It is said that Lynd Ward introduced America to the wordless book with his 1929 “novel-in-woodcut,” God’s Man, which I recently wrote about on the Huffington Post. That novel represents a bold narrative form wherein sequential pictures tell a story. Illustrators since then have experimented with the art of graphic storytelling, with some of the best results being books for children. At their best, wordless books can engage young readers, enabling them to interact with the text and become active participants in the unraveling of a story. Here are my favorite books without words...
by Barbara Lehman
A charming book about... a book. The story's protagonist reads her own "red book" and soon discovers that inside her "red book" another child reads his own "red book... and so on. When the book's hero glances directly out at you (the reader), you might just turn your own head around and wonder if some big, enormous being way out in space is reading his own "big red book" with you in it. What a trip.
by David Macaulay
A complex and disjointed narrative from the author of the instant classic The Way Things Work, Black and White represents the pinnacle of creative storytelling. It's a topsy-turvy experiment in postmodern narration and it will keep you turning — and re-turning — pages to make way through its multi-layered illustrations way past bedtime.
by Istvan Banyai
Beautiful imagery carries this story from dream to reality and back again, leaving the reader with a hankering for more. To be sure, you will need to read the book again (and again), if only to try and understand the countless brilliant details that bring the story to life.
written and illustrated by David Wiesner
With some of the most majestic illustrations ever crafted, David Wiesner tells the tale of a young boy who travels to the beach to pickup ocean debris. At the shore, the boy finds a camera, which turns out to be an incredible discovery for both the boy and the reader.
by Shaun Tan
The author, Shaun Tan, transports the common immigrant story to a foreign planet with strange creatures, monsters and vegetation. He depicts billboards, newspapers and other signs with an alien language, making the only letters in the book completely illegible. In this way, Tan elicits an incredible level of empathy for his protagonist, as the reader experiences some of the same confusion as the story's hero.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Sammy Perlmutter
Sammy, a recent Cornell University graduate from Los Angeles, loves to read and write -- and write about -- books for kids. You can follow him on Twitter at @sammyperlmutter.
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