My mama has an obsession with beautifully illustrated wordless (or almost) picture books. Maybe it’s because she couldn’t draw a straight line to save her life. Who knows. But because she feeds them to me, I’ve learned to love them, too. These kinds of books are often paradoxical: no words seems to imply easy to digest for little ones, but in actuality, the plot lines and illustrations can be extremely intricate and definitely need an adult’s help to interpret. So, wordless picture books make great gifts for kids of all ages. And they’re works of art, too, which helps me learn to appreciate beautiful things.
Here’s a short list of my favorites from the past three years:
Chalk by Bill Thomson: On a rainy day, three friends are out walking when they discover a bag hanging from a playground dinosaur’s mouth. They look in the bag. Chalk! They begin to draw. And magically, what they draw comes to life! Everything is going well…until the mischievous boy decides to draw a dinosaur. The solution to their predicament is both ingenious and simple. Illustrations are to die for. Beautifully done. I LOVED this book when I was two.
Flotsam by David Wiesner: A boy discovers a camera on the beach and develops the pictures. What those pictures have to show is both clever and amazing. Gorgeously illustrated. My mama has checked out a number of Wiesner’s books, but this one and the next one have been my favorites.
Mr. Wuffles! (Caldecott Medal – Honors Winning Title(s)) by David Wiesner: Mr. Wuffles is a cat who doesn’t like playing with anything…except tiny spaceships with visiting aliens inside. While trying to fix their broken ship and outsmart the wily Mr. Wuffles, the aliens meet some unlikely friends (ants and a ladybug). When I was two and a half to when I was three, I really really liked this book. Mama made up an alien and an ant language, and we had lots of fun making upset cat meow sounds. Clever storyline and beautiful illustrations. The best of the best.
Yellow Umbrella (New York Times Best Illustrated Books (Awards)) by Dong Il Sheen and Jae-Soo Liu: In this book, all the reader ever sees is the tops of umbrellas on their way someplace. The umbrellas travel through a variety of scenes, all viewed from above (a novel difference in perspective). Soft watercolors help create a rainy day atmosphere. There is also a CD included with the book that readers can play while “reading” (no words in this book), and there is a song with a score and lyrics printed on the last page. I really liked this book for three reasons: 1) I “worked on” colors 2) I “worked on” counting (the umbrellas are added one by one) and 3) Mama sang the song (badly) at the end and followed the music notes for me. I also enjoyed listening to the CD.
Journey by Aaron Becker: Woo! If you have a slightly older child or a younger child who is fairly patient or a budding artist in the family, this book is a treasure. A young girl is bored. On a whim, she picks up a piece of red chalk and draws a door on her bedroom wall. She steps through it to enter a magical place where her chalk helps her to escape from a number of scrapes. In the end, she finds a friend who is just like her.
My dada gave this book to Mama for Christmas last year (to read with me, of course), but I wasn’t quite ready for it until I was almost three years old. But since then, it’s been a favorite that I return to every few weeks. Talk about creative! And talk about wonderful illustrations! The rich details will keep you opening it again and again, finding something new every time. Fantastic.
Red Car, Red Bus by Susan Steggall: Not a traditionally illustrated book. Instead of hand-drawn illustrations, the author uses torn paper to create richly detailed scenes. There are a few simple words that accompany the scenes: red car. red bus. yellow car. yellow van. As the traffic line lengthens, the reader begins to notice a simple pattern developing. I was obsessed with this book when I was first learning to read because I could follow the pictures and read the words. Before long, I had the pattern memorized. I also loved discovering the little “mini-stories” within the larger story. A great book for learning to attend to details, learning colors, and learning patterns. It’s also about vehicles, for the vehicular obsessed child ;-)
Happy reading and happy gifting!
–Written by Luke (age 3) and Mama (age ?)
Clicking on the books will take you to Amazon.com, and if you decide to buy the book, a portion of your purchase comes back to me. I, in turn, will use the profits to purchase books for our local library or for a children’s literacy project.