Two years ago, while I was acting as a judge for the Cybils and reading even more books than normal in a given year, I noted the inordinate amount of wordless picture books that had come out in 2013. It even turned out to be the Caldecott year for wordless picture books as the 2014 honor awards went to three wordless picture books: Journey, Flora and the Flamingo, and Mr. Wuffles!. It was an unheard-of year for wordless picture books. I even frequently refer to 2013 as “The year of the wordless picture book.” Clever, no?
I’ve discussed wordless books occasionally, the most important for me being South by Patrick McDonnell; but I tend to avoid discussing them as they are intimidating as a reader, and especially as an illustrator. They can be lovely and they can also be frustrating. The tendency to just barrel through each page and not pause too long is even greater because there are no words to guide you. They can be delightful to savor by yourself, but groan-inducing when brought to you by a child with full expectation of you putting on a great ad lib read.
But, a well-executed wordless picture book has gone beyond creating lovely pictures and has buried a story so deep that words cannot express it. The illustrations must do double-duty. They must draw you in, yes with their actual drawn nature; but also with their ability to tell the story with every detail, every expression, every movement and page turn.
I do not have what I would consider the ultimate grasp on how to read a wordless picture book, but I thought I would share a few pointers I have gleaned to help make them less intimidating and perhaps invite you to experience them more fully. I plan on sharing a wordless picture book review every Wednesday for a while, and so I hope this serves as an intro on how to approach all the amazing picture books that come out “quietly.” I took a ton of pictures from the cast of 2013 wordless picture books, so I am going to illustrate my reading tips using those books. Taking a cue from 6 of the stellar wordless books from 2013, here are my 5 tips to reading a wordless picture book:Continue reading “How To Read A Wordless Book”