a list of…five books of wordless wonder

In today’s set of books, the pictures are the drawing card –no words or very few words are used –and they are very, very clever.  Unusually so.   Imagination-sparklers.   You really have to see them to appreciate them…so check them out! 

Flotsam, drawn by David Wiesner 

You know flotsam — the stuff that floats in the ocean and washes up on the beaches.  After a storm, it is enticing to walk along the surf line, searching for some odd treasure tossed up after drifting along from who-knows-where; trying to imagine just what story lies behind this particular piece of sea glass or battered board. 

In Wiesner’s stunning, mind-bending, spectacular book, the treasure that is thrown onto the beach is a mysterious camera.  The boy who discovers the camera takes the film to be developed and is confronted with evidence of the far-flung, fantastical adventures and places and people this camera has met with.  Strange, clockwork fish, gigantic starfish islands, and underwater aliens are pictured, along with faces of children from exotically-different cultures and time periods.  What should this new discoverer add to the film record, and where will the camera land next? 

David Wiesner won the Caldecott medal for this book, and I believe is the only artist to have won that medal 3 times.  His watercolors are incredibly clear and crisp, as well as imaginative, incorporating many perspectives and carrying the story forward wordlessly and wonderfully.  Superb book!

One Boy, created by Laura Vaccaro Seeger 

This is a challenging book to describe, to say the least!  It is very, very clever graphically. 

Picture the book lying open.  On one side is a solid, brightly-colored page with just two words, such as: “one boy” or “six cars.”  On the other side is a completely black page with a window cut out of it.  Through the window you can see part of a picture on the page behind it — a picture of what the words have described:  one boy; six cars; five mice. 

 Now flip the page. 

When you do that, the window opens onto the first page on which the words were printed, right?  But more letters have been added to this side of the window page, so that it reads differently.  “One boy” now reads “all alone.”  The window allows us to see the word “one” from the previous page, but those letters have been incorporated into the word “alone.”  Across the page is that boy we glimpsed through the window, but now we can see the entire picture, and it is a fire-engine red room lined with yellow chairs which are all empty save the one our boy is seated in. 

Every number, 1-10, has a graphic puzzle like this.  They are absolutely ingenuous.  We see five mice…skate on the ice.  Six cars…on the carpet.  And the sure-fire winner, ten ants…in your pants!  Peek through the window and just try to guess how the picture will be transformed and how the words will change.  Great fun.   I bet your school-age kids could come up with their own transforming pages after reading this book.

The Trek, written and illustrated by Ann Jonas 

The story line in this book is very simple — it’s about a young girl’s walk to school.  She kisses her mom good-bye and walks down the sidewalk, along the park, past the shops, until she arrives at her school.  That’s it. 


This girl imagines that her walk is actually a safari through a wild jungle full of amazing, unusual creatures!  These creatures are hidden very, exceedingly, cleverly in the illustrations.  I assure you, you will stare at the picture for awhile before your eye notices that the shrubbery is really sheep, the ivy is iguanas, or the shadows are a bison.  There are animals hidden everywhere and they are a delightful surprise to spot.  

At the end of the book, Jonas gives us a thumbnail picture of each of the animals she

This is a pangolin!

incorporated into the book.  Some are familiar — camel, peacock, pig.  Some are quite unfamiliar — alpaca, pangolin, cassowary.  Did you spot those?  Did you realize it was…something…but weren’t sure of its name?  Now you know!  This one is a timeless treat for many ages.

Zoom, created by Istvan Banyai 

On the first page of Zoom, what you see is a reddish-orange, pointy-edged shape, decorated with orange dots and blue squiggles.  It looks completely abstract.

  Turn the page, though, and you’ll have taken a step back, so to speak, and now see that it is the comb on a brilliant rooster’s head. 

 Turn the page a few more times, keep taking steps backward, and you see that the rooster is just one small part of a barnyard…

oh! it’s a toy barnyard…

oh!  a it’s a picture of a toy barnyard printed on a magazine…
held by a boy on a cruise ship…
on a large ad on the side of a bus…
On and on it goes. 
Each time you turn the page, the perspective shifts so that we see the larger picture, and the details which were once so predominant become lost in the distance.  Absolutely fascinating! 

There are no words.  Yet this book is totally absorbing.  The illustrations are modern, bold, brilliant graphic designs.  Istvan Banyai is a Hungarian-born artist, who emigrated to the U.S. thirty-some years ago and made a giant splash on the illustration-scene with this book.  His sequel, Re-Zoom, is equally amazing, and he has several other titles, all of which engage our minds deeply, with nary a word.  This is one of our favorite books.  See what you think.

The Adventures of Polo, created by Régis Faller 

Here is a wordless book originally from France, the first of a number about a clever, adventurous dog named Polo.  Of the five books in today’s blog, this one is suited for the youngest of us. 

 In it, Polo grabs his trusty backpack and bumbershoot, and sets off on an amazing adventure, involving cloud travel, undersea exploration, island hopping, arctic antics, and an excursion to outer space.  Along the way, Polo encounters fantastical fish, roasts his sausages over a stream of lava, jams with some jazzy monkeys in a sweet tree house, meets some tiny green aliens who live in a mushroom forest deep inside the moon, and much more. 

These pages of cartoon-style illustrations pop with color and happiness.  It is a lengthy book, almost 75 pages long, so this is an adventure with a nice, long, story arc.  It is simple enough for a toddler, yet magical enough to engage much older kids…even me!  There are numerous titles about Polo.  For a peek at what his world looks like, visit his website at http://chezpolo.com/.  It’s in French, so if you want a little practice with la langue française, you can get that there, too!