Wordless Picture Books that Get Your Kids Storytelling
Sure, a picture is worth a thousand words but what about thirty-two pages of gorgeous illustrations and no words at all? Well, that would be priceless – and an awesome storytelling experience! Wordless picture books draw your kids right into the story with engaging visuals and let your child focus on the mechanics of good narration.
Reading without Words
But how do you tackle a wordless picture book? You just might discover your toddlers know how to do this better than you do since they’re yet bound to reading words. On first read, it’s going to take a little creativity on your part. Look at the pictures, pick up the role of the narrator, imagine the dialogue, and the emotions behind the words. Then, simply fill it all in!
As you work through the plot, you’ll notice you’ll have to pay some good attention to visual clues and anticipate what might come next. Pore over the pictures together – there’ll be a greater sense of discovery in reading wordless picture books and piecing the story together.
Mastering the Art of the Story
During future readings, let your little one take the reins. This is a wonderful and extremely empowering exercise for pre-readers. Let them practice their storytelling skills. In fact, let them sit on a chair circle-time style and gather around on the rug to hear their version. Have them go through the story front to back – and maybe let them try in reverse order as well. How is the story different when you start at the end?
Have beginning readers work on their writing skills and incorporate a lesson on speech bubbles. How would they write out the dialogue? Talk about speech bubbles versus thought bubbles and how their shapes change depending on the emotions of the character. And now, on to the reads!
A Ball for Daisy
By Chris Raschka
Daisy is a puppy that absolutely loves her ball. But when a playful romp with another dog at the park turns disastrous, Daisy is devastated at the sight of her just-popped toy. Raschka’s bold and squiggly illustrations take children on a very-relatable visual journey that’s both deep with emotion and charmingly humorous. It will touch the heart of any child who has ever lost a favorite toy.
For a lovely tale of first friendships, pick up a copy of Raschka’s Yo! Yes? as well. With just thirty-four words and wildly beautiful illustrations, this story will have kids applauding the simple telling of two kids creating a new bond.
By Bill Thompson
Both you and your child will marvel at Thompson’s eye-catching, realistic illustrations. Practically photographic, the drawings expertly capture both excitement and suspense as three children discover the magical properties of a found bag of chalk. A quickly-scribbled sun comes to life and transforms the rainy day. Monarchs drawn in bright orange open their wings and flutter in the sky. And what about the ferocious T-Rex? Quick, hide! The dramatic adventure that ensues is an open invitation for little ones to fill in their own narrative.
By David Wiesner
Deep-water mysteries abound in this book as a little boy discovers an underwater camera washed on the shore. He quickly develops the film inside and embarks on a visual journey filled with fantastical creatures. An inflated puffer fish is a hot air balloon sailing over the sea. Wind-up mechanical fish swim around with gears. Sea turtles transport mobile villages on their backs. The pictures are just so whimsical and dreamy – both highly realistic and pure fantasy! As the young boy looks at the last photo through his magnifying glass, kiddos will delight over the ending, which is so satisfying, it lives on in the imagination.
Wiesner is the master of wordless or near wordless picture books. Check out his version of the classic fairytale The Three Pigs, the amphibian journey in Tuesday, Mr. Wuffles’ tale of a cat who plays with aliens, and the gorgeous lesson in painting that is Art & Max.
The Lion and The Mouse
By Jerry Pinkey
A wordless retelling of one of Aesop’s most popular fables, this book’s illustrations speak volumes! Pinkey does a masterful job of depicting life of the Serengeti in watercolor with varied perspectives and high emotions that keep little ones engaged. Children will love the classic tale of a little mouse captured by a lion, then set free only to repay his kindness. You will both be challenged to find words worthy of these visual masterpieces!
By Stephen Gammell
For gloopy goodness, check out Gammell’s Mudkin – a story of a little girl who encounters an oh-so-cute mini mud creature. The creature asks her to be his queen and the two set off in a gooey carriage to an even muddier castle. While the girl does have speaking lines, Mudkin only speaks in gunky, brown smears.
Kids will love filling in his parts as well as poring over the joyfully messy splattered watercolor illustrations.
Gammell’s artwork is so fun and engaging, you’ll want to check out some of his other books. Is That You, Winter? and Twigboy are a few top picks.
The Red Book
By Barbara Lehman
Have you ever lost yourself deep within a story? This book within a book will have you so emotionally wrapped up that with The Red Book in your hand, you’ll begin to wonder whether you yourself might be written into the plot.
When a little city girl finds a red book deep in the snow, she discovers a lonely boy on an island and a map of his location within its pages. With balloons in hand, she sets out to find him. Only she has dropped her book along the way. It falls on the street and readers can see her reach her destination just before another kid picks it up. Will the city girl and island boy become fast friends? Will the child with the newly discovered book join them? Will you? The simple but eloquent images will have you transported!
By Lita Judge
Practically wordless, Red Sled offers a whimsical tale of a group of forest creatures, a borrowed child’s sled, and a hilarious midnight joy ride. Beautifully captured in bold watercolor, lovable characters and giggle-inducing onomatopoeia will have your kids begging for yet another reread. This book is sure to become a wintertime classic. Enjoy it with a nice, hot cup of cocoa!
By Raymond Briggs
Truly timeless, The Snowman is a gentle book with a 175 images to get your child deep into the details of the story. Frame by frame, kids will joyously recite the lovely adventures of a little boy and his snowman.
The simplicity of the images and the magical storyline will warm your child’s heart even on the coldest winter’s night. Don’t be surprised if you catch your child staying up well past midnight, waiting for their own snowman to come to life. And be prepared that one day, years from now, you will catch your eighteen year old thumbing through this wintertime favorite with bittersweet tears in her eyes.
And once you’ve mastered our favorite wordless picture book, pick up a copy of The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak for a completely different experience.
Do your children have any favorite wordless picture books? Share their top picks with us!
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