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8 Wonderfully Wordless Picture Books

by Janssen Bradshaw

Photo credit: kohei_hara, E+ Collection/Getty Images

It took me years to embrace wordless picture books. As a voracious reader, I tended to focus more on the text than the art, and struggled to get into books that didn’t include any words.

But as a librarian and now as a parent, I’ve really come to love and appreciate them.

They’re perfect for reluctant readers who can enjoy a book and build positive literary experiences without the stress of reading words. They also give children a chance to focus on the art and observe all the amazing details the illustrator has included. They’re great for active reading — you can point things out together, make sounds, and act out the plot. And they work with your schedule; you decide how long or short to make the story.

These are eight of my favorite wordless picture books.

  • Journey

    by Aaron Becker

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    From the moment this one was published, it was getting Caldecott buzz (and then went on to snag a Caldecott Honor). Imagine you could draw a door on your wall and then step out into a magical world. We read this book dozens of times when we first checked it out from the library, and neither my daughter nor I ever got tired of it. I also love the other two books in the trilogy, Quest and Return.

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  • Noah’s Ark

    by Peter Spier

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    This won the Caldecott medal years ago and has definitely withstood the test of time. The details are just so masterful — from Noah building the Ark, to feeding the animals day after day, to the exuberance as everyone finally gets off the Ark and explores the world again. If you have an animal lover in the house, this is a no-brainer.

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  • The Snowman

    by Raymond Briggs

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    The Snowman follows a little boy and his snowman — which comes alive in his dreams that night — as they explore the wonders of the world. Immediately hailed as a modern classic, it begs for multiple reads.

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  • Time Flies

    by Eric Rohmann

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    Eric Rohmann’s debut, which won a Caldecott when it was initially published in 1994, is a timeless picture book that explores the concept of birds evolving from dinosaurs. A gorgeous combination of science and striking illustrations, I predict this one staying a fan favorite for years to come.

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  • Bluebird

    by Bob Staake

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    Bob Staake is a prolific children’s book author — and New Yorker cover artist, to boot — but he’s said Bluebird is the book he was meant to write. The wordless story of a friendship between a young boy and a bird is packed with emotion and raises important questions about loneliness and the bonds that save us.

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  • A Ball for Daisy

    by Chris Raschka

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    You can’t go wrong with A Ball for Daisy, a Caldecott Medal-winner about a sweet dog that’s heartbroken over the loss of her favorite toy. Children will relate to Daisy’s keen disappointment — and surge of joy — as captured through Raschka’s unique illustrations.

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  • Bee & Me

    by Alison Jay

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    Both a breathtaking adventure and a call to protect bees that are so crucial to our ecosystem, Alison Jay’s Bee & Me is delivered through beautiful oil paintings that capture readers’ imaginations and showcase the plight of bees. Helpful back matter offers advice for young conservationists.

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  • Mirror

    by Jeanine Baker

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    In Baker’s Mirror, two boys — one in Australia and one in Morrocco — go about their day. While beautifully constructed three-dimensional collages show two very different lives and cultures, finding the underlying commonalities between them will resonate most with readers. Truly, words are extraneous when you’ve got such shared wonder in the world.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2021.