Wordless Picture Books with Emily

I love wordless picture books for a few reasons. I love their focus on art, and I love how thoughtfully created they are. They kind of have to be – without text, the pressure is on for illustrations to show us the story clearly. Good wordless picture books flow from one page to the next like a movie. But the best wordless picture books – and all of the books on this list – use their textlessness as an opportunity to take off on ingenious artistic flights of fancy. These are a few of my favorites right now.

Shadow by Suzy Lee

Shadow, by Suzy Lee, Chronicle Books, Ages 3-6

A little girl turns on the attic light and entertains herself by making shadow puppets. Her fantasies take over the whole room, and soon she’s swallowed up in a shadow adventure full of princesses, elephants, and monsters who may not be as scary as they seem. Shadow is mirrored into two, split along the spine of the book, with the left-hand pages depicting “real” world, and the right-hand pages depicting the shadows. Everything is in black and white, except for when the little girl starts to use her imagination – then things take on a glowing yellow aura. Done in smoky charcoal and spray paint, Lee’s shadows positively smolder with that dark, magical shapeless feeling that real shadows give. This is a great book for practicing comprehension skills, since in addition to following the shadow adventure, the young reader can point out which real-life objects, such as ladders and bicycle wheels, correspond to which palm trees and moons.

Sea of Dreams Dennis Nolan

Sea of Dreams,by Dennis Nolan, Macmillan Publishing, Ages 3-6

Sea of Dreams follows the secret journey of a tiny family fleeing the crumbling sand castle where they lived before the tide came in. Nolan’s soft, sumptuously colored illustrations give this story the air of a fairy tale. One of the most magical aspects of this book is the scale: we get to reexamine familiar things from our world from the point of view of someone very small. The towering seagulls and megalithic cliffs really help create a sense of wonder. Nolan’s art conveys a great deal of movement, so that although the story is quiet, high-action moments like the huge wave that threatens their boat, or the rescue of a boy overboard by young mermaids, are breathless encounters. This is the perfect bedtime book: exciting enough to hold the young reader’s attention, but calm enough to encourage that sleepytime hush.

The Conductor by Laetitia DevernayThe Conductor, by Laetitia Devernay, Hachette Book Group, Ages 3-6

A conductor enters a forest, climbs a tree, and begins to conduct the leaves. First one, then two, and then countless leaves peel off the trees and fly away like birds under the conductor’s direction. Framed like the movements in a piece of classical music, each double-page spread in this visually breathtaking book shows the flight of the leaf flock. Some pages show only one or two leaves, drawn in large, intricate detail; some pages are flooded with wings. The Conductor is one of the best visual representations of music I’ve ever seen in a book. For musically inclined children, or those in the process of trying to understand music, this book would be a great tool for explaining the different aspects of a piece of music. It could even be read while music is playing, so that the child could connect the pictures with sounds. For attention span reasons, I’d recommend this for children on the older end of the 3-6 scale, but if your child can sit through a story that’s more art than plot, don’t hesitate to pick up this gorgeous book.

Chalk by Bill Thomson

Chalk,by Bill Thomson, Marshall Cavendish, Ages 3-6

Swathed in rain gear and armed with a bag of chalk, three children go to the playground on a rainy day. They quickly realize that the things they draw come to life, which is all fun and games until someone draws a dinosaur. This vividly photo-realistic adventure is painted from dramatic perspectives and drenched with light so that all the colors really pop off the page. Even in the rainy beginning, the colors are warm and strong. The art is really amazing; Thomson used reference photographs, but Chalk is painted entirely, and painstakingly, by hand. That realism makes it even more magical when the chalk drawings come to life. It’s like it really happened! Bonus point for suggesting that drawing is the source of incredible experiences. Here’s hoping that Chalk inspires a lot of young ones to enter the arts, and here’s hoping it leads them on imaginative journeys as fun as this one!

Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner

Summer’s pick:

Alice Tuckfield is a fugitive. Living in Elizabethan England, she witnesses her father’s murder. Too afraid to go to the authorities, Alice runs away to York in search of a family friend. Before she can reach the friend, however, Alice is taken in by a group of choir boys who disguise her as a boy and sneak her into the cathedral boys’ choir. Safe and happy for the time being, Alice tries to figure out the identities of her father’s murderers. They might be closer than she thinks, though, and Alice could be in more danger than anyone realizes. Infused with humor, danger, and mystery, both boys and girls will enjoy this story because the main characters are male and female. This is a good book for young readers and excellent as a family-friendly read aloud.

A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner (Sandpiper); Ages 9-12; $6.95

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

Amanda’s Pick: Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

Thirteen-year-old Ben Tomlin has been raised the only child of two scientists, each very dedicated to the world of science and progress. When his parents decide to bring home a newborn chimpanzee to attempt to teach him language, Ben is totally skeptical and unsure of how his life will be changed by an animal living in his house.

Zan integrates into the family much more easily than anyone expected and his language skills grow at an incredible rate. Ben is surprised at how attached he has become to his “little brother” in such a short period of time and spends lots of time with Zan, in between chasing girls, trying to make new friends, and trying to be a typical teenage boy.

Part coming-of-age story, part animal-interest story, Half Brother is an excellent read in terms of plot and character development. Ben is written in such a realistic manner that you’ll become his friend, as well as his cheerleader. He has big ideas for a thirteen-year-old and his determination and heart definitely shine.

Humor is intertwined with the seriousness of the subject manner and you’ll definitely want a tissue or two handy!

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel; Scholastic Press; 2010; $17.99; 12 and up

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer [Summer’s pick]

What would you do if you discovered a secret colony of fairies living in Earth’s core? Well, 12-year-old Artemis Fowl decides to exploit the fairies for their gold! A genius and criminal mastermind, Artemis kidnaps a fairy and demands a ransom of gold. Artemis’ plan seems airtight, but he doesn’t plan on his victim being a feisty, female LEPreacon officer named Holly Short. Will Artemis’ plan succeed? Will young Artemis grow a conscience and abandon his criminal plans? Artemis and Holly are joined by a whole host of fun and outrageous characters from Artemis’ bodyguard, Butler, to fairy police chief named Commander Root.

Eoin Colfer tells this magical tale with a wit and intelligence everyone will enjoy. The characters develop throughout the series, and each book contains thrilling adventures and witty comebacks that will have readers gasping and laughing out loud.

Artemis Fowl published by Miramax Books       visit Eoin Colfer’s website: http://www.eoincolfer.com/ Ages 9-90

One Blue Fish: A Colorful Counting Book

Rebecca’s Pick: One Blue Fish: A Colorful Counting Book by Charles Reasoner

Looking for a fantastic counting book? One Blue Fish is for you.  Charles Reasoner’s colorful lift-the-flap book explores the numbers 1 to 10 and all different kinds of animals. His large, bold text contrasts wonderfully against the bright pages. Count the green frogs, orange ladybugs and red dragonflies in this one-of-a-kind book! This is a perfect summer book for your little one!

One Blue Fish: A Colorful Counting Book, by Charles Reasoner, Simon & Schuster Publishing, $9.99, Ages 2-4.

If you think you cannot….read The Dot

Cristi’s Book Pick:  The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds for ages 3-6

dotThe Dot, by famed illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, is a must-read for any child who thinks they are unable to do something.  The book opens with a little girl named Vashti sitting at her desk with a blank sheet of paper on which she believes she cannot draw.  When her teacher sees this, she tells her to make a mark to see what happens.  Vashti, in frustration, angrily makes a dot in the center of the page.   The teacher looks at it and asks her to sign the paper.  The next day in class, Vashti walks in and sees her picture framed and hanging over her teacher’s desk.   Irritated, Vashti looks at the picture and decides she can make a better dot than that one, starting her on a journey of drawing throughout the rest of the book.   Due to her teacher’s clever encouragement, Vashti realizes she can draw.

Other books by Peter H. Reynolds – Ish and The North Star.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds; Candlewick Press; $14.00; Copyright 2003.

Maryam’s Pick of the Day: Waddle!

waddleSeeing is Believing!

The pictures in Waddle! really jump, waddle, stomp, and flap off the pages in wonderful colors; the frog is vibrant green, the pig deliciously pink, and dolphins leap out of bright blue water.  This is the third book by New York Times bestselling author, Rufus Butler Seder, inventor of Scanimation, who also created Gallop! and Swing! Waddle! is perfect for ages zero  months to three years, as it teaches each animal’s movement, color and sound in a way that totally engages the child.

Waddle! by Rufus Butler Seder, Workman Publishing; $12.95 (ages birth-3)

Jaz’s Pick of the Day 5/13/09

periwinkle smithPeriwinkle Smith and the Twirly, Whirly Tutu, by John & Wendy, Ages 3-8

Periwinkle Smith loves to wear her white tutu!  She wears it when she plays games, when she sleeps, and even when she paints.  So, of course, Periwinkle spills a little paint on her tutu. She tries everything to get the stain out but nothing works, not even magic! Periwinkle decides to try to find some other uses for her now ruined tutu, but none of those work either. All poor Periwinkle can think about is the big spot on her flouncy, bouncy white tutu. While thinking about the big spot, she notices her pet kitten playing with a toy leopard.  Suddenly, Periwinkle begins to see spots in a new way, and she devises a plan to save her tutu.  I think that this is a great book for girls ages 3-8. The artwork is very cool and reminiscent of japanimation.  It’s also a steal for only $9.99.

Periwinkle Smith and the Twirly, Whirly Tutu, by John & Wendy, pub. May 2009, Price Stern Sloan

Ellen’s Pick of the Day, 4/20/09

mousehunter I can’t believe I’ve forgotten to tell you all about this fabulous book for kids (especially girls) ages 9 to 12 (and parents) who love exciting stories! This wild tale, filled with dramatic twists and turns, takes place in a world populated by thousands of species of mice (trust me, they’re not yucky but are prized as clever pets and useful companions – with some even being rare collectibles worth national fortunes.) Our heroine, 12-year-old Emiline, aspires to become a famous mousehunter, traveling the world in search of new and unusual species. But almost immediately, she finds herself on an ocean-going adventure as daring, treacherous, and suspenseful as Treasure Island. It’s a great read-aloud and would be a good book club selection.

The Mousehunter, by Alex Milway, Little, Brown Young Readers, $15.99.

Horrid Henry is anything but a horrid read!

hhstinkbombFrancesca Simon, the only American author (so far) to win the Galaxy British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year (past winners include JK Rowling, Philip Pullman, and Eoin Colfer) has created a fabulous chapter book series for boys and girls ages 6 to 10.  Each Horrid Henry book contains four easy-to-read stories featuring naughty Horrid Henry and his younger brother, Perfect Peter. These lovable, laughable – and, yes, wholesome – characters will delight even the most reluctant readers.

hhtimemachineI’ve read four of the books – 16 stories, in all – and they’re consistently humorous and fun to read. Best yet, you don’t have to read the books in any particular order. The illustrations by Tony Ross are great, too!

All our Horrid Henry books are paperback ($4.99 each, Sourcebooks)

hhtoothfairy Oh, and they’re great read-aloud books for the entire family!