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”?