Inside Outside by Lizi Boyd
This lovely wordless book explores the changing seasons in a subtle and engaging way. The book starts on the inside of a house with a young boy and a little black dog. The boy is planting seeds in pots while the dog watches and two white mice play. Through the die cut windows, you can see the snowmen in the yard. Turn the page and you are outside with those snowmen, the birds eating the seeds. Turn again and you are inside once more, this time able to glimpse flowering trees out the window. The plants in the pots are green and growing too. The boy is hanging pictures on the walls about birds and snowmen melting. Keep turning and the seasons change, marked by activities, the pictures on the walls, and what you can see through the windows.
There is a wonderful organic feel to this book, partly thanks to the textured brown paper that serves as the background for all of the images. That feel is also helped by the color scheme of greens, blues and terra cotta. The die cuts are used very skillfully throughout, offering glimpses from inside to outside and back again. The wordless nature of the book makes it a universal story, ideal for being shared with families who may use another language at home.
Filled with small details that will have children looking back at previous pages when they discover something new, this book is perfect for lingering over on long trips or snuggled in someone’s lap. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Owly & Wormy, Bright Lights and Starry Nights by Andy Runton
When the first Owly book came out years ago, I made sure to get it into the hands of my own reluctant reader. Unburdened by the need to read words, he immediately took to both Owly and Wormy. I’m happy to say that the series has continued to be just as good as that first book. Runton has started to do more picture book versions as well and this is one of those. In this book, Owly and Wormy go on a trek out of the woods and up to a hill where they will be able to view the stars better. Along the way, they get caught in a rainstorm and take refuge in a cave. There are strange and frightening noises and their telescope has disappeared! It will take real bravery and no fear of the dark to figure out what happened.
This wordless picture book relies on its illustrations to succeed. Happily, Owly and Wormy have a warm friendship that is evident from the very first page. Add the dash of darkness, the storm and a really dark cave and you have a real adventure. All of the content is ideal for the youngest independent pre-readers who will enjoy having a graphic novel of their very own.
Runton takes fear of the dark and the unknown and turns it into a chance to make new friends and see new things in this strong addition to a great series. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole
Every now and then an illustrator takes an amazing risk and it works so beautifully that it’s a masterpiece. That’s what Cole has done in this remarkable picture book. Don’t expect to see the bright colors of his work in books like Moosetache or even the more subtle but equally bright And Tango Makes Three. Instead Cole has turned to the medium of simple paper and pencil to create a book that is wordless and powerful. It’s the story of a farm girl who discovers a runaway slave in their barn soon after seeing a group of men on horseback. She is startled and unsure, but over the course of the evening decides to help him. It is a story of gifts given and also received.
Cole’s delicacy of line and details are notable here. He keeps the illustrations very child-friendly, but they are also mysterious, shaded in darkness. He plays with light, as you can see from even the cover image. These wordless pages build tension and roll like a film before your eyes. I’m thinking that the skill shown with simple materials and the strength of this book could mean a Caldecott consideration.
This is a profound book that speaks volumes about the importance of personal courage and the difference that one individual can make. This is not a wordless book for preschoolers. It’s more appropriate for ages 7-9 who will understand the history better.
Reviewed from library copy.
Waterloo & Trafalgar by Olivier Tallec
Released October 22, 2012.
In this wordless picture book, two men watch one another over neighboring walls, separated only by a thin line of grass dotted with flowers. Both sides of the wall are very similar, both men have spyglasses, drinks and umbrellas. Their days are filled with boredom and suspicion, broken only by the appearance of a snail who visits them both and moments where they bother one another with music and loud noises. It isn’t until a bird arrives and lays an egg that hatches and runs away that the truth of the conflict is revealed. Tallec has managed in no words at all to show the fallacy of conflict and the way to peace.
Tallec uses humor here to bridge any divide. It is mostly physical humor that will have children laughing, successfully mocking the conflict without any words at all. The snail is a particularly inspired piece of humor that is sure to surprise and please. So much of this book is about the surprises that life brings with the ending of the book providing the biggest and best surprise of all. There is a great playfulness that invites readers into this serious situation to a degree that without it would not have been possible. The wordless nature of the book also makes it particularly suited to a subject of crossing barriers. I can see using this with people who speak different languages, allowing a depth of discussion that would be unusual with other wordless books.
This book is outstanding. It speaks to peace without any preaching, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions. It is a striking and vibrant example of what can be achieved with no words at all. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
The Giant Seed by Arthur Geisert
This follow-up to the charming Ice continues the story of the community of pigs. One night, an enormous seed landed near the homes of the pigs. The pigs immediately set to work planting it, watering it, and caring for it. It grew into an enormous dandelion. Just as the flowers were blooming, a volcano near their village started to erupt. Hot ash fell onto their homes and the pigs were forced to flee. They found the solution in the dandelion seeds, riding them to a new island filled with trees and fresh water.
Geisert’s pig stories are told entirely through pictures. The long, narrow format of the book allows for a series of panels, one picture on each page, or a lovely long image that takes up the entire spread. Geisert uses all of these formats for his images. His illustrations are done in etchings with fine lines and small details. The mystery of the real size of the pigs continues with one wondering if they are either very tiny pigs or the dandelions are truly larger than trees.
As readers face another disaster alongside the pigs, they will enjoy the whimsical solution and the impressive art. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
The Conductor by Laetitia Devernay
This wordless picture book is tall and narrow, just like the trees featured within. A man enters a forest of trees that are shaped like lollipops with long trunks and round tops. He climbs to the very top of one tree and raises his hands. Suddenly, birds start to appear, formed from the leaves of the trees. They fly off leaving holes in the tree leaves shaped like them. The leaf patterns are on their wings and they fly above the conductor in a variety of formations. Until eventually they are gone, and all that are left are the blank trees. The man climbs down and plants a seed that quickly grows into a tree. As he is planting, the birds return to the trees, covering them once again in leaves. The man leaves the forest just as he has found it, but with one more small trees. It’s a beautiful look at the environment and the impact humans can have if they choose.
The art here is wonderfully done. It has a limited palette of just yellow, green, black and white. The juxtaposition of tree leaves and flying birds is spectacular visually and surprising at first. It lifts the book to a more surreal place, a world where you are unsure what could possibly happen next. The fine lined art, the scale of the book and the gentle theme all work well together, creating a memorable whole.
A surprising wordless picture book that is a work of art, this book would work well in art curriculum or as a quiet, beautiful book to share. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
Daisy, the dog, adores her red ball. She plays with it and even sleeps next to it on the couch. When her owner takes her for a walk, Daisy brings along her ball. At the park, she plays and chases after it. When it gets stuck behind a fence, Daisy frets until it has been retrieved by her owner. But when another dog tries to play with Daisy’s ball… it pops! Daisy is broken-hearted, carrying the tattered remains of her ball. And there is nothing that will make her feel any better. Or is there?
This wordless book works because of the gorgeous illustrations. Daisy is a black-and-white dog and her world is colorful and bright. From the bright red of her ball to the striped couch in green, the book embraces color. Raschka also uses color to convey emotion, which is particularly effective when the air itself is colored with purples and blues after Daisy’s ball is popped. Before that, the background was done in pale blues and yellows, light and airy, even playful.
The storyline is clear with the illustrations filling double page spreads or broken into panels. Children will immediately relate to Daisy’s loss of a favorite toy and to her emotions throughout. It is a book that naturally leads to discussion of when the child lost something, or something was broken, and the way that they felt about it.
A winning wordless read, this book is a joy to share with children or perhaps with your favorite furry friend. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
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Hocus Pocus by Sylvie Desrosiers and Remy Simard
This wordless picture book has the feel of a graphic novel, but one designed for very small children. It tells the story of Mister Magic who heads home with his pet dog, feeds the dog, and then settles in listening to music with his headset. Once he has fallen asleep, the rabbit jumps out of his hat. On the counter is a grocery bag and he spots some carrots up there. But he has to sneak past the sleeping dog to get there. He has the great idea of wearing slippers to be quieter, but then he crunches on a peanut. The dog wakes up and discovers the rabbit’s activity, but the rabbit is able to soothe him back to sleep with some violin music. But that is only the first round, as the dog and rabbit try to outwit each other.
This is a very funny picture book that emerging readers will enjoy. It’s not a wordless book for toddlers who would miss the humor of the story, but rather one for slightly older children who will read this book like watching a silent cartoon. The humor is pure slapstick fun, channeling the Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny feel with plenty of physical gags.
The art here is crisp and clean with a modern vibe. The colors are vibrant, bright and very appealing. Children who pay close attention to the illustrations will see some of the jokes coming, making it all the more fun to read.
A modern picture book that is full of classic humor, this book has great appeal. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.
Also reviewed by 100 Scope Notes and Sal’s Fiction Addiction.
The Umbrella by Ingrid & Dieter Schubert
A wordless story told in vivid images, this book will whirl readers into an adventure. A small dog finds a red umbrella and sails up in the autumn breeze into the air. He walks on the clouds, visits Africa with its elephants and alligators, yikes! Off he heads into the air again, carried this time to the expanse of the ocean where his umbrella serves as a boat. Until that is, he sinks down below the surface only to be blown high from a whale’s spout. He is carried into the jungle in a strong breeze and then caught by a pelican and lifted higher. Then down onto the snowy peak to be met with the applause of seals. His umbrella becomes a sled, sweeping past polar bears and then up into the air again. Bats join him in flight until down below amid the autumn leaves, his house appears. He puts the umbrella back where he found it and where a cat who has watched him come and go just might have an adventure too.
There is a wildness to this book that is as refreshing as a strong autumnal wind. It comes from the wandering of the breezes and the wildlife that the little dog experiences. The book captures his emotions with great skill from the delight of sledding down snowy hills to the utter exhaustion at the end of his travels.
This is a book that does not need words. The images capture the story fully, allowing readers to create their own story from the expanse of world that they get to see. Children will revel in walking on top of clouds, of meeting elephants, of escaping arrows, and of finding the way back home.
A perfect read for fall that will inspire imagination, this book opens and closes with gusts of wind and swirls of autumn leaves. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Lemniscaat.
Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage
This wordless picture book has a great appeal for the youngest children and adults alike. Walrus escapes from his small pool in the zoo, pursued closely by the zookeeper. He hides in the most unlikely spots, posing as a mermaid in a fountain, seated at a diner counter, glamming up a window display, and much more. Finally, he is cornered up on a diving board sporting a red swim cap. What happens next is a satisfying close to this cheery picture book.
Savage has a tremendous sense of pacing in this book. It moves ahead from one hiding place to the next, and then turns into a full story as the final pages turn past. The story works well without words, helped by the skilled pacing and the ease of the storyline.
What really sets this book apart are the illustrations, done in bold shapes and bright colors. They have a graphic quality to them and a modern edge. While the book sounds like a Where’s Waldo type of book, it really isn’t thanks to the simplicity and style of the illustrations.
This wordless dazzler of a picture book will impress old and young alike with its style and sense of fun. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.
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