Maybe Matilda: Don't fear wordless picture books

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Don't fear wordless picture books

I've avoided wordless picture books for a long time. I love reading to my kids and seeing them get excited about books, but there is something about being faced with a wordless picture book during story time that strikes fear into my heart. I guess I like the security of knowing exactly what to say and when to say it--the improvisational nature of a wordless picture book makes me nervous. It turns story time into a performance.

After picking up a few wordless picture books by mistake, though, I've learned that they aren't quite as intimidating as I thought, and my kids really enjoy them. I think they like discovering the story along with me, and adding their own ideas to the pages. Forrest especially loves being able to 'read' wordless picture books to me, and I love seeing his imagination at work as he comes up with the words for each page.

In case you, too, are nervous about wordless picture books but are willing to dip your toes in, here are 8 wonderful wordless picture books that we have read and loved, and can wholeheartedly recommend to you.

8 awesome wordless picture books to read with your kids/class
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1. Chalk by Bill Thomson // A group of friends finds a magical bag of chalk on a rainy day which allows their drawings to come to life. It turns out to be both good (they can draw a sun to stop the rain!) and bad (when their scary dinosaur drawing comes to life). Really imaginative and fun.

2. The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee // Get the tissues ready. A baby clown falls from the train carrying his clown family, and lands in an old farmer's empty field. The farmer takes him in, at first reluctantly, but a sweet friendship blossoms. I cried real tears over this one (no big surprise, as I'm a total weenie).

3. Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner // I'm sorry to say that there is nothing about this cover that made me interested in reading this book . . . but I'm very glad I picked it up anyway because I was stunned by how much Forrest loved it. A mischievous cat is a bit too interested in a 'toy' space ship that turns out not to be a toy at all, but a real ship filled with tiny alien explorers. He batters their ship and the aliens must get creative with the help of new insect friends to make the necessary repairs and outsmart Mr. Wuffles. Sounds odd, but is so cute and fun.

4. Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle // I resisted this one for a while because in addition to being wordless (strike 1), it looked excessively girly for me (strike 2). I'm glad I gave in. The illustrations are so simple and charming, and it uses flaps to help tell the story of Flora and the flamingo becoming friends through a sweet dance. It's a clever concept and lots of fun to 'read' together.

5. The Line by Paula Bossio // A little girl discovers a simple line that can be transformed into all sorts of exciting things, from a slide to a scary creature to a friendly one. I love the messy, sketchy artwork and the fun little twist ending. A bit reminiscent of Harold.

6. Moo! by David LaRochelle // This fun book contains mainly one word (moo!), but the expressions you'll use to say it change from page to page. An adventurous cow takes a joy ride in the farmers' car, which ends rather disastrously . . . unless he can pin the blame on another farm animal. Very cute and funny, and one of Forrest's top favorites to 'read' back to me.

7. The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett // Another potential tear-jerker here. A little girl has her heart set on the shiny bicycle she spotted in a store window, and forms a new friendship as she earns the money to buy it. But when she returns to the store to make her purchase, the bicycle is gone, and what she decides to do with her money made me all sorts of sniffly.

8. Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann // It isn't strictly wordless, but it's close enough to count. The zookeeper is closing up the zoo for the night and sending all the animals to bed . . . or at least he thinks he is, until he gets home and discovers some stowaways. A sweet and funny bedtime book.

Do you have a favorite wordless picture book? I'm all ears!

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