Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Wordless and Nearly Wordless Books - March 2012

Selected and annotated by Laurel Halfar

Armstrong, Jennifer. Once Upon a Banana; illus. by David Small. Simon, 2006. 44 p. 5-8 yrs.
When a street performer’s monkey runs away, snatches a banana from a produce vendor, and tosses the peel on the ground, a chaotic chain of mishaps is set off. The detail-rich illustrations are complimented by rhyming street signs, adding extra fun for attentive observers.

Cooper, Elisha. Beaver Is Lost. Schwartz & Wade, 2010. 34 p. 4-7 yrs.
Beaver climbs onto a log floating down the river, which unbeknownst to him, is loaded onto a truck and eventually delivered to a city lumberyard. Beaver is chased from the lumberyard by a dog and spends the day traversing the city, eventually making it back home to his dam.

Crum, Shutta. Mine!; illus. by Patrice Barton. Knopf, 2011. 28 p. 2-4 yrs.
A baby, toddler, and dog are put on the floor amongst a pile of toys to play and spirited mayhem quickly ensues as the toddler claims ownership of objects by declaring, “Mine!” The emotions and movements of the tots are expertly conveyed through Barton’s art.

Geisert, Arthur. Hogwash. Lorraine/Houghton, 2008. 32 p. 4-8 yrs.
After playing in a mud wallow and romping in paint, it’s time to get the piglets clean. The mama pigs run a series of elaborate Rube Goldberg-like contraptions to wash their little ones and then literally hang them out to dry.

Geisert, Arthur. Ice. Enchanted Lion, 2011. 28 p. 5-9 yrs.
The pigs inhabiting a small isolated island are running low on water and cannot beat the heat. To solve both of their problems, a porcine crew boards an airborne ship to find and haul back an iceberg that not only replenishes their water supply, but also helps keep them cool.

King, Stephen Michael. Leaf. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2009. 64 p. 6-10 yrs.
A vivacious young boy escapes his mother’s scissors and is able to keep his disheveled hairdo by dashing outside. When a seed lands on the boy’s head and sprouts, he is quite pleased and does his best to tend it. Eventually his mom succeeds at a haircut but the boy finds solace by planting the sprout and watching it grow.

Lehman, Barbara. The Secret Box. Houghton, 2011. 48 p. Gr. 2-4.
A young boy hides a box of souvenirs in the floorboards of his orphanage or school dormitory. Readers see the passage of time as the land around the building gradually becomes a bustling city and cars replace horses as transportation. Three future residents find the secret box, follow the clues, and find themselves in a magical seaside amusement park.

Newman, Jeff. The Boys. Simon, 2010. 40 p. 6-9 yrs.
After moving to a new place, the first thing our young protagonist does is head to the park to play baseball. Upon arriving, he is too shy to join in the game with the other kids and instead retires on a bench occupied by four older men. While the boy tries to befriend the gentlemen, they enact a strategy to help build his confidence.

Rodriguez, Beatrice. Fox and Hen Together. Enchanted Lion, 2011. 26 p. 3-7 yrs.
Fox and Hen are hungry and their refrigerator is bare, so Hen sets off to catch them some dinner leaving her precious egg in the care of Fox. Her fishing trip becomes quite the undertaking and eventually ends when she successfully grapples with a sea monster. Her jubilation is halted upon return home when she sees her egg cracked open next to a pan. Lucky for all, Fox did not satiate his hunger, but is cozily nestling the newly hatched chick.

Rogers, Gregory. Midsummer Knight. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2007. 32 p. Gr. 2-4.
Bear’s relaxing summer day floating down a river comes to a halt when he inadvertently crosses into a fairyland after being chased by a swarm of bees. A fairy boy befriends Bear and brings him to a castle where they work together to save the imprisoned fairy King and Queen.

Runton, Andy. Owly & Wormy, Friends All Aflutter!. Atheneum, 2011. 40 p. 4-7 yrs.
Best friends, Owly and Wormy, hope to entice butterflies to their garden with a special plant, but what they end up attracting is a pair of caterpillars. Owly and Wormy are sad when their new companions leave, but all is well when they realize the caterpillars haven’t abandoned them but transformed into butterflies.

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. What If?. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2010. 32 p. 3-6 yrs.
This nearly wordless book invites readers to explore the concept of inclusiveness as we see several different scenes involving three seals and a beach ball.

Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. Levine/Scholastic, 2007. 128 p. Gr. 6 up.
A man journeys across the sea alone in hopes of establishing a better life for his family. Readers follow the immigrant’s perspective as he navigates through his new life in a fantastical and perplexing world in this wordless graphic novel.

Varon, Sara. Robot Dreams. First Second/Roaring Brook, 2007. 208 p. Gr. 3-8.
Dog builds Robot from a mail-order set and the pair quickly becomes fast friends—that is, until a swim at the beach leaves Robot rusted and immobile, causing Dog to abandon him. Robot spends his days dreaming of being rescued by Dog while Dog seeks out replacement companions. This nearly wordless graphic novel poignantly explores the complexities of friendship.

Wiesner, David. Flotsam. Clarion, 2006. 40 p. Gr. 2-5.
A day at the beach becomes extraordinary when a young boy finds an underwater camera full of secrets on the shore. Developing the film reveals photographs of fantastical ocean scenes, as well as a photographic log of kids around the world and throughout time who have also discovered the camera. The boy refills the film, captures a picture of himself with the images, and tosses the camera out to sea.