David Wiesner & The Wordless Picture Book

David Wiesner, three times winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal for Tuesday in 1992, The Three Pigs in 2002, and Flotsam in 2007. As well as this remarkable achievement he has also been awarded three Cadecott Honors for, Free Fall, Sector 7, and Mr. Wuffles!

The Wordless Picture Book

David Wiesner’s picture books are for the most part wordless. I believe some of the best picture books out there are wordless. Often they are overlooked by schools and parents. This is a shame; there are many benefits of picture books without words. Exploring the illustrations allows the reader to create their own interpretation of the story, enabling the reader to become an intrinsic part of the storytelling process. Making sense of the details; expression, body language, atmosphere of the scene etc… teach us to look closer, make decisions based on our own experiences and develop our understanding of the world around us. The wordless picture book feeds our imaginations. You cannot simply flick through the pages, you need to absorb yourself in each illustration, create dialogue between characters, and reflect on their inner thoughts. This process connects you to the characters and story in a different way to that of a book with words.

A wordless picture book is a great way to encourage children to express themselves through language. Every child will tell the story differently, and each child will tell it differently, each time they tell it. When reading with a child, describe the pictures together, this will expose them to a variety of language and will increase their vocabulary.

I have used David Wiesner’s books with children of all ages, with children that have English as an additional language, with younger children and children in key stage 2. Wordless picture books are a good tool to develop children’s comprehension skills. Asking children open-ended questions about the story enables children to identify and articulate inferences derived from their logical conclusions. This encourages the child to give a meaningful, thought-out answer that stems from their own knowledge and feelings.

Free Fall (1988)

A young boy dreams of daring adventures in the company of imaginary creatures inspired by the things surrounding his bed. Amazon

Hurricane (1990)

Take two boys, a ferocious storm, and a towering elm, and you’ve got prime material for imaginative play, David Wiesner style. Hurricane is the semi-autobiographical story of two brothers, David and George, who use a fallen tree as the jumping-off place for wonderful games of make-believe. This spectacular picture book takes readers on a limitless voyage of the imagination, which David and George share as only true friends — and brothers — can. www.hmhbooks.com

Tuesday (1991)

The unpredictable events of a particular Tuesday unroll before the reader’s eyes with the precision and clarity of a silent movie in this Caldecott Medal-winning book.  In this ingenious and imaginative nearly wordless picture book, frogs in a pond lift off on their lily pads and fly to a nearby town where they zoom through a woman’s living room, encounter a dog playing in his yard, and distract a bathrobe-clad citizen from his midnight snack.  Who knows what will happen next Tuesday? www.hmhbooks.com

June 29, 1999 (1992)

June 29, 1999, which happens to be a Tuesday, is a day no one will forget, especially Holly Evans. On that day, Holly, her town, and the country learn the results of her science project, sending seedlings aloft into the ionosphere: an invasion of giant vegetables. Broccoli falls from the sky, bracing itself in her backyard; turnips hit the trail in the Rocky Mountains; and lima beans land in Levittown. Holly never imagined the results would be so unprecedented in scale or so fantastical in scope. Wiesner’s wit and superbly detailed illustrations make it all seem somehow plausible. www.hmhbooks.com

Sector 7 (1999)

Only David Wiesner could devise this fantastic tale, which begins with a school trip but then develops and unfolds like no other. In this wordless adventure, a boy who likes to draw attends a class field trip to the Empire State building.  There he makes friends with a mischievous little cloud, who whisks him away to the Cloud Dispatch Center for Sector 7.  The clouds are bored with their everyday shapes, so the boy obligingly starts to sketch some new ones, setting off an extraordinary and touching visual adventure.  The wordless yet eloquent account of this unparalleled adventure is a funny, touching story about art, friendship, and the weather, as well as a visual tour de force. www.hmhbooks.com

The Three Pigs (2001)

Hold on to your hat and your home, but let your imagination soar! This masterly picture book will blow you away right along with the three little pigs’ houses. Satisfying both as a story and as an exploration of story, The Three Pigs takes visual narrative to a new level. When the wolf comes a-knocking and a-puffing, he blows the pigs right out of the tale and into a whole new imaginative landscape, where they begin a freewheeling adventure as they wander—and fly—through other stories, encountering a dragon and a cat with a fiddle, among others. This familiar tale will never be the same old story again. www.hmhbooks.com

Flotsam (2006)

A bright, science-minded boy goes to the beach equipped to collect and examine flotsam—anything floating that has been washed ashore. Bottles, lost toys, small objects of every description are among his usual finds. But there’s no way he could have prepared for one particular discovery: a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera, with its own secrets to share . . . and to keep.

In each of his amazing picture books, David Wiesner has revealed the magical possibilities of some ordinary thing or happening—a frog on a lily pad, a trip to the Empire State Building, a well-known nursery tale. This time, a day at the beach is the springboard into a wildly imaginative exploration of the mysteries of the deep, and of the qualities that enable us to witness these wonders and delight in them. www.hmhbooks.com

Art & Max (2010)

Drawing on such diverse influences as George Herriman, Salvador Dali, and his own early encounters with art, David Wiesner has crafted a story that goes straight to the essentials—friendship, creativity, and the mysterious point where these two forces intersect.

Max and Arthur are friends who share an interest in painting. Arthur is an accomplished painter; Max is a beginner. Max’s first attempt at using a paintbrush sends the two friends on a whirlwind trip through various artistic media, which turn out to have unexpected pitfalls. Although Max is inexperienced, he’s courageous—and a quick learner. His energy and enthusiasm bring the adventure to its triumphant conclusion. Beginners everywhere will take heart. www.hmhbooks.com

Mr. Wuffles! (2013)

In a near wordless masterpiece that could only have been devised by David Wiesner, a cat named Mr. Wuffles doesn’t care about toy mice or toy goldfish. He’s much more interested in playing with a little spaceship full of actual aliens-but the ship wasn’t designed for this kind of rough treatment. Between motion sickness and damaged equipment, the aliens are in deep trouble.

When the space visitors dodge the cat and take shelter behind the radiator to repair the damage, they make a host of insect friends. The result? A humorous exploration of cooperation between aliens and insects, and of the universal nature of communication involving symbols, “cave” paintings, and gestures of friendship. www.hmhbooks.com

2 thoughts on “David Wiesner & The Wordless Picture Book”

  1. You are correct in saying wordless books are overlooked. Great point about children who are learning language, doesn’t matter what level, they can read the book and articulate it in their own version.

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