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Wordless Picturebooks

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The Best Wordless Picturebooks for Primary School Children

Wordless picture books are like portals to imaginative worlds where stories unfold without a single written word. Instead of relying on text, these books let the illustrations do all the talking. There’s a superb variety of wordless picturebooks available for children in KS2, Ks2 and EYFS, and we’ve picked out some of the best wordless picturebooks for primary-aged children.

More and more teachers are discovering that wordless picture books can inspire incredible literacy learning across the primary age range, right up to Year 6. Books that tell stories through pictures alone can help develop visual literacy, expand the imagination, start discussions about interpretation and give children space to add spoken or written narratives of their own.

From EYFS right through to Year 6, the role of wordless picturebooks in literacy development and imaginative enjoyment is hugely valuable. Wordless picturebooks help to break down language barriers and invite readers of all ages to craft their own stories based on the pictures before them. Curious details and intriguing clues in the illustrations enable the narratives of wordless picturebooks to be open to a range of interpretations – levelling the playing field for every reader to be the storyteller.

From whimsical wordless delights like the adventure of flying frogs in David Wiesner’s award-winning Tuesday to poignant stories of displacement and migration like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, this booklist features a selection of the best wordless picturebooks for children aged 4-11. 

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Wordless books with magical adventures or fantasy worlds

Aaron Becker
Picturebook

A beautiful, award-winning wordless picture book. It follows the journey of a young girl who draws a magic door in her bedroom and travels through fantasy worlds by boat, balloon and magic carpet. Highly recommended for pupils across the whole primary range.

JiHyeon Lee
Picturebook
What's on the other side of the door? There's only one way to find out: You have to go through it. JiHyeon Lee's debut book, Pool , was lauded as a wordless masterpiece. Here she takes readers on another journey into an unexpected world-without words. Delicate, intricate, and whimsical drawings transform from grays to vivid color as a curious child goes through a mysterious door and discovers that open-mindedness is the key to adventure and friendship. Using magical realism, this book reminds us not to fear others.
Gideon Sterer
 & Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Picturebook
A spectacular, surreal and cinematic wordless picture book about the secret life of animals.Far from the city, but not quite in the countryside, lies a fairground. When night falls, and the fair is empty, something unexpected happens. Wild animals emerge from the trees, a brave raccoon pulls a lever, and the rollercoasters and rides explode back into bright, neon life. Now it’s time for the woodland creatures to have some fun…

Wordless stories exploring real-world themes and scenarios

Shaun Tan
Picturebook

A very topical migrant story told through textless images. When a man leaves his family to search for a better life for them far away, he finds himself in a strange city with all sorts of unfamiliar people, bizarre animals and floating objects. Nothing is familiar, and owning only a suitcase and a little bit of money, the immigrant must navigate his way through his sense of deep displacement and find a way of connecting with the people he meets. This compelling book captures the brave act of leaving everything behind and searching for a future in another world.

Patti Kim
 & Sonia Sanchez
Picturebook

In this wordless picture book Here I am, Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez bring the awe, the unfamiliarity of a new city to a young immigrant. As there are no words, children who are in similar situations (sadly more of them nowadays), can fill it in with their own unique stories. It’s a great book to initiate questions and discussions, interpret feelings and importantly be empathetic – wear the shoes of an immigrant or a refugee as you walk through your own city – what do you see?

JonArno Lawson
 & Qin Leng
Picturebook
In a beautifully detailed wordless picture book, a tumbledown building becomes home sweet home for a found family.A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the rooms above their shop will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the potential of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways.In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A wordless picture book that celebrates the power of community, the joys of new friends and the magic that happens when you open your heart to others.
Lizi Boyd
Picturebook
Inside a tent it's cozy. But what is going on outside? Is it dark? Is it scary? Not if you have your trusty flashlight! Told solely through images and using a spare yet dramatic palette, artist Lizi Boyd has crafted a masterful exploration of night, nature, and art. Both lyrical and humorous, this visual poem-like the flashlight beam itself-reveals that there is magic in the darkness. We just have to look for it.

Wordless stories about animals and natural habitats

David Wiesner
Picturebook

This award-winning wordless picture book offers endless opportunities for discussion and creative writing. A beach-combing young boy finds a washed-up camera on the shore, and when the film is developed it reveals a fantastic new world of creatures from the ocean. Incredible illustrations that speak for themselves. Read our blog for inspiration from one talented teacher who brought a Flotsam literacy unit to life.

Jeannie Baker
Picturebook

Where the Forest Meets the Sea is a hauntingly beautiful picture book that forces the reader to consider what is really lost when humans build upon previously untouched landscapes. The story follows a boy and his grandad as they explore a largely untouched wet-tropical rainforest that meets the sea. The pictures contain hidden images depicting past inhabitants, teaching the reader how the forest has supported life beyond just the modern snapshot. The question mark that hangs over this beautiful landscape is saved for the very last image. As a reader, this book manages to make me feel innocent and guilty at the same time and, in a very accessible way, forces the reader to consider the natural environment and how it should be protected and not just for the sake of the future, but for the sake of the past.

If you are looking for a book to stimulate discussion and debate about the effects human beings can have on the natural world, this is the one for you. The illustrations are so incredibly detailed (there is also a big book edition available on Amazon that is perfect for detail-spotting) that you might be forgiven for thinking that some of them are photographs. The book has won multiple awards and is sparking deep consideration of the past, present and future of the rainforest.

Jerry Pinkney
Picturebook

In this stunning picture book, which is wordless except for the odd animal sound, Aesop’s famous fable gets a reworking in an African Serengeti setting. The pictures tells the story of a ferocious lion who is freed from a hunter’s trap by a little mouse, whom the lion had spared from being eaten once before. This is a book that will have children of all ages hooked through its timeless themes of friendship and kindness as well as its incredibly vivid artwork bringing deep human emotions into the world of nature.

Duncan Annand
Picturebook

Caged is a wordless picture book in which simple, effective illustrations build up in small steps to the final ‘finished’ pictures. The story begins with a bluebird making a nest in her forest and she appears to be watching the actions of two men interfering there. As her nest is growing, she watches these men destroying this forest, which houses colourful parrots. As the men destroy the parrots’ habitat, they cage each parrot they find and build a palatial structure with the caged parrots.

The slow build-up of the illustrations throughout the book means that there are plenty of clues to spot on each page to show how the story is developing and to predict the next part of the story. Colour is used selectively throughout the book: initially, only the birds in the story are given any colour and the vibrant birds stand out from the colourless humans. This means that the viewpoint automatically shifts to that of the birds, instead of the humans. However, just before the end of the book, there is a slight change in colour use which could indicate the fate of the men.

There are some interesting discussions that can be brought up throughout the text. The value of individual liberty is an obvious link: should these men use their own freedom to cage other animals for their own (and other humans’) entertainment? Should animals have the same rights to freedom as people do? This links to the moral question of caging any animal and the illustrations lead to thinking of this from different perspectives: the onlooker, the imprisoner and the caged. Overall, this is a lovely picture book that can be read on different levels depending on the age and stage of the reader.

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