Wordless Picture books

Most picture books tell stories in very few words. Often the illustrations add to the story. And in some picture books, the art tells the entire story. Wordless picture books offer an opportunity to make up your own story, to add words that change with each reading. In fact, wordless picture books can help create a special bond between a parent (or educator) and a child. And, of course, wordless picture books are a great tool to use with children who speak or learn a different language because the story works in any language!

Over the Shop

Over The Shop by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Qin Leng is a lovely story that can be told on many levels, over and over again. A young girl and… perhaps her grandmother run a shop and, to make ends meet, rent out an apartment over the shop. But it’s too run down for some. Not many people actually come to look, until one day the perfect couple shows up. They clean and fix. In the process they meet the people, and the cats, of the neighborhood and the shop flourishes.  ISBN 978-1-5362-0147-5, Candlewick


Window by Marion Arbona is a brand new release. This wordless picture book in black & white, features a child walking home from school. Along the way she passes a row of houses with many different windows and doors. What goes on behind each one? The pages are folded windows that allow the reader to open them and peek inside, where the girl’s imagination conjures up fantastical scenes full of robots, inventions, aliens and creatures. Until she comes home to her own room and can truly let her imagination run wild, on paper. A lovely book to inspire readers to come up with their own stories. ISBN 978-1-5253-0136-0, Kids Can Press


An older book by the same name: Window, by Jeannie Baker has a very different approach by is also wordless. It focusses on one window and shows how the view changes over the years. As a baby grows older, the backyard changes from diapers on the line, to tricycles. Trees are cut, new homes are built. The world changes through this window until the boy has grown up and his home is old. Then it’s time for a new home, a new life, and a new view from the window. This book is perfect to discuss change, evolution, the environment, urban development as well as use it in art lessons with older students. ISBN 0-14-054830-0


Jeannie Baker created another fantastic, wordless picture book to use in international schools: Mirror. Designed to be read side by side, the left side features a family in the western world, the left side focuses on a family in Morocco. While housing, food, clothing and environment are vastly different, the book also shows how similar people in different cultures are, and the importance of family and friends. While the same moon shines on these families, they learn about each other’s place on earth. A brilliant teaching resource. ISBN 978-1-4063-0914-0


An older one but still wonderful to use with young students is Sunshine by Jan Ormerod. It shows a family waking up and getting ready to start their day. From burning toast to hurriedly getting dressed, this is a lovely discussion starter on what yóu do to get ready for school. A second book, called Moonlight, shows how the family prepares dinner and gets ready for bed. You may have to search for these books as ‘used’. ISBN 978-1845070489


ZOOM by Istvan Banyai does exactly what the title promises. He zooms out from the first black page, to reveal many different scenes. This book is perfect for guessing and predicting what comes next. The art takes the reader around the world and even beyond.  ISBN 0-14-055774-1

in REZOOM, Istvan Banyai takes us, at a dazzling speed, around the world from ancient Egypt to England, to Paris, to the jungle in India and many other places. Or does he? Both of these books can be a source of entertainment for younger readers but also can serve as introductions to art and design for older students in all grades. ISBN 0-14-055694-X


A brilliant refugee story, The Paper Boat is told in paper collage by Thao Lam. Its roots are from her own childhood, of fleeing Vietnam with her parents in a boat. The paralel story of ants sailing away in a paper boat is based on the stories her mother told her, stories of kindness and karma.

A great book to use with younger kids but also to study the art of illustration with older students.  ISBN 978-1-77147-363-7, Owl Kids

Helen's Birds

Helen’s Birds by Sara Cassidy, illustrated by Sophie Casson is a story of friendship and environmental awareness. A young girl befriends an elderly lady who lives in an old house on the corner. An avid gardener, the lady teaches the girl about birds, and nests, how to build a bird house and how trees and flowers attract squirrels and other urban wildlife. After the lady passes away and her ramshackle house no longer stands, the girl puts her lessons into practise and helps transform the neighborhood by being a gardener and building birdhouses. ISBN 978-1-77306-038-5 (Groundwood Books)

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who conducts writing workshops in international schools.

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