I can’t hold back any longer! I have an overflowing list of wordless picture books that I’m dying to share with you. But, wait. Jillian, picture books without words? What’s the benefit? Shouldn’t we be teaching literacy through books with words?
Wordless picture books are the first part of the classroom library I introduce. I kick off the year by talking about the importance of stories, the joy that telling stories brings, and the fact that stories are told in so many different ways. Wordless picture books prove that stories can be told AND PUBLISHED in many different ways.
Emerging bilingual students, students with reading disabilities (like me), and hesitant readers can be empowered by learning how to “read” wordless picture books. And presenting a basket of wordless picture books to the entire class creates a community culture that accepts and respects stories in many forms.
For now, please take my word (no pun intended) on wordless picture books! To start you off, I’ve created a list of over TWENTY FIVE of my absolute favorites.
You can click on any of the book titles below for an Amazon affiliate link, where you can find a full summary and reviews of each book. If you happen to order a book from the link provided, I earn a small percentage of that sale, which goes towards the maintenance of my blog.
That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares
That Neighbor Kid illustrates the story of a young boy who moves into a new neighborhood and the young girl who is fascinated by his activities. It is a picture book without words that is all about finding the courage to say one word: “Hi”.
The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
The Red Book is one of the first wordless picture books that immediately captures my students’ attention. Lehman takes you on a journey that starts by opening a book within the book. From there, readers travel the entire world. Without a word, the book shows how connected we are, no matter the distance between us.
Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman
Museum Trip is another classic by Barbara Lehman. While on a museum field trip, a young boy separates from his classmates. He notices a piece of art that he soon realizes is a maze. As he stares in awe, he soon finds himself inside. Lehman’s beautiful pages help us follow along as he navigates his way out.
Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman
Another simple yet engaging masterpiece by Barbara Lehman! The stunning imagery in this wordless picture book capture the feeling of being stuck at home on a rainy day… and all the little things in life that can lead us to new adventures. A single mysterious key leads our protagonist on an imaginative journey. This book is excellent inspiration for those students who say, “I’m bored”.
Zoom by Istvan Banyai
Zoom takes us on a visual journey all over the world. Once you think you know where you are, Banyai uses the power of perception to ‘zoom’ the reader in to or away from the destination, where we quickly learn that nothing is as it seems!
Imagine! by Raul Polon
Author and illustrator Raul Polon brings the magic of museums to life in this wordless picture book. He visualizes how art museums can spark imagination and bring us into other words. This is one of my favorite books to highlight the power and importance of imagination.
The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett
The Girl and the Bicycle is a simple, yet striking, monochromatic story of a girl trying to save up for a bicycle. The pictures are simple, but show action and emotion. Through Pett’s visual storytelling, readers discover a story that, at its heart, is a beautiful tale of generosity.
Journey, Quest, Return (trilogy) by Aaron Becker
Looking for books to encourage your students to dig deep into their imaginations? Then grab these three wordless picture books! Journey, Quest, and Return are an action packed trilogy about a girl who uses her imagination, a red marker, and her wall to go on incredible adventures into a medieval world. Without a word, Becker keeps his reader on the edge of their seat.
Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley
Imagining how Rebecca Dudley created the illustrations in this wordless picture book is almost as exciting as the storyline itself. Photographs of a miniature world tell the story of Hank, a little bear, who is trying to help an egg return home. Hank’s trials and Dudley’s illustrations show us the importance of failure and determination, especially in the quest to help others.
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
The Lion and the Mouse is a classic Aesop’s fable with an important moral: every act of kindness counts. A lion spares the life of a terrified mouse. How does this good deed lead to a ripple effect? The mouse comes back to protect the lion when he gets in trouble. The story is completely wordless, but you won’t miss words as you follow Pickney’s incredible depictions of the tale with inspiration from the Serengeti.
Time Flies by Eric Rohmann
Eric Rohmann takes readers on an epic journey back in time through the eyes of a bird. We start in a natural history museum and fly back to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The pictures are drop dead gorgeous. And, even without words, Rohmann manages to teach the reader about the theory that birds are descendants of dinosaurs.
Tuesday by David Weisner
David Weisner is a masterful author and illustrator of numerous wordless picture books. Tuesday, originally published in 1992, is a game changer within this genre. Weisner shows a world beyond our own, in which frogs float freely on their lilypads throughout the sky. It is wonderfully creative. Bonus tip: If you’re a fan of Tuesday and Mr. Wuffles, definitely check our Weisner’s other classics, Sector 7 and Flotsam.
Mr. Wuffles by David Weisner
Mr. Wuffles! will always be featured on my wordless picture book shelf. With just a few words but lots of expression, we learn that Mr. Wuffles is a cat who doesn’t really enjoy his given toys. He chances upon a tiny spaceship– a real one!– full of tiny aliens. Can you even imagine what happens next? Weisner’s illustrations will leave you as intrigued as Mr. Wuffles himself.
Fossil by Bill Thomson
Do you have any students who are fascinated by dinosaurs and prehistoric artifacts? Fossil, by Bill Thomson, is a wordless picture book that will capture their attention! A boy and his dog trip and break a fossil. To their immense surprise, it comes to life! Curiosity leads them to discover even more about the rich history that came before us. Add this book to your collection and see what happens in this imaginative tale about bringing back the past!
Mirror by Jeannie Baker
Mirror compares the life and routines of two young people on opposite sides of the world: Australia and Morocco. The pictures show how different their lives seem but highlights the tremendous similarities. This is a go-to book when talking about our own identities and how we are different and similar to others.
Lines by Suzy Lee
Lines is a simple yet elegant story without words. It is perfect for our youngest classrooms. I love to use this book to support student creativity and to emphasize growth mindset in the classroom. Everything on a page starts with a line!
Wave by Suzy Lee
Wave visualizes an ordinary day at the beach. But, even an ordinary day at the beach is full of wonder and playfulness. I love how Suzy Lee takes a very relatable day and emphasizes the joy we can find within it. What a great lesson: not all stories need to be extraordinary to be so very special.
Sidewalk Flowers written by John Anno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith
Sidewalk Flowers, written by John Anno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith, is another wordless book that emphasizes finding the joy and importance in the little things around us. It centers around a young girl who walks home from school with her father to collect flowers along the way. The flowers bring her joy and in return, she thinks of a way to share the love with those around her. Your students are sure to be enthralled with this story about the power of happiness.
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Chalk is another creative story by Bill Thomson. On a rainy day, a child opens a bag filled with chalk. Even in the rain, in her childhood curiosity, she dares to pick up a piece of chalk. She draws a sun and, to her surprise, a sun appears right above her drawing. This leads us all to notice that this chalk is no ordinary chalk!
Pool by Jihyeon Lee
Pool uses rich illustrations to depict the stories that occur during a regular old trip to the pool. Jihyeon Lee goes beyond the typical day and draws the reader into illustrations where imagination can take you underneath the waves and the crowds.
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Flora and the Flamingo is not only a wordless picture book, it is an INTERACTIVE picture book. Get ready your music and movement loving students because dancers will most certainly be drawn to this one. Flora and her flamingo go through the trials and tribulations of friendship as they learn and practice dancing together. Even without words, this is an excellent book to use during social-emotional learning conversations.
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Flashlight is another simple and poetic picture book without words. Boyd’s illustration style will draw you deeply into the story page by page. Everything is monochromatic except where the flashlight shines. Students will love trying to string together the connection between the illuminated items!
I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët
I Walk With Vanessa is an ultimate favorite of mine for two reasons. First, the message: a simple act of kindness goes a long way. Second, it is a great resource for making real-life inferences based on body language. Kerascoët brilliantly follows the stories of two girls: one who is a victim of bullying and the other, a bystander who witnesses her mistreatment. Without a word, Kerascoët illustrates the power of taking a stand, and the far-reaching consequences of doing so.
I hope you find as much joy in reading these books as I did in writing about them. Have a favorite I left off the list? Please share it with us!