Read Aloud Thursday: Wordless Picture Books

I am not usually a huge fan of wordless picture books. What can I say?  I like words. However, I wanted to check out this new wordless book by Chris Raschka as it won the Caldecott Award this year. My first impression on reading it was that it’s cute. Raschka’s watercolor and ink illustrations are endearing, but not my favorite style. The story is sweet and simple. Daisy the dog has a favorite red ball that she loves. When a bigger dog steals her ball she is left sad and alone. But then there is a happy ending with a new blue ball and a new friend. Like I said, cute. But I wasn’t sure about the Caldecott Award.

But then Ruth asked to read it again. And again. And the next day. And another time the next day. And again. You get the picture. She LOVES this book. She “reads” it to me by telling me the story from the pictures. “Ohhhhh, doggy sad. Bad doggy broke ball. Doggy sad.” (Said in a very sad little voice.) And then “BLUE BALL!” in a very excited voice. This is one of the first book awards seasons I’ve really paid much attention to other than to note the Caldecott and Newbury winners. It’s made me ponder what makes a book “award-worthy” vs. just being a book that I like. I’m still not sure but I think had Ruth been on the committee, she would wholeheartedly agree with this particular winner.

In this book by Stephen Savage, a walrus escapes from the zoo. The zookeeper follows him around town but the walrus is always hiding in plain sight. The illustrations are bright colored and have a retro feel. The storyline is simple but the fun is in spotting the walrus on each page (he’s easy to find which is part of what makes it funny for kids). I liked this one a lot and I think David liked the humor in the walrus fooling the zookeeper over and over.

I guess technically this isn’t a wordless book as it does have some text. However, similarly to Peggy Rathmann’s wonderful Goodnight Gorilla, the story is really much more in the picture details than in the text. In 10 Minutes Till Bedtime the text consists of a boy’s father counting down the minutes till bedtime, while in the background the boy’s hamster gives a “bedtime tour” to a group of hamsters. In Goodnight Gorilla the text consists of the zookeeper saying goodnight to his animals while unnoticed to him the Gorilla has stolen his key and is letting all the animals out of the cages. I count these as wordless books in a way because we never just read the text, instead we mostly look at the pictures and talk about the story. I love the details in the pictures, especially the tiny new things that you notice on each new reading: the balloon that is on every page of Goodnight Gorilla (even sometimes as a tiny dot in the sky), the Goodnight Gorilla animals going to the zookeeper’s house seen through a window of the boy’s bedroom in 10 Minutes Till Bedtime, or the stuffed Gorilla in the boy’s room. Neither of these are new but both are favorites of all five of the members of our family and a discussion of wordless picture books would just feel incomplete without mentioning them.

Some other wordless books we’ve enjoyed:

Flotsam by David Wiesner
You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser (and all the others in the series)
Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri (also not truly wordless but close)
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (a beautiful, wordless retelling of the Aesop fable)
Picnic by Emily Arnold McCully

Be sure to stop by Hope is the Word for more Read Aloud Thursday!

10 thoughts on “Read Aloud Thursday: Wordless Picture Books

  1. Love the way you describe Ruth’s infatuation with this Daisy book! I remember when you were little. You sometimes preferred books that I would not have thought to be the best !

    Children bring such pure and gentle motives to a book. There are some things we as adults have forgotten how to enjoy. Ruth is blessed to have a mom who presents her with many and varied books.

    It has taken me a long time to learn that as mothers we cannot live our children’s lives for them, but we can certainly guide them down a loving path.

  2. I’m with you on the “huh” factor of wordless books, but I think they’re growing on me. :-). My younger dd loves the 10 Minutes Til Bedtime book.

    Great post!

  3. I’m so glad that you reviewed these – with my girls getting over, I’m afraid my little guy (who’s 16 months) is getting left behind in the reading department. I need to look for some of these wordless books for him at the library (and remember to read to him the ones that we do have like Goodnight Gorilla which I love!) Thanks for pointing these out to me!

  4. I must admit that we the only wordless picture book we own is Goodnight Gorilla. I’ve never quite gotten into them, but your post just may change that. 🙂

  5. We are big Peggy Rathman fans here! I loved reading about your daughter’s reaction to A Ball for Daisy. I adore Chris Raschka. If you haven’t read more of him, check out The Hello, Goodbye Window, his Peter & the Wolf book, and Charlie Parker Played Be Bop.

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