The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (The Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell

Published by Little, Brown

Summary:  In this nearly wordless book, a cat runs away and gets chased by an alligator, bear, and chicken (in that order).  The story unfolds alphabetically, but kids will have to figure out what the word is for each picture.  There’s a happy ending, as a unicorn distributes valentines; the cat waves goodbye to his friends, uses an X on a map to get home, gives a gigantic yawn, then catches some zzz’s.  The whole alphabet is listed on the last page, along with a list of all the words shown in the story.  48 pages; ages 3-6.

Pros:  An intriguing introduction to the alphabet, engaging readers who will have to both figure out the word for each letter and the story those words are telling.

Cons:  The title doesn’t exactly roll right off your tongue.

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio

Published by Chronicle Books

Summary:  In this wordless picture book, a crocodile wakes from a happy dream of living in the jungle, then gets ready for his day.  His morning routine is shown in detail, starting in his apartment where he dresses in natty business attire, then moving to his walk and train ride to get to work.  He window shops and get splashed by a passing motorist.  He buys a newspaper and some flowers, which he later delivers to a young lady.  Finally, he arrives at work, where he makes a quick clothing change and takes his place at his job…you may be surprised to find out what it is!  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  I’ve mentioned before my love of wordless picture books, and this one has so much to see.  There are many details on each page, including other animals mixed in with the humans.  The two-page spread of the crocodile on the subway deserves at least a good five minutes’ perusal.

Cons:  This book doesn’t seem to be getting much promotion.  I couldn’t find reviews for it anywhere.  Maybe because it’s an Italian import?

Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin

Published by Schwartz & Wade Books

Summary:  A little girl takes her favorite stuffed fox to school for show-and-tell in this wordless picture book.  After school, she goes to the playground, her fox sticking out of her backpack.  As she’s swinging, a real fox comes along, takes her stuffed one, and heads off into the forest.  She runs after the fox; her friend sees her go and follows her  The two combine forces, and eventually discover a woodland world populated by many different animals.  After a long, convoluted search, they find the fox, who really just wants a stuffed fox to love.  The girl and the fox make a trade, and there is a happy ending for everyone.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A seemingly simple tale opens up a whole new world in this beautifully detailed wordless book.  Kids will find the animals’ community enchanting, and will discover something new with each repeated reading.

Cons:  Plan on spending a long time with this book.

That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary:  In this almost wordless book, a girl starts spying on the boy who’s just moved in next door.  She sees him reading a book, then removing part of the wooden fence between their houses to nail rungs on to a tree.  Stealthily following him up the ladder, she discovers him scratching his head over plans for a tree house.  She pulls a hammer out, and the only words in the book appear.  “Hi.”  “Hi.”  The two of them get to work, and before long, a house begins to emerge.  As they build, splashes of color appear in the previously black-and-white illustrations.  On the last page, they wave from the yellow-lighted windows of their houses, the completed treehouse standing between them.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A simple story of friendship, told entirely in the beautiful watercolors of Daniel Miyares.

Cons:  Kids, don’t try unsupervised hammering and sawing at home!

 

Boat of Dreams by Rogerio Coelho

Published by Tilbury House Publishers

Summary:  An old man wakes up in his house on an island.  He sees a bottle bobbing in the sea with a piece of paper inside.  Removing the paper, he begins to draw, creating a picture of a magical-looking flying ship.  He puts the picture back in the bottle and returns it to the ocean.  A boy walks to his home in the city, where he finds an envelope outside the door.  Inside is the old man’s picture.  He draws himself and his cat in the ship, then goes to bed.  Next, he and the cat are on the ship flying toward the island.  When they get there, he and the man embrace, then the boy gives him the picture with his additions.  The man waves as they fly away.  The man gazes at the picture of the boy as his candle slowly goes out.  In the morning, the boy awakens to a new day.  80 pages; grades 2+

Pros:  Wow!  What does it mean? This lengthy wordless picture book could be interpreted in many different ways.  Kids and adults alike will enjoy puzzling over the illustrations to create their own stories.

Cons:  It looks like a picture book, but this will be appreciated more by an older audience.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

Published by Feiwel and Friends

Summary:  Before the title page of this wordless winter tale, a girl and a wolf pup are each shown safe at home with their families.  As the story begins, snow is starting to fall as the girl leaves school, wrapped up in a red coat and hood, a scarf around her face. The wolves are also traveling through the snow.  The heavy white curtain causes both girl and pup to lose their way, and they cross paths.  When the girl hears howling, she heads in that direction, hoping to reunite the pup with its family.  She succeeds, but the long detour exhausts her, and she collapses in the snow.  The wolves stay with her, howling to alert her dog to her whereabouts, and at last she is rescued by her parents.  The wolves howl in the distance as she heads home at last.  48 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  I do enjoy a good wordless book, and this one satisfies, with a fairly straightforward tale of friendship told through beautiful, snowy illustrations, and a few howls, huffs, and barks.

Cons:  The wolves are much better looking than the humans.

Return by Aaron Becker

Published by Candlewick Press 

Summary:  In this third and final volume of a wordless trilogy, a girl travels once again into the magical world she discovered in Journey and continued to explore in Quest.  This time, though, her father finally looks up from his work and follows her.  She meets up with the boy, the king, and the bird from the previous books, and as usual, the bad guys make an appearance.  They have a box that draws the magical crayons and their creations inside of it.  The boy, girl, and king are powerless to stop it, but Dad turns out to have a magical crayon of his own, and figures out a way to save the day.  40 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  Caldecott honoree Aaron Becker has risen to the occasion of creating a third amazing book in this trilogy.  I just spent quite a while with a 9-year-old who moved from one book to the other, finding all kinds of details I had missed (“Did you notice the boy always draws animals and the girl always draws machines?”).  Some of the best, most beautifully illustrated wordless picture books I have ever seen.

Cons:  If you hurry through these books, you will miss a lot!