This month at Tiny Owl, we’re launching a campaign to celebrate the importance and beauty of wordless picture books. We want to investigate some intriguing questions – why are wordless picture books important? Do they fill a gap that books with words can’t fill? Are their messages more universal? Do they aid literacy? Or is it just that they’re so beautiful to look at?
We contacted experts in all kinds of areas of the book industry, from authors and illustrators to booksellers and journalists, as well as teachers and parents, to ask them for their thoughts. They were given this question:
Wordless picture books are becoming more popular with people of all ages. Why do you think this is?
Stay tuned for more thoughts soon!
Sometimes their silence is golden!
Wordless picture books can be effective ways of telling a story, and works of art. They involve interpretation and creativity on the part of readers, and some, such as Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, Quentin Blake’s Clown and Jeannie Baker’s Belonging (and Mirror) reward the most sophisticated attention. They also have the advantage of inclusivity: they reach speakers of any language, the very young and those who find reading difficult. They remind us that pictures can convey both ideas and narrative, independently of text, and there is no reason why school children and students should not be encouraged to analyse them as they would a written story. Sometimes, their silence is golden.
*Nicolette Jones is Children’s books Editor at The Sunday Times.
Wordless books transcend language barriers
Our industry is lucky to be championed by publishers, educationalists and parents that understand and actively promote the importance of sharing a book with a child as early as possible. In my experience, even sharing a book with words with a very young child is often edited to reduce the vocabulary until their literary comprehension advances. I personally devoured picture books before I could read or spell, specifically Richard Scarry’s books filled with endless details to discover. I actually ate one page because I loved it so very much, behaviour I don’t condone! As an author and illustrator I’ve always believed it’s my privilege and responsibility to illuminate characters, suggesting the magical whilst interpreting the unspoken. A wordless book passes on that incredible gift to whoever turns the first page… A wordless book is the ultimate visual communication tool that encourages, sometimes demands, the viewer’s interaction. One has the opportunity and creative freedom to become the narrator, and potentially the same book may never be described the same way twice. A wordless book is a springboard for personal interpretation, allowing the reader to hear their own voice and personally identify with the protagonist and themes. Wordless books transcend language barriers, breach learning gaps and plant the seeds of adventure into the youngest of hearts. They are masterclasses in beauty and narrative, expanding the visual, verbal and empathetic vocabulary of any child. I’ve witnessed a wordless book being absorbed silently by individuals, and conversely being utilised as a powerful platform for sharing excited questions, taking whole classrooms on unforgettable journeys of wonder. A wordless book is simply a legacy of enchantment.
*Julia Patton is an illustrator/author in the UK.
Wordless books cross cultures and open up cultures
Wordless books cross cultures and open up cultures. Universal themes can be explored through resonant images, which draw on and play with aesthetic traditions and contemporary vision.
*Duncan Partridge is Director of Education at The ESU.
Children are naturally very good at improvising!
Images appeal deeply and instantly to the human intellect and leave strong impressions more than words can. An image arises first, then comes a word, which then encapsulates aspects of the image. We react to images emotionally and actively, so I believe it is a very pleasurable experience for everyone of all ages to indulge in a purely visual story and make sense of it without it being explicit. Children are naturally very good at this, telling stories and improvising, but adults need to relearn it and I believe this is the reason why wordless books are so attractive.
*Catell Ronca is an illustrator from Switzerland.
- You can also read this blog: Why wordless picture books?
Buy limited prints as gifts for any occasion
Visit our bookstore