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By Lina Iordanaki*

The Little Eli collection

You are sitting in your comfortable chair reading your favourite book. Let me guess: your book is full of engaging descriptions and wisely selected words.

Mine is not. Almost no words in it! Most people are used to reading books with texts, but my favourite readings are wordless. Their stories are told through images, like in the Little Eli series. You might think that you are too old for wordless picture books, but this is not true. These books can be both aesthetically pleasing and truly sophisticated. They often require “super” reading skills as they generously provide readers with much freedom of choice and, therefore, much power. But remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

Chalk Eagle

As a reader of wordless books, you have to navigate through the illustrations and choose where to steer your attention; from the left to the right, from the bottom to the top, diagonally or sometimes with glances here and there. There is so much information in a picture, let alone in a series of pictures. Half-empty egg cartons, eggs scattered all around, a terrified chicken in the background and Little Eli the dragonfly immersed in his building plans. You might need to flick back and forth, revisit pages, look for hidden details and critically combine all the visual clues.

You should attribute thoughts and feelings to each character. What is the poor dragonfly thinking when his tower of playing cards collapses on the floor? How does he feel with all his eggs smashed into pieces? Sad? Angry? Puzzled? Or eager to make a new start? You have the power to decide.

Like an expert puppeteer, you move the strings of the plot. You can choose to create one story or, even better, many stories. Pictures give guidance, but you make the difference with your own choices. Engaging with the fascinating world of wordless books can be challenging, but offers you plenty of personal and rewarding experiences. Like all superpowers.


*Dr. Lina Iordanaki has a PhD in Children’s Literature, exploring how children from different countries engage with wordless picture books. She is also on the committee of the International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY).



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