The Magic of Wordless Picture Books
An Article by Will Hillenbrand, Author of Snowman’s Story
I’ve always enjoyed the magic of wordless picture books. Below are three of my all-time favorites:
- The Red Balloon by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse (a favorite from my childhood)
- The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
- Clown by Quentin Blake
I have read each of these books over and over and over again with great delight. Even though there are no words, I call it reading because it includes looking, observing the setting, creating context, understanding character/emotion, drama, a sense of wonder and prediction, and more.
I think terrific wordless picture books cry out READ ME, READ ME, READ ME to readers. They welcome young readers into a vast world of wonder and enchantment. After all, it is the perfect parallel to the dream world that we encounter when we close our eyes and slip off to sleep. Wordless picture books form a kind of a bridge of understanding between our physical world and our imaginary nature. Readers enter this world through a trap door, a passage, with wordless stories. They get to command the narratives formed in their heads by the presented context of the pictures.
Although the term “wordless” is used, there is no doubt that words are formed inside the brain. Of course, we can’t see them, or measure them, or pull them out and examine them, but that does not mean they are not there. All the evidence I need of this can be obtained by observing readers; their engagement tells it all. There is the tricky part, though—allowing that experience to happen.
We adults need to create space for readers and a defined comfort zone for them to enjoy wordless experiences. We must bite our tongues and allow experiences to unfold right in front of our eyes. Don’t walk away. Stay right there. Believe in the imaginative and theatrical possibilities that your lap can hold with a young child there. You will be rewarded for your patience. Listen closely and you will hear the gears and cogs clinking away. Those sounds . . . they are children’s imaginations. Children’s minds have enormous appetites for adventure and creativity; those appetites are so large they cannot be fed by one’s personal experience in the world. Amazingly enough, we have a terrific fix for that yearning. It is called a good story, well-told.
I hope you have someone you love so much that you cannot help yourself from sharing your time with them in their imaginary, adventuresome life.
About the Author
Will Hillenbrand has illustrated many beloved picture books, including Kiss the Cow by Phyllis Root; and Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep!, and Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze! by Maureen Wright. He has also written and illustrated a number of picture books, including Down by the Barn, the Bear and Mole series, and Mother Goose Picture Puzzles. Will enjoys visiting schools to talk about the creative process involved in making a picture book. He lives with his wife, Jane, and their son, Ian, in Terrace Park, Ohio. For more information, visit his website: http://www.willhillenbrand.com.
By Will Hillenbrand
One wintry day, a hat lands on the head of a newly made snowman and brings him to life. Hiding inside the hat is a rabbit, who listens to the snowman read a story to some animal friends. When the snowman falls asleep, the rabbit hops away with the book. But the snowman isn’t about to let his story—or the mischievous rabbit—get away. The chase is on! Filled with charm and fun, this wordless picture book from a beloved illustrator lets kids tell their own version of the story, even as they delight in the action-filled pages.
Ages 3-7 | Two Lions | November 18, 2014 | ISBN: 978-1477847879
Add this book to your collection: Snowman’s Story, by Will Hillenbrand
Discover more magical wordless picture books on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our article tagged with “Wordless Picture Books for Kids.”
We may receive a small commission from purchases made via the links on this page. If you discover a book or product of interest on this page and use the links provided to make a purchase, you will help support our mission to 'Grow Readers.' Your support means we can keep delivering quality content that's available to all. Thank you!