Saturday, September 14, 2013

5 wordless picture books to try with Mr3

"Before they read words, children are reading pictures."
― David Wiesner

I heart words. Printed, online, skywritten, painted... On billboards, in eNewsletters, books, subtitles on tv shows... I love them all. Yes, even the curse laden ones. Every time I read something it's like a mini-celebration that I can do so. It makes me squee. Which is possibly why I was thrown a little when I came across my first wordless picture book as an adult.

One of my earliest memories of reading is sitting with my dad and re-telling my own version of Sleeping Beauty - it had words but I was too young to read them (I was 3 years old, give me a break), and dad would flip the pages while I babbled away about what I thought was happening. (You can laugh at this bit: There had been a nits outbreak at kindy, and mum had had to check my hair, so of course that was in mind when reading Sleeping Beauty who had her head in somebody's lap and so I said "Shes' looking for nits, isn't she?" Gran was silenced, mum was mortified, and dad pretended he hadn't heard). My rendition of the story probably wasn't as good as the real thing, but it didn't really matter. As far as dad was concerned, as far as I knew, I was reading pictures.

It's very likely that I had come across wordless picture books as a kid, and just never noticed. But as an adult, it sorta blew my mind that whole stories could be told without words. And, as is usual with me, I requested any and all I could find in our libraries, and inhaled them like chocolate. (If you tell me you can't inhale chocolate then I will tell you to your face that you are wrong). It became one of those things that I then had to share with everyone. Mostly my nephews (who are now Mr15 and Mr16 and too cool for school, oh how I miss the days when they were little and books were magic). Mr9 doesn't like my help when choosing books anymore, and fair enough, otherwise I'd be angsting over why he hadn't gotten to War and Peace or Great Expectations yet. (Give me a break! I was an intense 9 year old).. But Mr3...he can't escape me. Yet. We're going to work our way through my favouritest wordless picture books (I suspect his mum thinks I'm being overly ambitious with expecting him to understand Robot Dreams and The Arrival but I don't think so) and see where it takes us.

If you have wordless picture book recommendations of your own (their subject heading is stories without words in the catalogue), then leave them as a comment, and we'll try those, too. Enjoy the list!

The red book / by Barbara Lehman
This book is about a book. A magical red book without any words. When you turn the pages you'll experience a new kind of adventure through the power of story.In illustrations of rare detail and surprise, The Red Book crosses oceans and continents to deliver one girl into a new world of possibility, where a friend she's never met is waiting. And as with the best of books, at the conclusion of the story, the journey is not over.

  • "As visually uncluttered as it is conceptually rich, Lehman's red book is a little treasure of its own." (Publisher's Weekly)
  • "Lehman's story captures the magical possibility that exists every time readers open a book-if they allow it: they can leave the "real world" behind and, like the heroine, be transported by the helium of their imaginations." (School Library Journal)
  • "The author's simply drawn art and extensive use of geometrical forms are appropriate to a pleasing puzzle that will challenge young imaginations and intellects." (The Horn Book)
  • "The message about the transporting power of story will moisten the eyes of many adult readers, but children will most appreciate the thought-provoking visuals, in which characters' actions influence the course of their own storybook narratives--likewise affecting the larger red book, cleverly packaged to mimic the shape and color of its fictional counterpart. Ideal for fueling creative-writing exercises." (Booklist)

Flotsam / David Wiesner
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. Each of David Wiesner's amazing picture books has revealed the magical possibilities of some ordinary thing or happening--a frog on a lily pad, a trip to the Empire State Building, a well-known nursery tale. In this Caldecott Medal winner, a day at the beach is the springboard into a wildly imaginative exploration of the mysteries of the deep, and of the qualities that enable us to witness these wonders and delight in them.

  • "Masterfully altering the pace with panel sequences and full-bleed spreads, he fills every inch of the pages with intricate, imaginative watercolor details. New details swim into focus with every rereading of this immensely satisfying excursion." (Publisher's Weekly)
  • "Filled with inventive details and delightful twists, each snapshot is a tale waiting to be told. Pair this visual adventure with Wiesner's other works, Chris Van Allsburg's titles, or Barbara Lehman's The Red Book (Houghton, 2004) for a mind-bending journey of imagination." (School Library Journal)
  • "The meticulous and rich detail of Wiesner's watercolors makes the fantasy involving and convincing; children who enjoyed scoping out Banyai's Zoom books and Lehman's The Red Book will keep a keen eye on this book about a picture of a picture of a picture of a...." (The Horn Book)
  • "Like Chris Van Allsburg's books and Wiesner's previous works, this visual wonder invites us to rethink how and what we see, out in the world and in our mind's eye." (Booklist)

No! / David McPhail
ONE POWERFUL WORD Standing up to bullies of all kinds in a poignant tale.The word "No" repeated three times is the only thing said in this otherwise wordless book that speaks volumes. A young boy sets out to deliver a letter and witnesses acts of war along his way, both on the personal level, and on a world-wide scale. At a time when our country is at war, NO! is a touching example of resistance and alternatives to conflict told through heart-wrenching illustrations from David McPhail at his very best.

  • "The idea of taking effective action without fighting is a powerful one, and children and adults alike will find that McPhail's images linger." (Publisher's Weekly)
  • "...this profound narrative also demonstrates the importance of taking a stand and the power of one voice." (School Library Journal)
  • "McPhail's emotion- and narrative-filled watercolors unfold expertly to tell this powerful (if didactic) anti-war story." (The Horn Book)

Robot dreams / Sara Varon
This moving, charming graphic novel about a dog and a robot shows us in poignant detail how powerful and fragile relationships are. After a Labor Day jaunt to the beach leaves the robot rusted, immobilized in the sand, the dog must return alone to the life they shared. But the memory of their friendship lingers, and as the seasons pass, the dog tries to fill the emotional void left by the loss of his closest friend, making and losing a series of friends, from a melting snowman to epicurean anteaters. But for the robot, lying rusting on the beach, the only relief from loneliness is in dreams.

  • "Tender, funny and wise." (Publisher's Weekly)
  • "This book is like those board games that can be appreciated by anyone from 8 to 80. It is a quick read, but it will stay with readers long after they put it down." (School Library Journal)
  • "Her masterful depiction of Dog's struggles with guilt and Robot's dreams of freedom effectively pulls readers into this journey of friendship, loss, self-discovery, and moving forward. Use this as Exhibit A to prove that graphic novels can pack an emotional punch equal to some of the best youth fiction." (Booklist)

The arrival / Shaun Tan
A unique 128-page, textless graphic novel, in black, white and sepia, The Arrival draws its inspiration from tales of migrants in past and recent times. The central character is a middle-aged man who arrives in a strange new place and tries to find a place to live, a job and a handle on a new language. He encounters many challenges, all described entirely through visual sequences. The absence of words emphasises the strangeness of the situation and the loneliness experienced by many migrants, but the ending is full of affirmation and hope, when the wife and son the migrant had to leave behind are finally able to join him in their new homeland.

  • "Tan adeptly controls the book's pacing and rhythm by alternating a gridlike layout of small panels, which move the action forward, with stirring single- and double-page spreads that invite awestruck pauses. By flawlessly developing nuances of human feeling and establishing the enigmatic setting, he compassionately describes an immigrant's dilemma. Nearly all readers will be able to relate-either through personal or ancestral experience-to the difficulties of starting over, be it in another country, city, or community. And few will remain unaffected by this timeless stunner." (Publisher's Weekly)
  • "Young readers will be fascinated by the strange new world the artist creates, complete with floating elevators and unusual creatures, but may not realize the depth of meaning or understand what the man's journey symbolizes. More sophisticated readers, however, will grasp the sense of strangeness and find themselves participating in the man's experiences. They will linger over the details in the beautiful sepia pictures and will likely pick up the book to pore over it again and again." (School Journal)
  • "...the story's immediacy and fantasy elements will appeal even to readers younger than the target audience, though they may miss many of the complexities. Filled with subtlety and grandeur, the book is a unique work that not only fulfills but also expands the potential of its form." (Booklist)

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