In this episode we explore the world of wordless picture books. It is a fun genre that allows our children to practice telling stories and helps them explore visual details in the illustrations.
Books Discussed in This Episode
Transcript with Links
Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. Today, I want to talk to you about wordless books. We’ve been talking about picture books. Now, this is our third year we’re starting, and I’ve never done an episode on wordless books. I’ve mentioned a few along the way, but there are some wonderful, wonderful, wonderful picture books that have no words in them, and that allow us to really talk about the story and what’s happening. And the artwork of course, is center to the whole story and is beautiful. And there are some really special books out there.
One I have mentioned before is Shine. And I just love this book. Shine is by Dagny Griffin and illustrated by Laura Bobbiesi. It is a wordless book about love, and it shows everyone in this story, they’re black and white and grumpy and not happy at all. And this one little girl decides to be kind and to be helpful. And she starts to share this love with her community, and it spreads to the whole community. And they show that of course, by color being brought into the picture. It’s just wonderful. I love that it really encourages us to love one another, that the little acts of kindness can make a difference in our world today.
And another classic that has been around for quite some time, and it’s a cute story. It’s a funny story. And it’s called Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola. This is about a little old lady who is just, dreaming of having pancakes for breakfast, and she starts cooking and she realizes she doesn’t have eggs. So she goes out to the chicken coop and gets eggs, and then she realizes she doesn’t have milk. And so she goes and milks the cow, and it goes on and on and she winds up not being able to make her pancakes. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but it just is so funny at the end and gives you a lot to talk about with your kids about being neighborly and being helpful. And it almost has the feeling, you think it might become like The Little Red Hen, but that’s not the message of this story. But it is similar in some of the ways that it shows her perseverance and her determination and her work ethic.
Another one about love and simple acts of kindness is I Walk with Vanessa: a Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Karascoët. And I’m sure I didn’t say that right, but it’s very sweet and it shows a little girl who’s new to a school, and how one little girl’s act of kindness to walk with Vanessa to and from school and inviting her friends to meet her and get to know her changes everything at the end. It also has a page where you can talk about bullying or what happens when a child sees another child being unkind, what you can do to make a difference, and I do love that. I think it would’ve been even more powerful if it had shown both a girl being nice and a girl being unkind instead of making the bully a boy, because too often we stereotype that the boys are bullies and the girls are sweet, and that just isn’t true. So that would’ve been even better, but it is really well written and really well done. I like it a lot.
Another really cute book is called Flashlight by Lizi Boyd. This one, again, gives you a lot to talk about. It has humor and adventure in it. I love the artwork in this one. Most of the artwork is white on a black background, like a chalkboard look, except where the flashlight shines is colorful. And there’s little spots of color in the background as well, but not very much. And then on each page, there’s also a cutout that then highlights something as you look at the page to the right, and as you turn the page and it’s on the left, it highlights something. And so this will delight a child, give you a lot of conversation as you go through it. It doesn’t have as many life lesson messages necessarily, but it is very cute.
Now another book is called One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey by Henry Cole. This book at the very beginning shows how paper is made from a forest, and you see a tree in the forest. This is before you even get into the story, it gives you the background of how paper is made. And then you get into the story, and this little boy has this bag. This is a paper bag that never dies– but it’s all about reusing a bag. And of course, a brown paper bag is not going to last for twenty-something years most likely, without falling apart. But in the story it does. And, actually it’s even more than that, cause he becomes a grandfather so it’s like, it’s the indestructible brown bag. But what I love about it is, it encourages recycling, reuse of items. It shows the main character planting a tree to replace the trees that are used to make paper, which I think is something we should always do, and it shows the adventure that life is, just the wonderful things that happen in life that we consider normal, everyday things are really wonderful and are a blessing, and so I think they’re part of an amazing journey that is our life, and I think it’s really cute that this book shows that.
Now there are several books that are wordless that are good for problem solving, that show the main characters thinking through what’s going on in the story. They’re a little scary, and so I think for very young children, this might not be good, or for children who take stories too literally, and can get caught up in them, but for your middle grade and children who love crazy adventures and don’t get into the story and get scared by a story, these are really cute. And one of them is called Chalk by Bill Thompson, and it’s about these kids who go to the park and there’s this toy dinosaur, and he has a bag hanging from his mouth. And in it there’s sidewalk chalk, but everything they create becomes real, including the dinosaur. And they have to think quickly to save themselves from this dinosaur, which they do. And so it would be– with the right kids and the right audience– it would be a lot of fun. I love that they had to think fast, and you can talk about thinking through problems instead of just freaking out and not trying to solve it.
And there’s a few like this, but I wanted to mention that one. And another one that is… I guess I would call it a little strange, but I’ve always liked this book. I’ve had it for years and years, and it is called Tuesday by David Wiesner. This one’s been around for quite some time, and he’s written several other picture books that are wordless that are a lot of fun. And this one is about crazy Tuesdays. Apparently Tuesdays are when everything goes haywire. But it’s just the silliest story, I don’t see it trying to teach our children anything major as far as character qualities or anything like that. It’s just a fun, silly book, and I think it’s a great one to look at and talk about and have fun with.
Now, the next ones I’m going to share are some of my very favorite wordless books, at least that I’ve found so far. One of them– this one has a lot of humor in it– but it’s just my favorite. It’s called Fly! [with an exclamation point] by Mark Teague. It’s about this little bird that does not want to leave the nest, and his mom tells him in the pictures that he needs to go to Florida over the winter. So he’s like, “but I could take a car, a train!” And all this is told through pictures and it’s just hysterical. So I think it’s a great book, I think it’s my favorite of all the ones I’ve read lately of wordless books. It’s a lot of fun.
And then there’s a trilogy of books that are amazing. I think they were inspired by Harold and the Purple Crayon, but these are by Aaron Becker. It’s called Journey, Quest, and Return. That’s the trilogy, but the artwork is beautiful in these books. There is a Buddhist type statue in one of the pictures, but that’s the only thing that’s different, that you might want to be concerned about, but I don’t think it’s a problem. The pictures are really stunning and the adventure is very clear. There is so much to take in, in each picture. These books will take longer to go through than your basic wordless book, because the author, the illustrator has put so much into each picture and into each page, but each one has a really good message. And they’re all about adventure, making the best of a situation, doing what you can, I mean, they’re just wonderful. And it also makes a commentary on spending time together as family really, really good trilogy. You can buy all three in a set, which is what I did and get it at a discount, or you can buy them separately. They are available in hardback or paperback.
Now of course, one of the most famous wordless books out there is what may have been the original, I don’t know. But it is the one that we use to share the Gospel. This book is simply a book of pages that are colors, and we use those colors to share the Gospel. And if you go to Amazon, you can download a book by Spurgeon that explains the wordless book and helps you to know how to use it. You can also get a copy of The Wordless Book on Amazon or Christianbook.com, or you can make your own. I’ve always just made my own. Most of the ones I’ve used start with a green cover because God created Adam and Eve in the garden, and so the world was beautiful. It was full of life. And then you have the black page representing sin. That sin entered the world, that man chose to rebel against God. And then we have the red page for the blood of Jesus, for Jesus coming and dying for our sins. And then the white page where we are made clean. And then you have, again, depending on the book you have, you either have a gold and then a green, or a gold, a blue, and a green, or just a green page after that. The simple form of course is then to talk about growth, again, that now we are following Christ, and growing in him, and obeying His word. If you put in the gold, of course you can talk about Heaven and the streets of gold and that someday we will live with him forever in eternity, and then go to the green and talk about growing in Christ. And the blue represents obedience and baptism, and I know there are a lot of different opinions about baptism. I personally believe that baptism is an act of obedience. It is a public testimony of what Christ has done in our hearts. I do not believe that it saves us in any way. I think it is simply an act of obedience, but I know there are some who believe that baptism is part of salvation. I don’t think the Bible teaches that, but if you want to include the blue page, that’s what it represents is baptism. But this is a wonderful way to share the Gospel and also, to help kids tell it back to you. To show that they understand the Gospel, that they’re not just repeating answers without truly understanding what’s going on. And I’ve also heard people who don’t like saying black and white for the colors black and white, because of racism and all that. I have a problem with that as well, people thinking it’s a problem. Because to me, the color black is a very dark black color and can represent a lot of different ideas and is not truly the color of someone who is African-American or dark skinned. If they’re dark skinned, they’re usually different shades of brown and not black. And a white person is not white, like the white paper. A white person as we call us, we’re not white at all. And I think we need to get rid of those terms when talking about people more than we need to get rid of those terms when talking about colors. That’s just my personal opinion, you can do as you wish when you’re sharing it. If you have a problem with saying black and white, then you can use dark and light. And that works as well, because of course, Christ’s light and life in our lives is what cleanses our hearts, and light is portrayed in our eyes as the color white, and then dark as in, you know, danger and sin and evil and all of those things, and that’s fine if you want to describe it that way. But I do think this is a wonderful tool to use in any kind of Sunday school classroom, or with your children.
What wordless book do you like? Do you have a favorite? Maybe from your childhood, or that you know of? There are quite a few out there. If you search online for wordless books, you’ll actually find quite a few, and it may be surprising, because we don’t often think of telling a story without words, but it is a wonderful genre out there that is so much fun to share with our kids. Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” a podcast celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. As we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list by finding me at TerrieHellardBrown.com on the front page.
There’s a place where you can sign up for my mailing list and you’ll get notified. When I post a new blog, when I post a new podcast, and also you’ll get my monthly newsletter. When you sign up for my mailing list, you also receive several free items, a list of over 100 books to start your child’s library. You actually get to download a free phonics or phoning book, and you also have access to table talk, which are several conversation starters that are fun to talk through. If you like this episode, please share it. Please tell your friends about it. Like, and comment. You can comment on the blog post. You can comment on Facebook or any of the social media, we would love to hear from you. And remember, we have a giveaway every month, and this month we are giving away two books. One on creativity by Jordan Raynor and one called The Little Pot about the fruit of the spirit and living the Christian life as a disciple and follower of Christ written by Dawn Stephens, who has been my guest on this podcast before. Both of these books are wonderful. Because we are two years old, I’m giving away these two books to two different winners at the end of July, so please comment with happy birthday on any of the social media, or you can comment on the blog where the show notes are and say happy birthday, and you’ll be entered in the drawing. So thank you for joining us today and thank you for being here. We appreciate you so much.
Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.
We’re starting our 3rd year of “Books that Spark”! Wish us a happy birthday in the comments below or on social media with the hashtag #booksthatspark to be entered into this month’s drawing. The drawing takes place on July 31st.