Silver Lining: favorite wordless picture books (+ how to read them)

January 19, 2017

favorite wordless picture books (+ how to read them)

It turns out I can talk forever when it comes to picture books for young kids. I started typing half an hour ago, and just now realized I had about three good separate drafts, all about books for pre-readers. Looks like a few more picture book posts will be coming your way soon.

Okay, let's talk picture books! Specifically, wordless picture books for young kids. In my Children's Literature course in college, there was an entire unit devoted to wordless (or nearly wordless) picture books.

Why are wordless picture books so great for kids? 

First, they are all about imagination. Kids get to make up the words and story to accompany the picture, which is a huge imagination builder - plus the story can be different every time. They're also great for building story structure, since wordless books have a very clear beginning, middle, and end. Wordless picture books provide a perfect structure for literacy-rich conversations, as you predict the ending, ask questions, and narrate the story in your own words. Not to mention, the illustrations are often drop-dead gorgeous because, after all, the pictures are doing all of the talking.

How do you read a wordless picture book?

This may sound silly, but when we got our first wordless picture book, I was like, "Uh. How do I read this? Do I just make up the words? Do I silently flip the pages?"

There's no right or wrong way to read wordless picture books. You can make up your own story. You can point out funny things in the pictures. You can ask questions and have your child predict what's next. You can do whatever you want! All reading is good reading, even when there are no words to read!

My favorite wordless (or nearly wordless) picture books:

Chalk by Bill Thomson

This is wordless picture book 101, and a great place to start if you're new to wordless picture books. This book is about three kids who discover a bag of magical chalk on a rainy day. It's on practically every list of best wordless picture books. I love the perspectives and the realism of the illustrations.

Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day

Let's just pretend this mom wouldn't be in major trouble with CPS for leaving her baby with nobody but a dog for hours at a time. My daughter loves this whole series about adventures with a baby and a furry best friend (best friend slash primary caregiver, ha).

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman

This book is fascinating for children of all ages (teenagers included!). It's about a girl who finds a magical red book, and sees a boy's life halfway across the world, only to realize he also has a magic red book and is reading about her adventures in the big city. Different ages will understand this in different complexities, but it's fun for everyone.

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

The illustrations are so clever in this one. It's about a boy who finds a flashlight, and ventures out into the night to see how the world looks different in stark black and white with only a vibrant splash of color illuminated by the flashlight.

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

The illustrations are so gorgeous in this one. It's a great little retelling of one of Aesop's more popular fables. (If you can get over the illustrations long enough to pay attention to the story, that is. And did I mention the fabulous illustrations?)

Journey by Aaron Becker

This book is about a girl who draws a magical door on her bedroom wall and escapes through it to a fantasy world full of danger, problems that can only be solved by creating more things with her trusty marker, and new friendship. There are two sequels (Quest and Return) which I haven't read but heard are just as great.

Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage

This is a fun one about a walrus who escapes from the zoo and tries on all sorts of different hats to disguise himself. My toddler loves to find the hidden walrus on every page. It's short and sweet and one you'll find yourself re-reading often.

Red Sled by Lita Judge

This is a fun watercolor-illustrated book about a bear that takes a sled (and his favorite woodland friends) on an adventurous ride down the hill. The only words are the sounds the animals make. This is a perfect book to add to your Christmas book collection for kids.

Pancakes for Breakfast by Tommy DePaola

This one is a classic. I love all of DePaola's work, and this wordless picture book about a woman who is trying to gather supplies to make pancakes for breakfast is absolutely charming. It also makes me want pancakes.

Playtime? by Jeff Mack

This one is brand new on the market and super cute. Technically it has two words, "playtime!" and "bedtime!" I think there's a "shh" in there too. My grandparents gifted this to us for Christmas and it's already a favorite. My daughter loves to look at the expressions of the naughty gorilla who just wants to play during bedtime. She will read this one to herself multiple times a day.

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

Another classic! We LOVE this book at our house. It's the story of a zookeeper locking up for the night without realizing the gorilla has stolen the keys and is leading all the animals in for a sleepover at the zookeeper's house. The page that just has the wife's surprised eyes wide open in the dark is so awesome. It's probably our best-loved wordless picture book ever.

What are your favorite wordless picture books?
And what else do you want to read when it comes to posts about picture books?

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