Imagine! By Raul Colon

Published by Simon and Schuster

Image result for raul colon imagine amazon

Image result for raul colon imagine amazon

Summary:  A boy rides his skateboard over the Brooklyn Bridge to the Museum of Modern Art.  Inside he is captivated by three painting: Pablo Picasso’s Three Musicians, Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy, and Henri Matisse’s Icarus.  As he gazes at them, the figure from Icarus steps out of the painting and starts dancing with the boy.  The three musicians soon join them, playing their instruments, and finally the woman and lion from Rousseau’s painting follow the group as they head out of the museum.  They explore the city, riding the subway, taking a dip on the Cyclone roller coaster, eating hot dogs, and climbing the Statue of Liberty before heading back to MOMA.  The boy says goodbye as they all return to their paintings, then he gets his skateboard and heads for home. Along the way, he sees a big building and is inspired to paint pictures of his new friends on its side.  An author’s note tells how he developed his own love of art and hopes to inspire readers. 48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This wordless picture book is a follow-up to Colon’s 2014 Draw!, sharing with readers a love of art and creativity that started when he was a child.  The watercolor paintings give the illustrations a dreamy quality that is appropriate for a story of imagination.  Maybe a contender for Caldecott recognition.

Cons:  I wish the original paintings had been shown somewhere in the book.

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Pip and Pup by Eugene Yelchin

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

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Summary:  At the beginning of this wordless book, Pip, a fuzzy yellow chick, hatches out of her egg and goes exploring.  The first animal she sees is sleeping puppy Pup. She pecks on his nose, then gets scared when he wakes up and chases her.  She goes back to her eggshell; when it starts raining, she uses the bottom half as a boat and the top half as a hat. She paddles back to Pup, who is feeling unhappy in the rain.  When Pip puts half her eggshell on Pup’s head, a riotous game begins that ends when Pup accidentally crushes the eggshell. His way to make amends? Bringing out a tennis ball which seems like it will start a whole new game.  32 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  A cute story of friendship by Newbery honoree Eugene Yelchin (Breaking Stalin’s Nose).  The personalities of both animals come through loud and clear even though there are no words.

Cons:  It’s a pretty simple and straightforward story, without as many interesting details as some wordless books have.

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Aquarium by Cynthia Alonso

Published by Chronicle Books

Image result for aquarium cynthia alonso goodreads

Image result for aquarium cynthia alonso

Summary:  A little girl heads down to the end of her dock in this wordless story to watch the fish in the ocean and dream about swimming with them.  When an orange fish leaps out of the water, she scoops him into her water bottle and runs home with him. She creates a complex network of bowls, pitchers, and hoses for the fish to enjoy, but ultimately senses that he would rather be in the ocean.  Back into the water bottle he goes, and she races him down to the edge of the dock. She gives him a final kiss goodbye, then lets him go back home again. 40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  A beautiful wordless picture book by a new artist from Argentina.  The story is complex enough to be interesting, yet straightforward enough for even the youngest listeners to piece together from the illustrations.

Cons:  It wasn’t entirely clear to me how the fish got into the water bottle.

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Night Out by Daniel Miyares

Published by Schwartz and Wade

Image result for night out miyares amazon

Image result for night out daniel miyares

Summary:  A boy eats and sleeps alone in some kind of all-boy institution (a boarding school? An orphanage?).  One night he finds an invitation propped up against the bowl housing his pet turtle.  He sneaks out and rides his bike to the shore, where a large turtle ferries him across the water to a cave.  There’s a party going on, and the other animals welcome him with open arms (and wings).  After a night of tea and dancing, he returns to his room.  His turtle can be seen returning to his bowl just as the boy is climbing through the window. The last page shows the boy sharing the story with his new (human) friends. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This almost wordless book (38 words) is a celebration of the power of stories to connect with others.  The dedication says it all: “Dedicated to the dreamers. May you always feel invited.”  Daniel Miyares’ evocative illustrations perfectly capture the child’s loneliness and the power of his imagination to create a happy world for himself.

Cons:  Knowing that Daniel Miyares has created beautiful wordless picture books, I felt like the words in this one were unnecessary.

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A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker

Published by Candlewick Press

Image result for stone for sascha amazon

Image result for stone for sascha becker

Summary:  On the opening page, a family is burying their beloved dog, then leaving for summer vacation.  The girl in the family reaches into the ocean as she watches another girl play with her dog on the beach.  The action suddenly shifts to prehistoric times when a meteor hits the earth.  It lands as a golden slab of rock, which is then used in all kinds of structures and works of art throughout history.  In its final incarnation, it’s carved into a dragon which eventually ends up smashed into pieces at the bottom of the sea.  One of the pieces washes ashore, and the girl from the beginning of the story finds it.  She takes it home and lays it on her dog’s grave, bringing the story full circle.  48 pages; grades K-5.

Pros: Books from Lane Smith, Aaron Becker, and the Fan Brothers all in the same month…what an amazing world we live in.  Like Becker’s Journey trilogy, this wordless book requires multiple “readings” to begin to absorb all that is happening in the illustrations.  Imaginative kids will be fascinated with the idea of traveling back in time through geology and will look at rocks in a whole new way.

Cons:  Younger readers (and possibly older ones too) will likely need some help to understand what is going on.

Dude! word by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Dan Santat

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Image result for dude dan santat amazon

Summary:  Cowabunga, dude, this book only has one word, but lots of gnarly pictures!  A platypus and a beaver head out on surfboards one sunny day, disregarding a sign with a big red exclamation mark on it.  The beaver is laughing hysterically after the platypus gets pooped on by a seagull, when suddenly–DUDE!–a great white shark appears.  Thinking fast, the beaver produces an ice cream cone, and the three become friends.  Surf’s up until a big wave smashes the boards into the rocks.  The shark has a solution, and the three head out to sea again, the two smaller animals catching a wave on the back of their great white pal.  Everyone on the beach flees in terror, and the trio enjoy samples from the vacant ice cream stand.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat is a pretty brilliant pairing, and this book of summer fun that includes ice cream, a great white shark, cartoon bubbles, and a poop joke, is pretty much a guaranteed hit at any storytime.

Cons:  If you’re trying to get your offspring to practice reading this summer, this probably isn’t the book for you.  Dude.

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I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoet

Published by Schwartz & Wade Books

Image result for i walk with vanessa amazon

Image result for i walk with vanessa kerascoet

Summary:  In this wordless book, Vanessa is new at school, and seems to be feeling isolated on her first day.  She sits quietly in class and watches kids playing in the gym without joining in.  As she walks home alone, a boy walks up to her and starts yelling.  Another girl witnesses the incident and is clearly bothered by it, continuing to think about it after she gets home.  The next day she wakes up with an idea.  She saw where Vanessa lives, so she stops by her house and asks to walk to school with her.  As the two girls walk, others join them, first one at a time and then in groups, until there are dozens of kids walking together, Vanessa in their midst.  The bully is shown on the edge of the crowd, his face red and angry.  The happy crowd of kids enters the school, and Vanessa has found a new friend.  The last page has a message for kids about how to help someone who is being bullied and some helpful words for adults to use when talking about the book with children.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Although there are no words, kids will get this book right away.  There’s a truly feel-good ending, and the story will lend itself easily to discussion afterward.  The cartoon kids are adorable.

Cons:  The issue of bullying is not always as simple as this book makes it out to be.

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