HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8The Art of Creating a Wordless Picture Book

The Art of Creating a Wordless Picture Book

Bill Thomson | The Children’s Book Review | November 19, 2013

Fossil coverI feel very blessed to have the opportunity to create picture books for children, and with it, the chance to engage imaginations and initiate conversations through my pictures and visual stories. Stories without words require the viewer’s participation. They offer the possibility for the viewer to create their own narrative, blending what they see in the images with the influence of their own life experiences. The resulting narrative also has the flexibility to change with every “reading.”

While wordless books can serve as pure entertainment and fun, I think their greatest value is as teaching tools. Whether as an encouraging first step for beginning or reluctant readers, a writing prompt for older children, or a launching point for classroom discussions or activities, the ways creative parents or teachers can use wordless books is almost limitless. They can serve as a vehicle for honing prediction skills, investigating story structure, and exploring artistic attributes.

1chalkMy latest book, FOSSIL, is the second installment of a wordless trilogy that applies imagination to different elementary school subjects. While the first installment, CHALK, explored art, FOSSIL uses science as the backdrop for a second visual adventure. I hope FOSSIL will be used also to initiate discussions and activities about fossils and prehistoric life.

The most critical aspect of creating a wordless book is focusing on my target audience and telling the story clearly through images. Although the illustrations are the most obvious element, showcasing artistic skill or creating an artistic portfolio is not the goal. The goal is to captivate children and create a series of images that form a sequential story that young eyes can enjoy and understand.

Because one of my artistic strengths is realism, I try to make imaginary ideas seem believable. My hope is that children will forget they are looking at a book and become totally immersed in the story. To engage children, I also try to depict recognizable activities and settings they can relate to. By showing children things that they know, I hope they’ll feel comfortably rooted in a familiar world before I transition them to the realm of fantasy.

But engaging children is only the starting point. In order to keep their interest, I focus on making every page a completely different visual experience. Thinking like a movie director, I try to vary the vantage point of every scene to present it in the most interesting way possible. Alternating between high perspectives, low perspectives, close-ups, medium shots, and long shots makes each page different and unique. I also try to constantly vary the scale of my subjects and depict dramatic facial expressions and body language.

Illustration (c) 2013 Bill Thomson

Illustration (c) 2013 Bill Thomson

And finally, I try to create books that work on a variety of levels. For example, CHALK was an exploration of power. Power can enrich lives when used wisely but can have dangerous consequences when abused. FOSSIL explores the qualities of love through the relationship of a boy and his dog. Love protects, hopes, trusts, and perseveres over fear. These deeper layers offer further opportunities for discussion.

Interior from Fossil p 11_Illustration (c) 2013 Bill Thomson

Illustration (c) 2013 Bill Thomson

I consider making books for children to be a great privilege and the best possible use of my talents. By exploring the wordless medium, I hope to provide a captivating, interactive experience for young readers.

Bill Thomson

Bill Thomson

Bill Thomson has been called “a master at visual storytelling.” He is the illustrator of several children’s books, including Chalk (Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2010), which received many accolades. Thomson is also Professor of Illustration at the University of Hartford. He lives with his family in Connecticut. Visit Bill at www.billthomson.com.

Add these books to your collection: FOSSIL and CHALK

Check out the Common Core guide and the activity guide here: https://amzn.to/1a1rjj4

Follow along on Bill Thomson’s blog tour!

Sat, Nov 9
Booking Mama
Mon, Nov 11
NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Nov 12
Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Nov 13
There’s a Book
Thurs, Nov 14
Fri, Nov 15
Kid Lit Frenzy
Mon, Nov 18
Once Upon a Story
Tues, Nov 19
The Children’s Book Review
Wed, Nov 20
5 Minutes for Books
Thurs, Nov 21
Geo Librarian
Fri, Nov 22
Growing with Science
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The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Great Web Sites for Kids, is a resource devoted to children’s literacy. We publish reviews and book lists of the best books for kids of all ages. We also produce author and illustrator interviews and share literacy based articles that help parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to grow readers. This article was written and provided by a guest author.

  • Bill has a fantastic approach to wordless picture books! Very interesting how he likes to vary the perspective and make every page a different visual experience. Will definitely be sharing this article with all our illustrators.

    November 19, 2013
  • Good information. Lucky me I came across your site by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

    April 4, 2014

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