Books Reading Themes When Words are Not Enough

List of Wordless Picture Books: A Gathering Books Recommendation

Rather than join the bandwagon of listing our favorite books published in 2011, we’re taking a different tack and share with you some of our recommended lists based on some of our bimonthly themes this year. We also felt that it would be a great contribution to the Carnival of Children’s Literature which is hosted this month by Jean Little Library.

List of Wordless Picture Books

Our Wordless Picture Book Special for March and April 2011

Admittedly, this is one of my favorite bimonthly themes for the year. I have truly discovered so many authors and so many great books because I was constantly on the look out for wordless picture books. Hence, I decided to organize this list based on authors and a few themes.

Suzy Lee

We were privileged to have the brilliant Suzy Lee as our featured author for March/April. We have done a four-part feature of Suzy Lee and her artwork. Here is the interview that we have done as could be found in Behind the Books, entitled: Narrative of a Book Artist.

Suzy has done quite a number of wordless picture books which I am strongly recommending as must-haves:

These three books are referred to by Suzy as the components of her Border Trilogy. Click here to be taken to my 3-in-1 review of Wave, Shadow, and Mirror – which also includes a Q and A with Suzy herself.

She has also shared with me that the Korean Edition of the Border Trilogy has just recently come out – and she has recently sent me this photo of the Book Cover:

Congratulations, Suzy! Over and above these three lovely books, Suzy has also created the wordless picture book La Revanche des Lapins 

which was awarded as one of “The Most Beautiful Swiss Books” by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture in 2003. Illustrations of this book were also selected by “Illustrator’s Exhibition’ in Bologna Children’s Book Fair” in 2002. Click here to be taken to my review of this book which also includes a Q and A with Suzy.

Suzy has also created a wordless version of Alice in Wonderland:

Click here to be taken to my review of this amazing book.

Fernando Krahn

I simply fell in love with this Chilean cartoonist who created some of the most exquisite wordless picture books that had me in stitches with so much laughter and enjoyment. Krahn has also received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1973, the 2001 S.M. International Children’s Book Award, and the prestigious Apelles Mestres Prize in  Spain. He has just recently passed away on February 2010. I managed to review several of his titles for our wordless picture book theme. Simply click on the thumbnail photos below to be taken to my review of each book.

Click on the image for the book’s review.

The Self-Made Snowman (1974)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

Little Love Story (1976)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

The Creepy Thing (1982)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

Amanda and the Mysterious Carpet (1985)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

A Funny Friend from Heaven (1977)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

The Mystery of the Giant Footprints (1977)

Click to be taken to my review of the book.

Catch that Cat! (1978)

These are only among the Fernando Krahn picture books that I managed to find in our library. Apparently, he has written a few more that you might also want to check out: A Flying Saucer Full of Spaghetti, published in 1970; April Fools published in 1974; Sebastian and the Mushroom (1976); Arthur’s Adventure in the Abandoned House (1981); Sleep Tight, Alex Pumpernickel, published in 1982; and a book that seems perfect for the season: How Santa Claus Had a Long and Difficult Journey Delivering His Presents – already considered a vintage book, having been published in 1968.

Australian Authors: Jan Ormerod, Jeannie Baker, and Shaun Tan

I have a special affinity for Australian-based authors, I simply adore the artwork and the writing. I know I am missing out on a few more of my favorite Aussie writers (Ken Spillman, Chris Cheng, Graeme Base, Colin Thompson), but right now I am focusing on authors who have created wordless materials.

Jan Ormerod is one such writer and I have reviewed her books Sunshine (1981) and Moonlight (1982). I love how her books depict the magic in daily routines and the sparkle in (what is referred to by musician Jose Gonzalez as) ‘cycling trivialities.’

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.
Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

Jeannie Baker is also another fascinating discovery. I was positively riveted by her collage-artwork and the meticulous detail in which she creates her wordless picture books. Jeannie also covers pretty heavy-duty topics such as the environment, conservation of resources, and the face of home and community – she has also shared in detail how this is even made more powerful through wordless art. I was able to review three of her books which I borrowed from our community libraries here in Singapore.

Window (1991)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book

Home/Belonging (2004)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

Mirror (2010)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

Lastly, we have the genius artist himself, Shaun Tan, and his multi-award-winning book

The Arrival. I felt that I would not be able to do justice to the book, thus, I enlisted the help of Fats so that we can do a collaborative-blog-post for our review of The Arrival. I knew that we had to come up with something inspired to demonstrate how much the book has deeply moved us. Click on the image of the book to be taken to our first-ever collaborative review.

Click on the image to be taken to our review of the book.

Lifelike Imageries: Jerry Pinkney, Eric Rohmann, Bill Thomson

One other aspect of wordless picture books that continued to fascinate me as I went through a lot of materials was the lifelike imageries I noted in most of the artwork. With the absence of words – each stroke tells a story, every line/angle has a significance, each dab of the paintbrush reflects a shade of emotion. Here are some of the authors and their works that captured my awe – each page breathtaking in its vivid life-like portrayal of its subjects.

Award-winning author/illustrator Jerry Pinkney does a wordless adaptation of one of the most beloved Aesop’s fables of all time in The Lion and the Mouse.

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

We are taken to the world of dinosaurs and other ancient beasts as Iphigene does a short-and-sweet review of Eric Rohmann’s Time Flies

Click on the image to be taken to Iphigene’s review of the book.

It seems that dinosaurs are quite the popular theme when it comes to wordless books as Bill Thomson shares with us his awe-inspiring illustrations in Chalk.

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

David Wiesner’s Artwork

I know I should have included David Wiesner in the theme above, but since he has done quite a number of books in this genre, I thought he deserved a special category altogether. Moreover, his illustrations likewise border on the strange, surreal, and fantastical.

Here are some of his books we managed to find and review for our When Words are not Enough bimonthly theme:

Free Fall (1998)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

Flotsam (2006) – as reviewed by Iphigene

Click on the image to be taken to Iphigene’s review of the book.

 Sector 7 (1999) – as reviewed by Fats

Click on the image to be taken to Fats’ review of the book.

There is one other picture book that we all love and enjoyed thoroughly – but we weren’t able to review for this bimonthly theme. I do encourage you to find this book yourself and take a peek at the makings of a classic – Tuesday – awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1992.

Shadows and Subtleties in Peter Collington and Chris Van Allsburg

Another new author I discovered was Peter Collington who is also considered one of the masters of wordless picture books. I know that he has created quite a lot of wordless art but sadly, I was only able to find these two from our library:

The Midnight Circus (1992)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

A Small Miracle (1997) – this wordless book is perfect this Christmas.

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

Peter Collington’s artwork has a gentleness about it that contributes to its timeless quality. While there is an abundance of colors, there is a muted quality to it that brings one a sense of blessing. I discovered that award-winning author/illustrator Collington has also created another wordless book perfect for Christmas that you might want to check out: On Christmas Eve (1990).

Other wordless picture books from Collington include The Angel and the Soldier Boy (1987), Little Pickle (1986), The Coming of the Surfman (1993), The Tooth Fairy (1995), and Clever Cat (2000).

Chris Van Allsburg is a staple here in GatheringBooks. We always try to find a way to include most of his books in our bimonthly themes. While The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984) contains a few titles/words – we felt that it could still pass for an almost-wordless theme.

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

This nearly-wordless picture book has actually inspired the creation of a full-length book that was only recently released this year: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick – a definite must-have – with an introduction written by Lemony Snicket himself! Definitely part of my wish-list.

A Play in Perspectives: Istvan Banyai

Istvan Banyai – click on the image to be taken to the websource.

In my review of Banyai’s work, I recalled calling him the Quentin Tarantino of children’s literature, and I have not changed my mind since. He is also described as a “provocateur” since his artwork resembled puzzles and illustrations literally turning over on their heads. Similar to Van Allsburg, his creations are almost-wordless since they do contain a few words here and there. Here are some of his works we managed to find and review for the theme:

The Other Side (2005)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

Rezoom (1998) – reviewed by Iphigene

Click on the image to be taken to Iphigene’s review of the book.

Too bad, we were not able to review another one of Istvan Banyai’s almost-wordless book: Zoom. 

Mitsumasa Anno’s Travels

Mitsumasa Anno has received several prestigious awards both in Japan and internationally, one of which is the Hans Christian Andersen award. He also received the Golden Apple Award of the BIB (Bratislava International Biennale) in 1977, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art/Brooklyn Public Library Citation. He was also a perfect author to be featured for this theme since he shared his travels and journeys through wordless art. We managed to feature a 3-in-1 of Japanese artist Mitsumasa Anno’s picture books here in GatheringBooks:

Anno’s Britain (1982), Anno’s USA (1983) and Anno’s Spain (2003)

Another 3-in-1 GatheringBooks feature for our Wordless Picture Book bimonthly theme. Click on the image to be taken to my review of the books.

He has also done a few more wordless books that we were not able to find and review but you might want to get for yourself: Topsy-Turvies (1970), Dr. Anno’s Magical Midnight Circus (1972), Anno’s Journey (1978). You might also want to check out Anno’s Alphabet (1988), Anno’s Counting House (1982), Anno’s Counting Book (1986),

and Anno’s Flea Market (1984). As far as I know, these are only some of the wordless books Mitsumasa Anno has created. If there are more that you know of, I’d be glad to add them to this list.

Museum Specials: Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman, Robin Preiss Glasser, and Barbara Lehman

I did not realize that the museum-inspired book that the sisters Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser have created was part of a series. I originally bought You Can’t take a balloon into the National Gallery (2000) while I was still in the Philippines around 5 to 6 years ago.

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

I was so happy to discover two more books from the series here in Singapore, which I also managed to review. Click on the thumbnails to be taken to my thoughts about the books:

You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum (1998)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

You Can’t take a Balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts (2002)

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

To end this museum-inspired thread, we also featured Barbara Lehman’s Museum Trip (2006).

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

This is not the only wordless picture book created by Barbara Lehman. You might also want to check out her other titles: Rainstorm (2007), Trainstop (2008), The Secret Box (2011), and the Caldecott Honor The Red Book (2004).

Blogger/Librarian LibLaura 5 has also done a great review of Barbara Lehman’s wordless books here.

Vintage Classics

I have always had a special affinity with old books. They often have a timeless quality about them that transcends the boundaries of space and seasons. I was very happy to have been led to the works of the legendary Raymond Briggs in The Snowman first published in 1978:

Click on the image to be taken to my review of The Snowman

We have Eric Carle’s Do You Want to be My Friend published in 1971:

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

As far as I know, Eric Carle has also created another wordless picture book entitled 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo which you might also want to check out.

There’s a fairly new one by Ezra Jack Keats in his hippie-vibe-picture book Clementina’s Cactus published in 1982. This is his only wordless picture book, so be sure not to miss this one.

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

We go back a few more years and check out Lynd Ward’s The Silver Pony published in 1973.

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

Apparently Lynd Ward has also published other hefty, epic novels that are wordless in nature – illustrated in his traditional wood-cut style entitled God’s Man and Mad Man’s Drum. While I was not able to find copies of the said books, there is an interesting review written by Tarquin Tar’s Bookcase that you may wish to check out.

I also discovered the author John Strickland Goodall, born in 1908, who created several wordless picture books. The interesting thing about most of his books is its packaging: the books are 4 x 6 in size and Goodall basically alternated full-page pictures with half-page ones that blend right into the preceding page and the next one. Pretty ingenious. I was only able to review one of his books entitled The Midnight Adventures of Kelly, Dot, and Esmeralda published as early as 1972.

Click on the image to be taken to my review of the book.

Other wordless picture books created by John Goodall include Adventures of Paddy Pork (1968) – which I also found in our library but was not able to review:

Click on the image to be taken to the websource

Other titles include the following: Jacko (1971), Paddy’s Evening Out (1973), Creepy Castle (1975), Naughty Nancy (1975), The Surprise Picnic (1977), The Story of an English Village (1979), John S. Goodall’s Theatre: The Sleeping Beauty (1980)Paddy Goes Traveling (1982), Paddy Pork, Odd Jobs (1983), Paddy Underwater (1984), Naughty Nancy Goes to School (1985), Paddy to the Rescue (1985), The Story of a Farm (1989), Puss in Boots (1990). I am sure there must be a few more that I may have missed out, but I guarantee you that your kids would definitely love these titles.

Other Resources on Wordless Picture Books

I noted that there are a great deal of resources on the web in connection with wordless picture books. You might want to check out this compiled list as created by the Library of Illinois. There is another compilation created by Imagination Soup and a wikispace devoted to ‘stories without words’ by Lm_Net where school librarians connect. A brief article on the case for wordless books and how it can greatly contribute to literacy and children’s imagination can be found in Hope you enjoyed this list!

11 comments on “List of Wordless Picture Books: A Gathering Books Recommendation

  1. Oh my, there is so much here that it’s difficult to take it all in. This is a post I will keep and treasure, looking again & again, & trying to check out many of the books that we don’t have in our school library. I have a colleague who collects wordless picture books who will love this too. Thanks for all!


    • Hi Linda! I hope that you’re enjoying your lovely time with your family. I agree that this is quite a looooong list – I tried to be as thorough as I could – and I enjoyed inserting the thumbnail photos of the books. As Iphigene has pointed out when we were discussing the making of these lists, hyperlinking itself is quite a chore, if one includes the actual photos used, man oh man, that’s even more of a struggle – but definitely well worth it. 🙂


      • Sorry I returned so much later. It is useful to have the links, but when you’re strapped for time… One of our teaches used the colleague I referred to’s collection & had her students write their own stories to go with the book of their choice. It was a strong lesson in fiction (2nd & 3rd graders) & a big celebration at the end happened when they read the stories. Great fun!


  2. I’ve often wondered why wordless picture books are not as utilized as it should be in the classrooms – very very powerful tool in improving literacy and eye for detail, developing an appreciation of pictorial narratives – and giving the reins of the actual storytelling itself to the children.


  3. BethanyCynthia

    I just spend 3 days searching with a vague memory of a picture book from my childhood with an inflating heart balloon. Little Love Story! Thank you!!!!!!!


  4. Pingback: Literature for At-Risk Readers – Middle School Grades « monica Orlando

  5. Thank you for this wonderfully thorough look at wordless picture books. I love Suzy Lee, David Wiesner and Jerry Pickney. Will have to search out some of these other titles. I agree with an earlier comment, wordless picture books are under utilized in the classroom.


  6. Pingback: [Monday Reading] Of Darkness and Shadows – “The Dark” and “The Shadow” |

  7. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Six Overlooked Fiction Picturebooks by Author-Illustrators (..or Could Have Received More Love) in 2015 (Part One of Two) | Gathering Books

  8. Hi Gathering Books, I’m an English teacher trainee doing a WebQuest on early literacy for college. Would you mind if I linked back to this list in my project? Of course I’ll include your names. It’s extremely useful and well-prepared.
    Thanks a lot ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Victoria,
      You definitely may. After all that’s one of our goals here at Gathering Books–to be able to provide resource on books.
      I’m glad this was helpful to you. Feel free to dig further you might find other things that might be useful to you on here. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: