Book List: Wordless (and almost-wordless) Picture Books

Wordless picture books are amongst the most powerful books you will come across. They are entrenched with richness, layers and symbolism. They give a powerful licence to the reader to interpret the illustrations and become the story-teller.

To read more about how fantastic we think wordless picture books are, or to see our list of’ ’12 Ways to Enjoy a Wordless Picture Book‘, read our article ‘Read, Look, Explore‘ in tiny and little-Issue 2.

In the meantime, browse this list of wonderful titles created by some masters of wordless picture Books (ie.  Jeannie Baker and Barbara Lehman). You’ll also want to keep an eye out for new-comer, Suzy Lee, who has produced two of my favourite wordless picture books.

♥ Mirror

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Jeannie Baker

ISBN:978-1406309140

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Walker Books Ltd, November 2010

This is one special book that every family should have on their bookcase, not only because of its universal story line but because this book has been constructed like no other. It almost re-invents the way we read books. Mirror  allows you to explore the images and the journeys of two families simultaneously, one from Australia and the other from Morocco. Read our review in tiny and little- Issue 2.

Belonging

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Jeannie Baker

ISBN:978-1406305487

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Walker Books Ltd, May, 2007

As in the author’s previous picture book, Window, this book is observed through the window of a house in a typical urban neighbourhood, each picture showing a year’s developments. This is Window in reverse, with the land being reclaimed from built-up concrete to a gradual greening.

♥ Window

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Jeannie Baker

ISBN:978-0744594867

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Walker Books Ltd, November 2002

Window is a wordless picture book that speaks volumes. It begins with a mother and baby looking through a window at a view of wilderness and sky as far as the eye can see. With each page, the boy grows and the scene changes, from forest, to a single house, to a village and then to a city.


The Secret Box

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Barbara Lehman

ISBN:978-0547238685

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt , March 2011

Barbara Lehman takes readers on a timeless trip to a world of secret messages left in secret boxes hidden in secret places.

♥ Museum Trip

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Barbara Lehman

ISBN:978-0618581252

Format: Hardcover, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2006

While on a visit to the museum with his class, a boy is left behind when he stops to tie his shoe lace. As he tries to find his classmates, he discovers and enters a secret door in the museum which leads him to a display of mazes. We are onlookers of this boy’s journey through the mazes, but is this journey real or imagined? Read more in our book spotlight.

Trainstop

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Barbara Lehman

ISBN:978-0618756407

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt , April 2008

A ride on the train is exciting. There’s always something new to see, even if you’ve been there before. But some train rides are better than others . . .

♥ The Red Book

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Barbara Lehman

ISBN:978-0618428588

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,  September 2004

This is one clever and thought-provoking book from Barbara Lehman. It is a book within a book within a book and it is rich with layers. Want to read more? Read our book spotlight.

♥ Mirror

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Suzy Lee

ISBN:978-1934734391

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Seven Footer Press, April 2010

Suzy Lee masterfully creates a world where a little girl explores and dances­—at first cautiously, later exuberantly—with her reflection in the mirror. When discord between the girl and her reflection surfaces, Lee’s unforgettable story provides a gentle reminder that our actions have consequences.

♥ Wave

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Suzy Lee

ISBN:978-0811859240

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Chronicle Books, March 2008

This is a simplistic but highly emotive story, about a little girl’s visit to the beach (with seagulls as her comrades) as she enjoys a battle with the waves. We love Wave and we think you will too. Read more in our book spotlight.

The Other Side

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Istvan Banyai

ISBN:978-0811846080

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Chronicle Books, July 2005

In graphically stunning illustrations that feature many clever twists in point of view, familiar scenes turn and turn again to show us the back, the front, the top, the bottom, the opposite, the other side of each perspective. Here’s a door. What’s on the other side? Here’s a shoreline. What’s on the other side? Here’s a curtain. What’s on the other side? The answers may surprise you. Delightful, sly, funny, and challenging, The Other Side will make readers want to look, and think, twice.

Re-Zoom

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Istvan Banyai

ISBN:978-0140556940

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin, November 1998

Open this wordless book and take off on a mindbending visual journey full of twists, turns, and surprises. Zoom from an Egyptian pyramid to an exotic jungle to a sandy beach. But if you think you know where you are, guess again.

Zoom

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Istvan Banyai

ISBN:978-0140557749

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Puffin (Penguin), July 1998

Open this wordless book and zoom from a farm to a ship to a city street to a desert island. But if you think you know where you are, guess again. For nothing is ever as it seems in Istvan Banyai’s sleek, mysterious landscapes of pictures within pictures, which will tease and delight readers of all ages.

Flotsam

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David Wiesner

ISBN:978-0618194575

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), September 2006

A bright, science-minded boy goes to the beach equipped to collect and examine flotsam–anything floating that has been washed ashore. Bottles, lost toys, small objects of every description are among his usual finds. But there’s no way he could have prepared for one particular discovery: a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera, with its own secrets to share . . . and to keep.

Tuesday

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David Wiesner

ISBN:978-0395870822

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Sandpiper (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), August 1997

The whimsical account of a Tuesday when frogs were airborne on their lily pads will continue to enchant readers of all ages.


♥ Plane, Train, Truck and Trolley

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Peter Sheehan

ISBN:978-0143502005

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Puffin

This is a clever concept book covering colours, prepositions and scale. However, this book allows young children to think more deeply about these concepts, rather than simply recall them. Read our  review here.

♥ More

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Peter Schossow

ISBN:978-1877467554

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Gecko Press, October 2010

A man is taken on thrilling journey by a gust of wind. Nervous at first, he becomes so exhilarated he wants to do it all again. Want to know more about this book? Read our book spotlight.

♥ Leaf

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Stephen Michael King

ISBN:978-1741696776

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Scholastic Australia, April 2010

Leaf is a nearly wordless book, where the illustrations are supported by sound effects. Leaf demonstrates that the growth of a plant is also an analogy for the growth of ideas. Both grow with imagination, care, love and enthusiasm. Want to know more about this gorgeous book?- Read our book spotlight.

Chalk

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Bill Thomson

ISBN:978-0761455264

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish, March 2010

A rainy day. Three kids in a park. A dinosaur spring rider. A bag of chalk. The kids begin to draw. . . and then . . . magic! The children draw the sun, butterflies, and a dinosaur that amazingly come to life. Children will never feel the same about the playground after they experience this astounding wordless picture book and the power of the imagination. Bill Thomson embraced traditional painting techniques and meticulously painted each illustration by hand, using acrylic paint and colored pencils.

♥ A Long Piece of String

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William Wondriska

ISBN:978-0811874939

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2010

A piece of string weaves itself through objects that represent each of the letters of the alphabet. Read more about A Long Piece of String here.

♥ The Chicken Thief

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Beatrice Rodriguez

ISBN:978-1877467318

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Gecko Press, November 2009

This is a story about a chase through the forest, over mountains and across the ocean, but it is also a story about situations not always being what they may first seem. Three animals set out to rescue their chicken friend who has been stolen by a fox. The chase leads to an unexpected ending. Read more about The Chicken Thief in our book spotlight.

♥ Welcome to the Zoo

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Alison Jay

ISBN:978-1840119732

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Templar Publishing( Hardie Grant), September 2009

Alison Jay has created her own zoo, in which the animals outwit the zoo keepers! Brimming with small stories and enchanting details to spot throughout, this wordless board book invites curious eyes to explore Alison Jay’s beautiful and humorous illustrations.

South

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Patrick McDonnell

ISBN:978-0316005098

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Little Hare, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette), September 2008

When a little bird awakens to find that all of his friends and family have gone south for the winter, it takes a surprising friendship with Mooch the cat to help him find his way. In this wordless story that appeals to all ages, the quiet language of sharing and comfort is all that is needed for these two species to communicate. Painted in a warm, elegant brushwork style inspired by Japanese art, South is a simple yet profoundly moving journey about being lost and found, crossing boundaries, saying goodbye and broadening horizons.

Sidewalk Circus

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Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes

ISBN:978-0763627959

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Candlewick Press, May 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Step right up and witness an astounding assemblage of tightrope walkers, strong men, sword swallowers, and clowns. The Garibaldi Circus is coming soon, but for those with clear eyes, the performers may already be in the ring. So get ready to sharpen your vision and look very closely — a show like you’ve never seen is about to begin!

♥ The Arrival

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Shaun Tan

ISBN:978-0734406941

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Lothian Books/Hachette Books, October 2006

The Arrival tells the story of an immigrant leaving his homeland and embarking on a future in a new land. His experience is overwhelming as he adjusts to a new language, new living conditions, new customs, new food, new creatures and new friends. Wordless picture books give power and creativity to the reader, but there is another purpose to the absence of words in The Arrival. As a reader of The Arrival, we walk in the shoes of an immigrant. We must interpret the images and the strange symbols Tan uses; just as an immigrant in a new land must find a way to understand and communicate with his new neighbours. This is a book for adults too. Read more in our book spotlight.

Yellow Umbrella- with CD

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Jae Soo Liu

ISBN:978-1929132362

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Kane/Miller, July 2006

The perfect book for a rainy day (obviously) but also for an art lesson, a lazy afternoon, or a quiet classroom, Yellow Umbrella tells the wordless story of one umbrella’s morning journey. Accompanied by a CD of original and evocative piano music.

A Circle of Friends

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Giora Carmi

ISBN:978-1595720603

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Star Bright Books, May 2006

A boy begins a cycle of good will when he anonymously shares his snack with a homeless man. Without a single written word, this book effectively teaches about helping, sharing, and caring.

The Flower Man

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Mark Ludy

ISBN:978-0966427684

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Green Pastures Publishing, Incorporated, September 2005

Every window tells a story in this wordless picture book, in fact there are over 60 stories to be discovered. What happens when a colorless town is visited by the Flower Man? Nothing will be the same. He buys an old shack, fixes it up, plants a garden and gives away a single little flower. Before you know it, every life is impacted and transformed, all by the actions of one.


A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog

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Mercer Mayer

ISBN:978-0803728806

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin), June 2003

A boy and his dog go walking in the swamp. They spot a frog in the water. Can they use a net to catch him? A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog, the first book in this series, launched Mercer Mayer’s distinguished career over twenty-five years ago, and also helped to create the wordless picture book genre. Full of warm hearted mischief and play, the books express the humorous trials and tribulations of friendship and the joy of summertime discovery.

Other books in the series include: A Boy, a Dog, A Frog and a Friend; One Frog Too Many, Frog on His Own, Frog Goes To Dinner, Frog, where are you?

1, 2, 3, to the Zoo

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Eric Carle

ISBN:978-0140509267

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Puffin Books (Penguin), 28 June 1990

Brightly coloured animals, riding on a train to their new homes in the zoo, offer young children a delightful introduction to numbers and counting.

The Silver Pony: A Story in Pictures

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Lynd Ward

ISBN:978-0395643778

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Sandpiper (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), October 1992

Told only in pictures, this is the story of a lonely farm boy who confuses his dreams of adventure on a winged pony with reality.

Have You Seen My Duckling?

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Nancy Tafuri

ISBN:978-0688109943

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins), August 1991

An anxious mother duck leads her brood around the pond as she searches for one missing duckling.

Changes, Changes

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Pat Hutchins

ISBN:978-0689711374

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, April 1987

The little wooden couple are happy in their building-block house — until it catches fire. The solution? They transform the house into a fire engine! But then there’s so much water that they have to build a boat…

Pancakes for Breakfast

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Tomie dePaola

ISBN:978-0152594558

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Sandpiper (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), April 1978

This wordless picture book follows the trials of a little old lady who attempts to make pancakes for her breakfast.

Book List: Wordless (and almost-wordless) Picture Books

3

  1. You’ve inspired me! So many here I haven’t read. Great list! And my favourite quote is : “They give a powerful licence to the reader to interpret the illustrations and become the story-teller.” Absolutely!

  2. Loved your article and love this list. ‘Belonging’ is my favourite while my three girls love two that aren’t on your list – ‘Sunlight’ and ‘Moonlight’. We also enjoyed ‘Leaf’ from our local library – I liked the symmetry of it’s story.

  3. Many thanks for all the work – at ALS we love your comments and lists especially when we are working with a new library children’s collection. I notice that you have not listed Boomerang Books as a good on-line bookshop. I like the format and the community it is building – worth a look (and much better to support another Aussie enterprise than shipping books across the sea twice via Book Depository!). have a good rest and take care.
    Tricia

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Book List: Wordless (and almost-wordless) Picture Books

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