Stories Without Words

     I haven’t seen the movie, “The Artist” yet, but I am dying to. The success of this modern silent film has me thinking (again) of stories without words. In the past I’ve written about The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg, one of my favorites, and in the past few months I’ve stumbled upon a few new variations of this theme. It should come to as no surprise that I love making up stories as much as reading them, and I have realized lately that there are many tools out there to help us tell stories. For Christmas, my mother gave my daughter a game called “Tell Me A Story” (Animal Village – there are a few different versions of this). It is a deck of pictures with recurring characters and images. You get the idea, right? She selects about five cards and tells me a story based on the images that she pulls. The recurring characters encourage children (and adults) to stay focused, but there is plenty of room for imagination. While some cards feature the animals doing something – singing, celebrating a birthday, eating – there are also ones that include more pensive moments: a single balloon, a lonely porcupine. So the game provides a Conflict, and I’ve found that kids usually find it. If you read to your children often, you’ll be amazed by how intuitive the classic plot becomes. They seem to understand at a very young age that a story is not a story without a problem to be solved or overcome. “The King died and the Queen died” -and all that.
     For the baby, I recently discovered the “Indestructible” series (another genius idea from Workman Publishing). They are described as “chew proof, rip proof, nontoxic, and 100% washable” – specifically designed for babies. So it’s a wordless book with thin waxy pages that the little ones can’t destroy. The one we have is called Jungle Rumble! and is filled with beautifully illustrated jungle animals. For now, we’re keeping our stories simple – naming the animals and perhaps describing their colors. To be honest, the baby is still mostly focusing on the chewing, but at least this one is nontoxic. My daughter can jump in too, and “read” this one to her baby brother – always a plus for me.
     For older children or precocious preschoolers I’d highly recommend Flotsam – another wordless picture book about a little boy at the beach who finds an old fashioned underwater camera washed up ashore. What follows are the unique images captured over time, each a story in itself for the reader to conjure up. Any child who loves the beach and all of its treasures will most likely connect with this book.  As parents “reading” this one with our children, we will be pushed beyond our creative comfort zone, and back to before our own rationale thinking took over. Anything is possible in this book and Wiesner reminds us what it feels like to linger in a land of make-believe.

What we’re reading now: To the baby: Ten Tiny Tickles

Why: At almost eleven-months, he gets the idea of being tickled…

What I’m looking for: What are your favorite books without words?