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!

Fish by Liam Francis Walsh

Published by Roaring Brook Press 

Summary: A boy and his dog are on an unusual fishing expedition in this wordless book. Instead of fish, he pulls letters in from the sea; first an F, then an I, then an S. But the H is more elusive. As he catches and tosses back a Q, a giant C looms out of the water. Finally, there’s a tug on his hook, but it’s a pretty strong tug, and he’s pulled out of the boat, deep into the ocean, where he pulls an H from a huge swarm of letters. Safely back in the boat, the boy and his dog are ready to head for shore, but the letters have a different idea. They surround the boat, and the giant C almost capsizes them. Fortunately, the dog hangs on to the letters, and at last they are able to make a safe return. The purpose of their mission becomes clear as they approach a couple of workmen puzzling over the sign they’re hanging that reads “IN”. The FISH is what they need to create a FINISH line, just in time for the huge group of runners that’s ready to cross it.

Pros: New Yorker cartoonist Walsh has created a fun story with his comic-style black, white, red, and turquoise illustrations. Readers will enjoy the “A-ha!” moment of discovering what the FISH is really for. And the dog is pretty darn cute.

Cons: As in so many wordless books, there were some puzzling elements, like the underwater letters and the giant C. Make sure you have your imagination fired up before tackling this story.

The Whale by Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow

Published by Templar Books 

Summary: “Giant whale or giant hoax?” screams the headline of the Cape Chronicle. It’s been 50 years since two children claim to have spotted a giant whale. Two kids read all about it and decide, individually, to explore the issue themselves. When their boats collide, they are forced to join forces. Putting their scientific minds together, they collect amazing evidence of the Great Spotted Whale. Upon their return, they find themselves featured in their own Cape Chronicle article…and discover an interesting connection to the first team of whale spotters from half a century ago. 32 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros: This almost-wordless book (the only text is in the two newspaper articles at the beginning and end) tells the story through realistically detailed black-and-white illustrations. Readers will almost feel the salty spray and hear the whale songs coming from the beautiful renditions of the ocean.

Cons: Like many books without words, the story may be a little confusing.