Sunday, January 21, 2018

RA RA Read: Stories without words

While I'm not an unqualified fan of wordless books, I do have some beloved favorites, both for personal reading and for storytimes, and some that I like to recommend for use in classrooms and for family enjoyment. I've included suggestions here to get you started in the wonderful world of wordless books, plus some tips on using them in storytime.

Wordless books for storytime
When I'm looking for wordless books for storytime, I look for larger formats and art, which the audience can see easily. I also like to find a clearly sequential storyline. When I read books in storytime, I have never stuck strictly to the words. Especially in longer books, I skip, substitute words if I've forgotten, interject comments, and ask questions. This is the same technique I use for wordless books, just expanded. Some of the questions I'll ask the kids:
  • What is happening on this page? What is this character doing? How do you think they feel?
  • What do you think will happen next? What do you think the characters are saying?
It's hard to remember, but younger kids especially need more time to respond to these questions. I try to always wait several beats longer than I would naturally, rephrase and repeat questions, and let the dialogue move naturally instead of worrying that it's throwing off the schedule. These are some of the books I've found work best in storytime:
  • Chalk by Bill Thomson
    • He has two other titles, Fossil and Typewriter, which follow the wordless format and work well too. I just use Chalk more often - the dinosaur and the exciting surprises in the story elicit a great reaction from kids.
  • Umbrella by Dieter and Ingrid Schubert
    • This is the story of a little black dog who finds a red umbrella and sets out on a marvelous journey. There's one iffy scene where the dog floats over a jungle and what appear to be locals throw spears up at him - I usually just skip this scene as my audience is too young to discuss it.
  • Stick by Steve Breen
    • This is not strictly a wordless book, but I mostly ignore the text so as far as I'm concerned it counts. It includes panels and tells the hilarious story of a little frog whose ambition (and sticky tongue) take her on a wild adventure. 
  • Inside, Outside by Lizi Boyd
    • This title, and the companion book Flashlight, are great for encouraging dialogue, comparisons, and talking about what we can observe in nature around us.
  • Hank finds an egg by Rebecca Dudley
    • The art is a little detailed on this one for larger reading, but the sweet story makes it a good choice. Hank, after finding an egg, works hard to return it to its nest. There is a second book, Hank has a dream, but I've found it doesn't work quite as well in storytime.
More wordless books (and authors)
  • Snow rabbit by Camille Garoche
    • This is a lovely book, illustrated with cut paper illustrations. It's not quite right for storytime though, as the details are harder to make out.
  • Tree house by Marjorie Tolman
    • An oversize book with reflective, philosophical pictures. Another good choice for a small group, classroom, or one-on-one reading.
  • Sebastian Meschenmoser
    • These titles are not exactly wordless, but they alternate brief text and dialogue with wordless spreads. I often read them without paying much attention to the words anyways.
  • Alison Jay
    • While most of her work is as an illustrator, she created a series of concept books and a few other titles that feature only her distinctive cracked eggshell art. The details and hidden pictures make them a better choice for one-on-one reading.
  • Suzy Lee
    • This might be the "best" wordless book author, purely from a literary (or should it be artistic?) viewpoint. Her exquisite titles transcend words and her skilled pen makes stories come alive without words. They don't always work well in storytime though and sometimes they're a little too high concept to really click with most kids.
      • Shadow
      • Wave
      • Lines
      • Mirror
  • Stories without words
    • This is an imprint from Enchanted Lion. They don't work well in storytime, as they're very small in format. Some of them are, frankly, too weird for my taste (or that of my patrons). But there are some that are lovely, funny, and popular.
      • Fox and Hen series by Beatrice Rodriguez
      • Giant seed and Ice by Arthur Geisert
      • Fox's garden by Princesse Camcam (Camille Garoche)


Cassandra Gelvin said...

There are so many wonderful books out there I haven't read yet! I think out of all the ones you mentioned, "Typewriter" is the only one I've read, and I would say the words it has are integral to the story even though they don't narrate it.

Thanks for the tips on reading these books, as well.

I'm surprised you didn't mention David Wiesner. He's got a whole bunch of wordless books, many of which are Caldecott winners or honors. I particularly liked "Flotsam." And Molly Idle's "Flora and the Flamingo" is great, too.

Jennifer said...

Ha, that's why I asked for comments - because I knew I was forgetting some!