Wordless Books Make Great Stories

I often hear a parent tell a child, “No, put that book back. It doesn’t have a story — there aren’t any words.” Just because there aren’t any words doesn’t mean there isn’t a story! Wordless books are sometimes much richer than books with a written narrative because they have to tell the whole story in images.

“Reading” a wordless book with your child helps serve as an initial step toward reading. It builds vocabulary and comprehension, and can result in astonishing interactive conversation. Wordless books help kids understand how the details in a picture help build the story. Page through the book and have your child tell you the story. Ask her questions and relate the pictures to his real world. After you take home a few wordless books, you’ll be as big a fan as I am. Here are a few to get you started:

In Un-Brella by Scott E. Franson, a little girl uses her magic umbrella to give her the weather she wants, regardless of what the conditions are outside.


In The Adventures of Polo by Regis Faller, Polo the dog sets out from his home and enjoys many adventures, including sailing his boat on top of a whale, roasting hot dogs over a volcano, and taking a ride in a spaceship built from a mushroom.

Hogwash by Arthur Geisert will have your kids poring over the enormous and complicated contraption that Mama Pig uses to get her little piglets clean.


Wave by Suzy Lee shows a little girl’s first experiences at the beach, from being afraid of the roaring waves to playing on the shore with the gulls screaming overheard.

Barbara Lehman has three fantastic wordless books: Rainstorm, Museum Trip, and my favorite, The Red Book. This last story is about a magical, red, wordless book and the friendship than develops around it.

David Wiesner is probably the most famous author of wordless books. His story Tuesday was a Caldecott Honor Book. He also wrote June 29, 1999, and won the Caldecott Medal with his brilliant story, Flotsam. In Flotsam, a boy finds a remarkable camera when it washes in from the ocean.

A girl watches as the activities across the street from her bus stop become a Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleishman.


There are many other wonderful wordless books. Just ask the youth librarian to help you find them!

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Written by Susan


Susan is the Youth Services Specialist at the Plainfield Branch. She loves mysteries, children’s chapter books, and teen fiction. When she’s not doing storytime, she can be found bicycling, scrapbooking, or enjoying her husband, children, and spoiled Jack Russell terror…er, terrier.

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One Response to “Wordless Books Make Great Stories”

  1. Josh Says:

    Wordless books are not just for kids either. Shaun Tans book “The Arrival” is a great example of a wordless book that works for any age group. There is a rich and detailed story for adults within it, but by its nature as a story told through pictures, even a younger child can find something to understand and relate to in it.