Category Archives: wordless picturebooks

Books that have no words or just a few need to be read using just the pictures

Patrick McDonnell’s Books Teach Love and Kindness

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

How about starting the New Year off with more love and kindness? Treat your family to some books by award winning author and illustrator Patrick McDonnell. His stories show the many ways we can cultivate kindness toward one another and accept others for who they are, especially if different from us. McDonnell’s picture books are written for young children, but his stories touch on big life messages that will resonate with adults.

McDonnell is widely known for his comic strip “MUTTS” that premiered in 1994 and stars a cat named Mooch and a dog named Earl (coincidently McDonnell’s real dog’s name). One of the author’s passions is in helping facilitate pet ownership and kindness toward animals. 5% of all sales of printouts of his comic strips (www.mutts.com) go to The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team.

McDonnell’s work is strongly influenced by George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” comic strip (1913-1944, New York Evening Journal). He uses the same bulbous noses, black eyes with no whites of the eyes showing, and loosely rendered black ink lines to define his characters. He does everything without computer technology and hand paints each image with watercolor. In the style of Harriman he also uses tender-hearted colloquial dialog between characters. “Yesh!” says Mooch, quite often.

But an even bigger influence on his artwork was Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comics, and a mentor to McDonnell. Schulz was also profoundly influenced by Harriman, the defining comic strip artist in his time. Learning from Harriman, Schulz added depth of meaning and personal feeling into his “cute” characters and passed the value of incorporating sentiment into comics, on to McDonnell.

In 2005, McDonnell broke into the children’s book world with the book “The Little Gift of Nothing” about the significance of giving your presence and companionship to someone instead of a physical gift. Since then he has written and illustrated 12 children’s books and collaborated with Eckhart Tolle (author of “The Power of Now”) on a book for adults, “Guardians of Our Being, Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats.”

Here are some favorite Patrick McDonnell books to read with your young children. Talk about what happens in each story and see if love and kindness grow this year!

  • “Hug Time.” Little orange-striped kitten Jules is so filled with love that he wants to hug the whole world. Jules makes a Hug-To-Do List and visits places around the earth, hugging many endangered species and getting many hugs in return.
  • “Wag!” “Fwip, fwip, fwip!” wags Earl’s tail. Mooch wants to know what makes Earl’s tail wag. After much observation, Mooch finds out. It’s love!
  • “Thank You and Good Night.” How many fun things can you do at a pajama party? These 3 friends have an evening packed with togetherness. They stage a funny-face contest, learn a chicken dance, play hide-and-seek, practice yoga, eat, watch for shooting stars—and they are thankful for it all.
  • “Art.” Art is a boy and art is a thing to do. McDonnell uses this homonym pair to play with the idea that unbridled creation in squiggles, wiggles, and zigzags can be a person’s identity. Can you tell Art and art apart?
  • “The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the hard way)” Great for a child who already knows his or her alphabet, this wordless book is a continuously flowing story that needs the reader to identify what word is represented in each illustration of the alphabet. Here’s the trailer for the book on Youtube.
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Filed under alphabet book, art, author spotlight, creativity, empathy, Feelings, kindness, love, opportunities for conversation, wordless picturebooks

Wordless Picture Books are Perfect for Read-Aloud

Pancakes-for-BreakfastIf you’ve ever seen a children’s book that has no words, just pictures, you may have wondered how to even go about “reading” it. How can you read a book aloud to a child when there is no story?

Ah, but there is a story! The illustrations tell the story and it is up to you and your child to come up with your own narrative. Share the pictures together and use imagination and good observation skills to see the plot.

Look for the beginning, middle, and end to this story–the sequence of events. Ask questions and soon your child will be asking questions about the pictures too. Take your time and really look at the illustrations. Your child may see little details in the pictures that you miss.

Wordless picture books are perfect for read-aloud and can be adapted to many levels of understanding. Model storytelling and talk about the emotions of the characters in the book. Can your child imagine how the characters are feeling?  Together, predict what will happen next. You will be stretching your child’s thinking and using the pictures to expand your child’s vocabulary.

March is National Read-Aloud Month and a great time to practice reading  wordless books aloud as part of the “Books are my Super Power” Read-Aloud Challenge! Take a look in the Read-Aloud Tool Kit and you’ll find a pledge you can take to read aloud to your child every day and activities and books lists to download to make read-aloud even more fun!

Check out these wordless picture book favorites:

  • “Pancakes for Breakfast” by Tomie dePaola. In this humorous book about a little old lady’s attempt to make a pancake break- fast, dePaolo tickles the funny bone and gives a lesson about optimism and persistence. Children can make predictions about how this heroine will use her Super Power of Determination to finally have a pancake breakfast!
  • “Flotsam” by David Wiesner. When a young boy goes to the beach to collect and examine the typical objects that wash ashore, he discovers something unexpected–a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera. Children delight in this imaginative exploration of the mysteries of the deep.
  • flotsam1“The Lion and the Mouse” by Jerry Pinkney. This wordless picture book is the well-known Aesop’s Fable about a tiny mouse and a mighty lion. Children will see the themes of kindness, trust, and friendship in the beautiful illustrations.
  • “Good Night, Gorilla” by Peggy Rathman. A zookeeper says goodnight to a gorilla, but the mischievous gorilla is not ready to go to sleep. He follows the zookeeper around, letting all of the other animals out of their cages, before following the zookeeper to his bedroom and getting into bed. It takes the zookeeper’s wife to ensure all (or nearly all) the animals return to their cages.

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Filed under Books are my Super Power, illustrations, Read-Aloud Challenge, wordless picturebooks

Wordless Picturebooks

If you’ve ever seen a children’s book that has no words, just pictures, you may have wondered how to even go about “reading” it. How can you read a book to a child when there is no story?

Ah, but there is a story! The illustrations tell the story and it is up to you and your child to come up with your own narrative. Share the pictures together and use imagination and good observation skills to see the plot.

Look for the beginning, middle, and end to this story–the sequence of events. Ask questions and soon your child will be asking questions about the pictures too. Take your time and really look at the illustrations. Your child may see little details in the pictures that you miss.

Wordless books can be adapted to many levels of understanding. Model story telling and talk about the emotions of the characters in the book. Can your child imagine how the characters are feeling?  Together, predict what will happen next. You will be stretching your child’s thinking and using the pictures to expand your child’s vocabulary.

Try some of these wordless picture books and enjoy telling stories together!

“Wave” by Suzy Lee. Delightful illustrations of one little girl, 5 seagulls, and the seashore in only black ink and blue paint on white paper. We see the girl interacting with the ocean as the seagulls mirror her humorous reactions to the waves lapping up on the sand.

“Chalk” by Bill Thomson. Almost photorealistic illustrations of three children and a bag of chalk on a playground. Their chalk drawings come to life and cause some problems for the children, until the weather changes.

“Pancakes for Breakfast” by Tomie dePaola. A little old woman wakes up on a cold winter night and decides to make pancakes. We see the origin of all the ingredients needed for pancakes as she collects eggs, milk, maple syrup, and butter.

“Rainstorm” by Barbara Lehman. A young man lives a lonely life in a big house surrounded by his servants and dressing formally in a suit and tie for meals. One day when it’s raining, he finds a key to a door that leads him on an adventure to a sunny place where children run barefoot in the grass!

“Carl Goes to Daycare” by Alexandra Day. One of many books about Carl the Rottweiler. This is an “almost wordless” book with realistic, loosely painted watercolor illustrations. Carl is one very smart dog; he even seems to know how to read, which is lucky for the daycare teacher.

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Filed under children's books, family reading, wordless picturebooks