Picture books are wonderful. They provide us freedom and beauty, thought and awe. Sometimes, when it comes to imagination, words just get in the way. Children understand this; ditch the rules and clear a path! The world is their’s and they sure as heck aren’t dancing to any one else’s drum. A wordless book can provide something other stories can’t: room to be as we are. Space to dabble and stretch our legs, and run with wolves in our hair and meet ourselves. Who are we? How do we see? A picture book can provide this opportunity. What internal narrative do we give to these characters? What exchanges do we hear? What adventure do we create? In a wordless story there are no real answers, and that is a joy. What we experience a good deal comes from us. A picture book does not so much tell us a tale, but rather invites us into one. Without someone telling us where exactly we are going and what we may be thinking, we are left with a sort of immersement. How do things begin? How do they end? We may decide. And that is a magical thing.
Here’s a list of wonderful picture books that may inspire you and your loved ones to dream and imagine. Look for them at your local libraries, poke through them at a bookstore, buy them used off Amazon and give them to your children. Picture books are wonderful.
Here are a few.
SHADOW by Suzy Lee
Though not entirely wordless (there are about four words in the entire volume) Suzy Lee’s marvelous illustrative talent really leaps to life in Shadow. Lee’s work tends to focus around children and imaginative, transformative play. Shadow opens top to bottom, rather then the typical left to right, immediately flipping your brain into something different. With a clicking of a light Lee sets us in a dark basement, but through the power of play quickly it becomes a place of wild beasts and adventure.
FREE FALL by David Wiesner
Though most have heard of Wiesner’s Tuesday, Free Fall is a beautiful tumbling into sleep and dreams. After falling asleep with a book in his arms, our adventurer goes off to distant lands. There are dragons, magical strangers, kings and queens, dense forests and rolling hillsides. Wiesner renders a fabulous dreamscape, mixing dreams and creates quite the trip.
If anything, this book is glorious to look at. Wiesner is a skilled illustrator with a very large imagination. His work does not feature the playfulness that a lot of other artists drift towards when making picture books. All is in great detail, and Free Fall is marvelously ambiguous. One could flip through this book dozens of times and come up with something different at every page turn. I’d recommend looking at it before bed.
The Tree House by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman
Published in several countries, carrying the original title De Boomhut, this beautiful picture book from the Netherlands is about two bears, a tree house, and wonder. Filled with blithe imagery, this book is sure to make you feel good. It’s a little whimsical, with pastel colors and simple illustrations, giving it charm and playfulness. Lots of the book gives no explanation for the things that are happening; animals come and go, seasons come and go, things change yet the tree house is forever the same. A wonderful book to look at, the Tolmans create a happy, magical world.
JOURNEY by Aaron Becker
A current book, Journey is just that, a journey, of spectacular magic and imagination. An ordinary girl, using the power of a magic red marker, draws a door on her wall one evening, and steps into an extraordinary adventure. In enchanting illustrations, our heroine, using the magic of the red marker, travels to faraway lands, experiences danger, wonder, finds courage, and befriends a songbird who becomes her close companion. Aaron Becker’s art is fantastical and lovely, with a definite story of fabulous imagination and freedom. And if you like Journey, I would also recommend Becker’s follow up book, Quest.
THE ARRIVAL by Shaun Tan
This is a favorite of mine. Shaun Tan is a talented illustrator, creating magical landscapes and dazzling vistas that take your breath away. In this book, The Arrival, we follow the story of a man who leaves for another country, faraway, in search of new prospects and opportunity, and freedom. Their homeland in turmoil; he leaves his family behind so to try to make a living on a distant shore, and finding work, he saves money, ever diligently, to one day be able to afford for his family’s travel fare, and reunite with them. Essentially, it is a story about a refugee. Our protagonist misses his wife, his children, he experiences loneliness and is lost in the confusing, different customs and culture of this new world. He arrives a stranger, unable to speak the language, unable to navigate the streets, unsure and uncertain in this new place. But, with the help of a few kind people, he grows and learns, and then his whole life changes.
All things change, but our dreams remain. ♥ Enjoy the looking.