Tag Archives: wordless

Crocodile in a suit? I’m there.

profi crocoI have a deep and possibly strange love of Lyle the Crocodile, a character invented by Bernard Waber in the 1960s.

When I worked with kids, I came across one of the Lyle books, which reignited memories from my childhood–taking home ten books a week from my local library and thinking about the stories I would tell about Lyle or other similar animal characters.  Coincidentally, one of our project’s sponsors was named Lyle, and he, like Lyle the Crocodile, went off to an office.  So one afternoon, I asked Lyle read about Lyle with one of the afterschool groups.  It’s one of my favorite memories of that time, since it freezes both the kids and Lyle in time.  Lyle found out he had Parkinson’s a few years later and did not live to see the kids he’d worked so hard to support graduate from high school.

So Professional Crocodile was something special before I even opened it.  It’s wordless, which I love, although there’s a smattering of language on signs as the crocodile heads to work.  Along the way, he rides the subway, picks up some flowers for a co-worker, and puts away his street gear in the staff lockers.  There are all kinds of people and animals doing their things, too, with funny expressions across the emotional spectrum, charming details, and moments that show daily life in a big city.

What a treat!

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio

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Not one word more or less

linesIs this book about a lone figure skater?  An artist?  A community?

You’re on your own to figure that out, but if you’re a fan of wordless picture books, you’ll like this one, too.  Kids who love details in picture books will love this, but you can make it as simple or elaborate as you imagine it all to be.

Lines by Suzy Lee

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Read. Repeat. Now read it again.

turn on the nightI came across this one in the new picture books at another library.  (Yes, I’m just that much of a geek that I visit other libraries in my free time.)  I glanced at it, and seeing it was wordless, it went into my stack to take home.  On the first read, I thought it was a little weird.  Then I read the inside flap.  Aha… I read it again, noticing a few more details.  And then again.  More.  And again.  Even more.

It’s the best kind of wordless picture book.  You could read the story each time in a slightly different way, and it might change a little as you notice more and more of the details.  Don’t get me wrong – the pictures are not full of tiny, over-the-top drawings that make you stay on a page for five minutes.  They’re simple, but deceptively simple.  Is that another reindeer?  Are the lights different now?  What happened to the sleeping girl?  Definitely worth another look.

Turn On The Night by Geraldo Valério

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Wordless, wonderful

little foxA girl.  A stuffed animal/cuddly toy.  The toy goes missing.  Will it be found?

It’s not a revolutionary idea for a picture book; all kinds of great books have started with this simple idea:  Knuffle Bunny and Hitty, Her First Hundred Years (a Newbery Medal winner in 1930) to name two.

Little Fox in the Forest takes this and moves it to a whole different level.  It turns out the fox who’s stolen the toy lives in a little town of animals – complete with soda fountains and grocers – and even finding it may not mean it returns to its owner.

The ending is sweet, and the illustrations are wonderful—full of light and shade and colors that fit the scenes perfectly.  This would be a great book for early readers who are a little afraid of the printed word.  They can “read” the story and tell it without getting slowed down by those pesky letters.

Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin

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Another wonderful wordless – Skunk on a String

There’s a street parade with awesome balloons, and through the middle floats a skunk.  Wait…what?  Is it there because it likes floating through the air?  At first, you’re not sure.  Various adventures beckon, and there’s a lot to look at and talk about.  What’s the skunk doing?  Who are all those animals?  Isn’t the art cool?  What about the ending?

Wordless picture books are wonderful for many kinds of readers and non-readers.  As I’ve noted before, they work with very young kids who can learn new words and talk about what’s happening in the story.  For young writers and artists, you can talk about how the author/illustrator has related the story in interesting ways without words.  With language learners, they offer an opportunity to use what you know and figure out new words you’d like to learn.

For more of them, see this Pinterest page.

Skunk on a String by Thao Lam

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More fun with wordless (or almost wordless) picture books…


A boy in a classic yellow rain slicker heads out into a wet day with his newspaper boat. Will it float? Where will it go? Will it be ruined? A girl goes to a crowded pool and finds a whole new world – and a new friend – once she dives in.

Float (by Ben Miyares) and Pool (by JiHyeon Lee) reminded me why I love wordless picture books. There’s something clean and simple about looking at the pictures as you flip the pages, and at the same time, you feel like you’re in an art gallery or museum. Why did the artist use those colors? Why did s/he leave something out or add something in or cut something off? With all the words swirling around, it’s easy to forget the impact the visuals can make.pool image

As I mentioned in an earlier post, wordless picture books can be a great way to work on storytelling with everyone from young children to adults or with language learners or to help young writers think about what is important and what is missing in stories, and why that’s important.

Want to see more? Check out this Pinterest page.

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one way to use wordless (and almost wordless) picture books

For one of my volunteer gigs, I sometimes do writing workshops with nine-year-olds. Being encouraged to write completely crazy things sort of frees them (and me) to channel an inner evil villain or idiotic smarty-pants, and we always end up laughing a lot. Not everyone is creative in the same way, though, so when I start talking about storytelling, I often bring in a stack of picture books.

These kids have moved on from picture books. They read chapter books and have for a year or two or three, depending on when reading hit them, and I can see about half of them starting to give up on me a little. “This lady thinks I still read those books,” they’re thinking.

So I talk about storytelling, and how everyone tells a story a little bit differently. Some people like to write it down or type it up. Some people like to tell a story out loud. Some people are visual artists. That kind of thing.

Then I pick up one of the books. Usually I start with Journey by Aaron Becker or Bluebird by Bob Staake, although occasionally, I’ll start with a classic – Tuesday by David Wiesner or Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman.   These books only have a few words, if any, but they are amazing examples of storytelling. You find yourself shocked, laughing, and even occasionally teary. And it’s only the pictures showing you.

My point to the kids is this: everyone can tell a story if they find the right medium. Today we might be working on how to tell a story or talk about a character in words, but there are a lot of ways to do it. Heck, if they wanted to do a graphic novel, I’d love that, too. Or a song. Or a podcast. Or an entire book-length fantasy novel. (I know a 4th grader who did that, and I’m telling you, it was better than some of the published books I’ve read.)

The beautiful thing about being nine is that no one is stopping them from any story they want to tell. They haven’t figured out yet that they’re not good at writing. For the most part, they don’t worry about not being able to draw perfect figures. They will just write, using whatever spelling and punctuation comes into their heads. When they stand up and read their short piece, they are proud of what they’ve done.

Wordless or almost wordless picture books can be starting point for teens, adults, and English language learners, too. They don’t usually enter into it with the freedom of a nine year old, but there’s something about NOT having the words written on the page that opens everything up, so that their stories can be freed, too.

For more wordless picture books, check out this Pinterest page.

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