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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes a wordless picture book is worth a big ol’ internet shout-out. These, our 10 favorite children’s books with no words, are just those.
Wordless picture books can be intimidating to adults: You have to wing it, since there is no text to read. But making up a story as you go along—and letting your child have a go at storytelling, too—is fun and fosters pre-literacy skills in little readers.
Children’s books with no words encourage imagination and curiosity in kids; they lead little ones to begin to tell stories; they prompt kids to look for plot clues in illustrations; and they promote close listening, as the story may change each time you read the book.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out these children’s books with no words the next time you’re at the library and see for yourself.
The 10 best children’s books with no words
- The Red Book, by Barbara Lehman. Walking to school one day, a young girl finds a red book—and when she opens it, she’s shocked to find a young boy looking back at her. I love how this Caldecott Honor book sparks the imagination and shows that any adventure can be found within the covers of a book. (Pro tip: Barbara Lehman has illustrated many wordless picture books, so check ’em all out!)
- A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka. A dog can’t get enough of his favorite toy, a big red ball—but what will it do when that ball pops? I especially love how the expressive illustrations offer an opportunity to talk about feelings with Peeper, which encourages empathy.
- Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Idle. Flora, in her charming swim cap and scuba flippers, mimics a rather indignant flamingo and all its impressive poses. But when Flora fails, the flamingo finally takes the little girl under its wing.
- Good Dog, Carl, by Alexandra Day. What happens when a precocious Rottweiler is in charge of babysitting? A whole lotta fun. We’ve enjoyed narrating Carl and Baby Madeleine’s adventures ever since Peeper was itty bitty. For true Carl lovers, Day has illustrated a whole series.
- Wave, by Suzy Lee. Who knew white, black and blue could be so evocative? Using only these colors, Lee draws and paints a day at the beach starring a feisty little girl, a troop of seagulls—and the playful ocean, of course.
- Wonder Bear, by Tao Nyeu. In this whimsically illustrated book, a pair of children plant a garden with watermelon seeds—and a hat. What grows is a beautiful tribute to imagination.
- Clown, by Quentin Blake. If you can get over the fact that the book’s namesake is slightly creepy, this story about a thrown-away clown doll that tries to rescue its fellow discarded toys is absolutely charming. And if you grew up on Roald Dahl books like I did, you’ll be especially taken in by Blake’s spirited illustrations, since he’s most famous for collaborating with the beloved children’s book author.
- Spot, the Cat, by Henry Cole. For super detail-oriented kids, Spot, the Cat is an enthralling invitation to search for a certain kitty who slips out an open window and wanders through all sorts of fun scenes. Think Where’s Waldo meets Edward Gorey, if Edward Gorey weren’t so morbid.
- South, by Patrick McDonnell. The creator of the comic Mutts created this heartwarming story about a little bird who misses out on migration—only to be helped on the long journey south by a new friend. The spare illustrations leave plenty of room for you and your kids to fill in the blanks with your imagination.
- Flashlight, by Lizi Boyd. A little boy goes exploring in the dark, and his flashlight illuminates tiny snippets of the woods. What he finds is a bunch of creatures who are just as curious about him as he is of them. Each page is mostly black with little snippets of color where the flashlight has revealed nighttime secrets—moths, a hiding owl, a busy porcupine—and die-cut holes let details peek through the pages. Flashlight is a wonderful book for anyone who has ever wondered what happens after night falls.