Wordless

Books don’t necessarily need words to get their point across, as this list of the best wordless children’s books prove. With glorious illustrations and immense detail, they tell tales that are every bit as inspiring as those with words. Let’s take a look at the best and the boldest of these fantastical tales.

Top 10 Wordless Picture Books

tuesday Tuesday: The story is that of a seemingly normal Tuesday, except this one proved to be quite unique indeed. On this Tuesday, frogs became airborne and their lily pads were no longer necessary. The illustrator of this book, David Wiesner, is well known as one of the best in the business, and Tuesday won the 1991 Caldecott Medal. In fact, Mr. Wiesner went on to win another 2 Caldecotts, and Tuesday went on to sell more than 500,000 copies and to be published in more than a dozen different countries. It is a strong example of how fantastic this genre can be.
flotsam Flotsam: A smart boy who’s interested in science takes a trip to the beach with everything he needs to collect flotsam. Flotsam is anything that was once floating but has now washed ashore. For example, it might include bottles, toys, or small objects of virtually any description. No matter what he thinks he might come across, he was certainly not prepared for the discovery of an underwater camera that’s encrusted with barnacles. Inside are secret photographs that he must learn to keep to himself. This is yet another wordless book by David Wiesner that shows kids the surprises that can arise in every day life.
the lion and the mouse The Lion and the Mouse: One of the most famous stories by master storyteller Aesop gets a makeover, thanks to Jerry Pinkney’s adaption. Without words, he tells the beloved tale about a terrifying lion who decides to free a mouse he was planning to eat. Later, the mouse is able to return the favor and come to the rescue of the lion by freeing him from a hunter’s traps. This book uses bright, vivid illustrations to show the landscape of Africa. The characters are boldly drawn and quite memorable. Without words, this mesmerizing book manages to tell a huge story.
the red book The Red Book: When a book doesn’t have any words, it must rely on detailed illustrations to immerse the reader in a magical experience. The Red Book, which is actually a book about a book, manages to do exactly that. Readers will turn the pages to experience an adventure the likes of which they’ve never seen. Across oceans and continents, the book takes readers into an entirely new world of possibilities. A young girl is traveling to meet her friend, who waits patiently for the day she’ll arrive. One of the most uplifting aspects of this book is that when it ends, the journey is just beginning.
zoom Zoom: This is the book for children who want to travel the globe. Without leaving their home, and without a word, they’ll embark on a journey from farm to ship to city street. Desert island? Of course, that’s depicted too! Readers may think they know where they’re going next, but half the fun is the surprise of never knowing exactly what’s going to happen next. There is some visual trickery going on here, with many pictures within pictures. This is a perfect example of wordless children’s books that can be read hundreds of times, with something new discovered each time.
wave Wave: When it comes to simplicity, acclaimed artist Suzy Lee knows how to make it work. This entire book is not only wordless, but it’s illustrated in just two colors. Created entirely in water color, Suzy Lee tells the story of a little girl who spends the day at the beach. She encounters plenty of the things you’d imagine she would – and some you might not think of! This is a sweet, simple, uplifting book that’s chock full of joy and laughter. It’s a perfect book to look at right before bedtime, or in the car on the way to a wonder-filled vacation.
sector 7 Sector 7: David Wiesner makes the list yet again, and for good reason. This fantastical tale starts with a field trip to the Empire State Building. One of the school boys meets a sneaky little cloud, who whisks the boy away to Cloud Dispatch Center for Section 7. Here he meets other clouds, who express their boredom at their current shapes. The boy sketches new shapes for them to bring a little excitement in their life. This is quite a complex tale to be told without words, but the illustrator does so expertly, as he does with all his wordless picture books.
chalk Chalk: It’s a rainy day and 3 kids are hiding out in the park. They find a dinosaur spring rider and hop on for the ride of their lives. After getting their thrills, they grab a bag of chalk and begin to draw. And that’s when the magic begins! The kids draw a sun, butterflies and a dinosaur, and they all come to life! This is a wondrous book that really helps to foster a child’s imagination. The illustrator uses traditional painting techniques to add tons of rich details to each of the pages. This may be the most visually inspiring book on this list.
a ball for daisy A Ball for Daisy: All children who’ve ever experienced their favorite toy breaking will be able to relate to this timeless tale. Poor Daisy is quite upset when another dog destroys her favorite ball. The book depicts her joy at initially playing with her ball and her sadness when it is no longer, which perfectly captures the way it really feels to have a favorite toy and then lose it. This book has broad appeal, from dog lovers to children who’ve ever lost anything special to them. The illustrations are swirling, impressionistic, and quite fantastical. Of course, there is also a surprise happy ending!
where’s walrus? Where’s Walrus?: Walrus is happy with his life, but oh so bored living in the zoo! He decides to take the ultimate adventure and head out to the outside world. The zookeeper is hot on his trail, but Walrus is more clever than people give him credit for! He finds all kinds of hats that help him disguise himself. Is that a construction worker? No, it’s Walrus with a hardhat! Is that a swimmer? No, it’s Walrus with a red swimming cap! Readers can follow long in this delightful book and see for themselves if the zookeeper ever answers the question, “Where’s Walrus?”

Wordless Children’s Books: Honorable Mentions

sea of dreams Sea of Dreams: A girl is traveling down a beautiful beach on a sunny day, and decides to stop and create a gorgeous sandcastle. When night time comes, she heads for home, leaving the sandcastle behind – and completely unprotected. The waves begin to move closer and closer as high tide comes. The sandcastle is in serious trouble, when, out of no where, a light comes on in one of its windows. A wonderful tale full of magic and suspense, young readers will be captivated by the story of a lonely girl, the sandcastle she makes, and its struggle for survival.
ice Ice: In this latest installment of Arthur Geistert’s pigs, we find the community of pigs is suffering from exhaustion during a serious heat stroke. They know they can’t continue to be happy in such heat, so they go off in search of ice. The going isn’t as simple as they’d hoped, but these are after all some very inventive pigs. Through ingenuity and team work, they come up with a unique solution that will inspire kids and adults alike. This is a joyful book that’s full of can-do attitude and working together, with, illustrations that really bring the multifaceted tale to life.
rainstorm Rainstorm: What is a child to do who finds themselves long in a big, empty house? What if it starts to rain? Who wouldn’t feel a little lonely and scared when they’re all alone during a rainstorm? This kid is quite frightened, but decides to make the best of it. After a key is found, a quite mysterious key at that, a lock is found…and the afternoon sure gets more interesting. This is an example of wordless children’s books that are full of lovely illustrations and deep emotions. The ending is nothing short of magical, and it is quite amazing how a wordless book like this can tell such a deep and interesting story.
free fall Free Fall: As do all children, the young boy in this book falls asleep every night, but he has something different in store. Each of his dreams are amazing, magical, and whirlwind adventures. Sometimes he dreams about fire-breathing dragons, sometimes he dreams about majestic castles. Other nights he takes off for far-off, unchartered lands. No matter where his dreams take him, the reader is welcome to come along. This is a whimsical, fun, and exciting adventure in the land of the dreams of one young boy. Perfect for kids who dream big, it’s a wonderful book to read before bed.
mudkin Mudkin: One day a young girl meets a Mudkin, which is a friendly creature made of mud. The Mudkin brings out a robe and crown and calls the girl his queen. Off they go to meet her new subjects! Of course, her reign will only last until the sun comes up and the mud goes away, but she’s determined to make the most of her new friends. The artist, Stephen Gammell, has won the Caldecott Award and there’s no question he deserved it. This is an homage to two of the most wonderful things from childhood: imagination and rainy-day play.
trainstop Trainstop: Riding the train is so exciting! You can always find something new to look at, even if you’ve traveled there before. Of course, there are some rides that are better than other rides. What if you hopped on a train and it took you not just to a new town, but to an entirely different world? What if the doors to the train opened and you found yourself amongst strange lands? That would be a most exciting train ride, and that’s exactly what happens in this colorful, adorable book. Wordless picture books like this one are able to truly showcase the magic of strange lands.
time flies Time Flies: Time Flies was Eric Rohmann’s first children’s book, but it went on to win the Caldecott Honor. It uses time travel to tell many different tales of evolution, and depicts dinosaurs as the ancestors of birds. At first, a bird is trapped inside a dinosaur exhibit at a local museum. The bird enters through the mouth of a dinosaur, and the real adventure begins! This is a great book for its simplicity in dealing with a somewhat complicated subject, and is a favorite of science-minded kids everywhere. With lush, beautiful colors and exciting scenes, it’s certainly one of the best wordless books.
a boy, a dog, and a frog A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog: Many wordless books tell a grand story without the use of words, but others, like A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog, tell simple stories that are full of charm. In this tale, a boy takes his dog for a wonderful walk in the swamp. Along the way, they spy a frog in the water. They decide to catch him, but how will they do it? They’ve got a handy net along, but will the frog be too fast for them? Will they fall in trying? For such a simple book, there is really a lot of adventure and tension. Young adventurers will certainly relate to this book.
museum trip Museum Trip: What are museums to you? Are they magical and full of curious art? Or do they hold deep secrets that have yet to be revealed? And what would happen if a boy found himself no longer the viewer but the person being viewed? In this story, that’s just what happens. A young boy visits the museum but finds himself a part of one seriously mind-bending exhibit. This is a whimsical tale that shows kids how much fun there is to be had by visiting the museum – especially when you have an active and lively imagination and an open mind.
wonder bear Wonder Bear: Two kids find some mysterious seeds and decide to plant them. What grows is an impressive flowering vine, from which an even more impressive white bear emerges. He wears a top hat, which allows him to do all sorts of magic. He pulls a slew of monkeys from the hat, he is able to blow bubbles into some amazing shapes, and can create amazing floating sea creatures from flowers. The children are of course wide-eyed as they watch, and readers will be as well. The illustrations are bright, vibrant, and striking. This is quite an original debut from an illustrator we expect to see much more from.
bee and bird Bee and Bird: In life, things are not always what they seem to be, and that’s true in this story as well. It follows a bird and a bee as they go on a surprising, adventure-filled journey. At first it seems to be a simple story, but readers will be surprised by the twists and turns along the way. Illustrator Craig Frazier has drawn some simple yet colorful and inspiring pages to tell this tale. It’s a wonderful story of nature, of nurture, and the power of friendship. Readers who love an adventure and a surprising tale will be mesmerized by this story.
the conductor The Conductor: It may seem that an orchestra conductor couldn’t make a band out of a grove of trees, but award-winning illustrator Laetitia Devernay proves that it is indeed possible. Though there are no words in this book, the reader can practically hear the music, as the conductor starts with the rustling of the leaves, then gets them to whirl, then swirl, then…a beautiful symphony is born. What a wonderful celebration of imagination this story is, which is bound to get kids to think about the world around them a little differently. The illustrations may be spare, but they are intricate and quite telling.
the umbrella The Umbrella: It’s a windy day, and a little dog wanders through the garden. He finds an umbrella and decides to pick it up. Much to his surprise, the wind catches the open umbrella and takes him high in to the sky. The dog’s journey takes him all around the world, as he explores everything from the desert to the sea. With rich illustrations of the jungle, the North Pole, and much more, young readers are treated to a wonderful trip without leaving their room. Parents who want wordless picture books to help inspire their kids will flock to this story.
no dogs allowed No Dogs Allowed: Even when the best plans are set in stone, they can always change – and end up more fun than they were to begin with! Iris sets out on a road trip with her family, her neighbors and her dog. They’re headed to the lake, but when they get there, they find out that dogs aren’t allowed. What are they going to do? They decide to put their heads together and take turns caring for the dog, who is quite sad that he won’t get to enjoy the lake. By the end of the day, he’s spent time with everyone and had the best doggone time of his life!

The picture books on this list prove that you don’t need text to tell a compelling tale. Some are simple, straightforward books, while others are as intricate as a book full of words. Some are funny, some are heartwarming, but all are excellent choices for imaginative young readers who want to become immersed in a tale.

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