• Why we love wordless picture books

    by  • 18 January 2024 • Gerda Muller, Sarah Laidlaw, Seasons, Through the Seasons • 0 Comments

    Can you read a book without words? At Floris we certainly think that yes, you can!

    In this type of book, the story emerges through exploring the illustrations, rather than the words on the page. Caregivers and children can become more involved in the storytelling process – naming characters and spotting details.

    Reading a set story again and again can act as a comfort for small children. But a more free-form reading experience can have benefits too.

    A study by the University of Waterloo in Canada has shown that wordless picture books can increase toddlers’ vocabulary more than traditional picture books. The study gave twenty-five parents two books to read to their toddlers. One book had words, the other didn’t. The parents tended to use more complex language when ‘reading’ the book without words. They described objects in more detail and related them to real life experiences.

    Muller’s wordless Seasons board books have been loved for over twenty years. They feature uniquely detailed illustrations of the four seasons and the different ways they can be enjoyed. Children, caregivers and teachers can create their own stories and relate to their own experiences.

    Take this scene from Gerda Muller’s Spring. Muller’s wordless Seasons board books have been loved for over twenty years. They feature uniquely detailed illustrations of the four seasons and the different ways they can be enjoyed.

    Wordless picture books - Gerda Muller Summer spread

    Are the children on holiday, or do they live by the seaside? Is the oldest girl playing with her baby sister, cousin or a new friend? In the distance, do the children spot a boat, a dinghy or a yacht?

    The children could even spot un bateau or un voilier. Muller adopted France as her home in the 1950s, so you can find many of her books in French. But without the confinement of words, children from anywhere in the world can pick up the Seasons books and tell their story in their own language.

    Wordless picture books also take away the concept of words that are ‘too easy’ or ‘too difficult’ for different age groups. Through the Seasons brings together artwork from Australian artist Sarah Laidlaw, inspired by time spent with her own family in the Yarra Valley, in the state of Victoria.

    Wordless picture books - Through the Seasons spread

    In this springtime illustration, very young children can appreciate Laidlaw’s soft, colourful scenes. They can practice their growing vocabulary by spotting the girl, boy and birds. Older children can create a narrative about the family and their time in the garden, or even speculate on the name of the lamb!

    This type of book can also help to develop confidence, encouraging a sense of independent discovery and exploration. This feeling is perfectly evoked in The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky by illustrator Kim Jihyun. This worldess story follows a young boy and his dog as they leave the big city for a holiday in the countryside. Seeing a trail leading away from the house, the boy sets out to see what he can discover. His sense of excitement, independent exploration and, ultimately, wonder at the beauty of his new surroundings are subtly conveyed through Kim’s delicate artwork.

    Children following the boy’s adventure are encouraged to share in his new-found freedom, but are equally free to explore the story and illustrations in their own way. Is the boy excited or cautious? What is the dog’s name? Does the boy live in the reader’s city, or far away in another country? What are his thoughts and feelings? What plants, fish, animals and small details can the reader spot that the boy might have missed?

    Gerda Muller’s Whose Footprints are These? is a delightful, snowy adventure celebrating the joys of winter play. This wordless book encourages readers to devise their own story by following the boy and his furry friend’s footprints (and pawprints) from the unmade bed all the way out the door, into the snow, where the real adventure begins.

    Gerda Muller’s playful, vintage illustrations are full of fine detail and humorous clues, inviting children to explore their imagination and impress their own meaning onto the pages. 

    Another title that encourages exploration and discovery, albeit with a different tone, is the delightfully whimsical The Dog Walk by beloved Swedish illusrator Sven Nordqvist, who is best known as the creator of the Pettson and Findus series. In this quirky, bold and colourful picture book, a young child and a dog are whisked off into a whirlwind adventure through fantastical landscapes and unlikely scenes.

    Bursting with tiny details to spot, Nordqvist’s humorous and playful illustrations demand repeated examination. Children can pore over these pages endlessly, and almost always spot something new and unexpected. In this way, The Dog Walk provides a unique experience on each re-read, as the attention is drawn to different details every time, unrestricted by the prescribed kind of interpretation that a written story elicits.

    We often say that books fuel the imagination, and the sharing of wordless picture books is a special experience – one that can fire curiosity and creativity in a way that is unique, refreshing and vital.

    Check out this post for some helpful tips on sharing wordless picture books.

    Wordless Picture Books from Floris:

    A New Day Rain or Shine Through the Seasons Spring Summer Autumn Winter Whose Footprints are These Depth of the Lake The Dog Walk Wordless

    Let us know what you think about wordless board books! You can find us @FlorisBooks on Facebook, X on Instagram.


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