world renown Swiss author and artist. Her wordless mouse stories are simple, yet clever, all centered on the adventures of a little mouse trapped in a book and the creative ways he uses the pages of the book to explore the world. (for ages 3-7)

  
6. Changes, Changes (1987) by Pat Hutchins

If your preschooler loves playing with wooden blocks, this is the perfect book. Two colorful wood figurines create a home out of blocks, then after a fire, and a series of unfortunate events, continue constructing firetruck, boat, car, train and finally another home to live in. This book will lead to a search for those discarded wooden blocks, a new creative building project and endless stories to tell of the adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Block! (ages 3-8)

  
7. Sunshine (1982) by Jan Ormerod
Jan Ormerod was an Australian illustrator who illustrated more than 50 books for children. Sunshine, published in 1982, won the Mother Goose Award as well as the Australian Picture Book of the Year. A wordless book, the story follows a little girl as she wakes up in the morning and goes about her morning routine before heading off to school. I love Jan Ormerod’s humorous depictions of family life and parent/child relationships, with simple warm illustrations. Sunshine was followed by Moonlight, which shows the little girl getting ready for bed at the end of the day. She also published a Baby book series which explores the baby/parent relationship, including Dad’s back and Sleeping. This book is my all-time favorite wordless book. (ages 2-5)

  
8. Anno’s Journey (1997) by Mitsumasa Anno
Anno’s wordless books are not made for a quick read through. They are for those moments when you and your child snuggle up together, and linger over the pages, absorbing new details and retelling stories with each reading. History comes alive like never before, the pages filled with characters from history, famous buildings and art, as well as plenty of humorous scenes. A perfect format for your visual learner. Mitsumasa Anno, a Japanese illustrator, was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen medal for his lasting contribution to children’s literature. I also recommend Anno’s Britain, Anno’s USA, Anno’s Italy and Anno’s Counting Book. (all ages)

  
9. Goodnight, Gorilla (1996) by Peggy Rathman 
I have mentioned this book before, so I won’t repeat myself except to say it will become a bedtime favorite for your toddler and preschooler! A hilarious wordless book your child can “read” on their own. (ages 3-7)

  
10. Time Flies (1997) by Eric Rohmann 
A mesmerizing wordless picture that is a visual treat for all those dinosaur lovers out there as well as a thought provoking introduction to time travel – ok, sorry, my husband, Tim is a philosophy professor and he loved to introduce our children to philosophical ideas like time travel. 😊 A Caldecott honor book. (for ages 3-7)

  
11. Noah’s Ark (1992) by Peter Spier 
Peter Spier’s artistic masterpieces will draw you into the story of Noah’s ark like never before. Building the ark and gathering animals comes alive in all it’s fine details, messiness and humor. This will lead to great conversations about what it must have been like for Noah and his family. Read this side by side with the story from your child’s Bible. Other stories without words by Spier that I also recommend include Peter Spier’s Christmas, dreams, Peter Spier’s Rain, and Peter Spier’s Circus. (for ages 3-7)

  
12. Free Fall (1991) by David Weisner 
David Weisner, an award winning author, is the king of wordless books. Free Fall (1988) was his first solo picture book and a Caldecott honor book. A young boy falls asleep and embarks on a fantastical adventure filled with magical creatures. David Weisner went on to win three Caldecott Medals for Tuesday (1991), The Three Pigs (2001), and Flotsam (2007). Collect them all. Your child will pull these from your home library time and time again. (for ages 3-8)

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One thought on “12 Wordless Picture Books 

  1. How wonderful to share these books with children from all over the world! Pictures do, indeed, communicate 1000 words. My children (now grown) loved several of these books you mentioned. Wonderful memories. @chaplaineliza

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