February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Wordless Picture Books That Speak Volumes | JLG’s On the Radar

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In most books, words and pictures go hand in hand to tell the story. In a select few, the plot is revealed through the illustrations on the pages and the imagination of a reader. Background knowledge, creativity, and key elements embedded in the narrative allow children to form their own ideas as they interpret the illustrations. The following wordless—or nearly wordless—selections by the editors at Junior Library Guild provide the perfect setting to increase fluency in storytelling.

JourneyBECKER, Aaron. Journey. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 9780763660536. JLG Level: P : Primary (Grades K–1).

Albert Einstein said that “logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” A lonely girl uses a red marker to draw an adventure that takes her on a journey through a lantern-lit forest to a dock without a boat. Using her magical marker, she draws a red boat that transports her to a venetian-like castle. Amidst the somber tones of the kingdom, the heroine discovers a purple bird held prisoner in a cage. Finally, her attention is drawn to someone who needs her, leading to a surprising conclusion. In a beautifully illustrated debut picture book, Becker creates a fantasy world in which a girl, who like Dorothy of Kansas, had what she needed all along.

LineBOSSIO, Paul. The Line. Kids Can. 2013. ISBN 9781894786843. JLG Level: PK : Pre-Kindergarten (Grades PreS-PreK).

With some creativity, even a pencil line can become hills to slide down or bubbles that you blow. A little girl chooses to direct that line into the jungle where she climbs with the monkeys. Her fantasy develops into a nightmarish monster that would rather eat her than her cookie. Without warning the other side of the line grows into a teddy bear that saves her from a cruel fate. Readers will be delighted to find that she always had someone watching out for her at the end of the book. Using a three-color palette, Bossio’s simple illustrations convey the power of imagination and the strength of friendship.

Daisy gets lostRASCHKA, Chris. Daisy Gets Lost. Random/Schwartz & Wade. 2013. ISBN 9780449817421. JLG Level: K : Kindergarten (Grades PreK–K).

Wandering off to chase a squirrel, Daisy finds herself lost in the woods. Her young owner calls to her, but the frightened pet doesn’t hear her. Realizing the joy of being found, Daisy is rescued, but still keeps one wary eye on her enemy the squirrel. Nearly as wordless as its companion book (A Ball for Daisy. Random, 2011), Raschka’s familiar illustrative style creates tension and relief in this picture book for young readers.

Mr WufflesWIESNER, David. Mr. Wuffles!. Clarion. Oct. 2013. ISBN 9780618756612. JLG Level: E : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).

Cats have a mind of their own, and Mr. Wuffles seems hard to please. Ignoring his store-bought, still-tagged playthings, the cat finds one particular object to be of interest. Surprisingly, it is a spaceship with aliens who fight to escape the huge beast. Finding refuge behind the radiator, the extraterrestrials join forces with a society of bugs to repair their equipment and escape unharmed. Wiesner’s work is punctuated with alien dialogue bubbles, leaving readers to decode the compound symbols. A sophisticated tale, readers will want to slow down to interpret the new language, as well as the history of pictures found on the walls of the insect civilization, which shows the unity of cultures in the face of adversity.

For audio/video versions of these booktalks, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.


Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.



Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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