Our campaign to celebrate wordless picture books carries on…
Tiny Owl recently launched a campaign to celebrate the importance and beauty of wordless picture books. We wanted to investigate some intriguing questions – why are wordless picture books so 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?
Here are four more responses, from Dianne Hofmeyr, Bonnie Adamson, Laura Bellini and Jayne Truran.
Stay tuned for more responses soon!
The urge to draw is very strong in even the youngest child. When a child picks up a crayon for the first time, they attempt to draw first through scribbles, and then through drawing themselves in the head-foot representation of a round head with sticks for legs and later even fingers and toes. Later they draw themselves in relation to their environment and bring in a baseline and a skyline. This is true of any child. And while they draw they tell their story out aloud. They are mirroring their world and placing themselves in it without the help of text.
If imagery is the very first encounter with story in any child who is able to hold a crayon, then a wordless picture book taps right into a primeval need that is a very powerful.Images unlock new spaces. In a wordless picture book, the story dances through the mind with no interruption. No barrier of words. No definition by an adult. There is simply the inchoate acceptance of the image and what it means to that particular child – how it slots with his world.
I love wordless picture books so much that I have started my own collection and hope to write one soon. But the challenge for any writer is to see the images first!
As an illustrator, I can think of nothing more satisfying than creating a wordless book. I’d like to say that the challenge of telling a story in images alone taps into something primal – but I suspect, for me, it has more to do with sight gags in early cartoons I watched on TV as a child. And the wordless books I find most engaging are the ones that make full use of humour: the lift of an eyebrow or a significant glance at the audience; pacing that ramps up the mayhem and a twist waiting at the turn of the page. Universally priceless!
One can find their own way to ‘read’ and make it unique!
Wordless picture books are important for both adults and children but for different reasons.
As an author of wordless books, whilst working, I like to lose myself in all the tiny details that are not simply decoration – even the smallest detail can add something really important to the story.
In fact, the small details are a big part of this kind of “reading” and, by looking closely, you can follow a path that forms the structure of the story. From there, one can find his or own way to “read ” and make it unique.
A visual treat for the eyes and the senses. Wordless picture books can deal with difficult topics with sensitivity and empathy encouraging conversation that may be difficult and hard. Who wouldn’t feel and share the grief in The Sad Book or the plight of the young person in Way Home or the feelings of a refugee in The Arrival. Words are learnt through conversation and what wonderful conversation these illustrations encourage. On top of this the beauty of the illustrations and the craft of the illustrator are a joy to behold.
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