Caldecott Corner: David Wiesner

David Wiesner has been awarded the Caldecott Medal three times and the Caldecott Honor twice. While his award-winning picture books are a bit out of my comfort level (for they have very words), Wiesner is able to carry stories with only illustration.

In November, The Well-Read Child did a highlight of books like this: How to Read Books without Words (Out Loud). That gave me great ideas for how to introduce my son to these books. At 15 months, he’s obviously still too young for David Wiesner’s books. But while I’m not all that comfortable with wordless books, I did find some of these to be quite interesting.

Tuesday was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1992. As with Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (reviewed here), there are few words: the illustrations tell the story. The illustrations are well-deserving of this honor, but, being an adult, I didn’t love this wordless story of frogs flying through the night. Children might find it more appealing.

The Three Little Pigs was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2002. Wiesner re-tells the familiar story of three pigs and a wolf. Most of this book lacks a “familiar” narrative structure: one must read the pictures to get the real story of the three little pigs, for the pigs leave the familiar story and find themselves in other children’s stories. The illustrations are exceptional, for Wiesner seamlessly transitions between various illustrations styles, from cartoony pigs to realistic pigs to line drawn pigs. He does a great job of ultimately “capturing” the Big Bad Wolf, too! I think older kids would appreciate this most, as they have to best understand not only the underlying story of “The Three Little Pigs” and they also must “read” the pictures in order to enjoy the new twist on the familiar tale. I highly recommend this book.

Flotsam was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2007. Again, Wiesner tells a story without any words, using creative and ironically realistic illustrations to tell the story. In this story, a boy at the beach finds a waterproof camera. When he develops the film inside it, he finds fantastic stories of the sea. In the end, he chooses to share this discovery with others. It’s a cute story for older children able to “read” the pictures, and the illustrations are fantastic.

Sector 7 was awarded the Caldecott Honor. Wiesner’s illustrations tell of a boy taken away by the clouds to have an adventure in the weather-making factory. Once again, there are no words, and this book failed to resonate with me; children might be more taken by the adventure.

Free Fall was also awarded the Caldecott Honor, and this is a wordless story that I appreciate.  In a dream, a boy has an adventure where his bedspread becomes the world and a chess board becomes a field. Each page follows into the next part of adventure, going wild directions much as our own dreams do. In the end, we see the toys in his room (like the chess board) that may have inspired each portion of the adventure. Wiesner’s art is beautiful and engaging.

As I said earlier, I am not completely comfortable with wordless stories; my son is still young and it’s a new concept for me. I defer to The Well-Read Child’s article for ideas. But I love the idea of having my son “read” me the story. One of these library books had post-it notes on a few pages, obviously written by a parent: “The boy fell asleep…” It was kind of sad to think of the creativity missing from the parent telling the story.

Do you, as an adult, enjoy perusing wordless picture books? Do your children enjoy them? What age range do you think would most appreciate these books, where reading is actually “art reading”?

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. I enjoy looking at these books, but I know what you mean about reading them to children. I remember when my boys were young, they liked to ‘read’ picture books when they began to talk. It was kind of neat to see their creativity.

    (Rebecca, your comment on my post about the six-word memoirs accidentally got deleted. I’m sorry. I loved your six-word memoir and would love it if you’d repost it. 🙂 Sorry!)

  2. Tuesday is the only one of these books I’ve ever seen, and I love it! I’m not sure why, something about the frogs flying around in the night cracks me up. I’m guessing that these books would probably be great for kids between the ages of…3 and 5, maybe 7, when kids’ imaginations seem to run wild and they can come up with all kinds of stories on their own.

  3. Hi, just stumbled upon your blog when searching for reviews of Tuesday. I must say that I loved this book and am looking forward to reading Wiesner’s other books! I found the illustrations to be amazingly detailed and so full of opportunities for imagination! I don’t have children but I can empathize with your struggle on how to “read” these books to kids…however, I love wordless books because they offer children a chance to “read” to you. Obviously, your son is still too young for that but I bet he will really enjoy this book once he’s old enough!

  4. Jenna, I also look forward to revisiting these books in a few years! I don’t think I was in the right “mood” for Tuesday this time around. But I’ll try it again…

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