Top 5 Wordless Books: Five Family Favorites with Laura Marx Fitzgerald
It may seem strange for a writer to gravitate towards wordless narratives. Maybe, like many writers, I’m insecure and avoid great writing out of jealousy? Or maybe I’m just in awe of the ability to tell a complex, engaging story without the need for words of any kind. I’ve found that the best of these books spoke to my kids when they were pre-readers, but still continue to draw them back again and again, as they uncover more in the multilayered stories. My husband and I love them too.
So without further ado, here are the Fitzgerald family’s Top 5 Wordless Books:
This was our family’s first wordless discovery. I think I picked up the paperback for a plane trip, thinking the pictures would occupy my then 18-month-old daughter. What developed was a rhythmic routine of our own, where we named the nameless heroine (Dotty), made dog, cat, cow, and chicken sounds, and threw up our hands and exclaimed “NO MILK! NO EGGS!”
As time went on, we talked about how to churn butter and where milk, eggs, and maple syrup come from. We discussed how the neighbors might have felt when Dotty barged in and ate their pancakes. We made pancakes of our own. I never would have guessed a simple series of pictures could have prompted so many conversations and learning opportunities.
So we went looking for more wordless books . . .
Ages 4-7 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | Apr. 3, 1978 | ISBN-13: 978-0156707688
Here’s the sign of a great picture book: when parents look forward to re-reading (and re-reading and re-reading) it every night, because there is always a new detail to discover. Nearly wordless, except for the minute by minute countdown to bedtime, the story follows one boy and a cast of hamster thousands who crash his nightly routine. The book is genuinely funny, and I could study each page for hours. (It goes without saying that we loved Good Night, Gorilla too.)
Ages 2-6 | Publisher: Putnam Juvenile | Sept. 28, 1998 | ISBN-13: 978-0399231032
This may be my favorite picture book, hands down. A boy at the Jersey Shore finds an old-timey camera on the beach. When he develops the film (at a one-hour photo shop — remember those?), he finds evidence of a magical underwater world and a string of fellow discoverers stretching around the world and back in time. I love the way the book moves from realistic fiction to fantasy to historical fiction. And I’m a sucker for any story where a kid makes a earth-shattering discovery with no parents around to guide or meddle.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Clarion Books | Sept. 4, 2006 | ISBN-13: 978-0618194575
By Sara Varon
My kids area little older now, both in elementary school, and their interest in wordless books is leading them to graphic novels. They both love Sara Varon, whose wordless picture books (Chicken and Cat, Chicken and Cat Clean Up) still capture them. In her graphic novel Robot Dreams, a pink dog sends away for and builds his own robot, then leaves him to rust on a beach all winter. To be honest, I find the book a little weird and sad, but my kids love it, which always reminds me not to weed out the books that are weird and sad.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: First Second | Aug. 7, 2007 | ISBN-13: 978-1596431089
Okay, so this is a cheat. But David Wiesner is the king of wordless picture books, so how could I choose just one? These four books get heavy library rotation, enjoyed by all ages. And Mr. Wuffles, while not technically and entirely wordless, does have the much quoted line: “What’s so interesting, Mr. Wuffles?”, which gets repeated ad nauseum in our house.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Clarion Books | October 8, 2013 | ISBN-13: 978-0618756612
About the Author
Laura Marx Fitzgerald is a longtime copywriter. In writing Under the Egg, she drew on her study of art history at Harvard and Cambridge Universities. Her non-fiction gift book, If at First: How Great People Turned Setbacks Into Great Success, was published by Andrews McMeel in 2004. This is her middle grade debut.
About Under the Egg
When her Theodora Tenpenny spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers what seems to be an Old Master painting underneath. That’s great news for Theo, who’s struggling to hang onto her family’s two-hundred-year-old Greenwich Village townhouse and support her unstable mother on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. There’s just one problem: her grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Theo worries the painting may be stolen. With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all around New York City, and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Dial | Mar. 18, 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-0803740013
Add this book to your collection: Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald