The best silent or wordless books for kids

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick Author Of Owl Bat Bat Owl
By Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

The Books I Picked & Why


By Suzy Lee

Book cover of Wave

Why this book?

A gorgeous picture book that captures the joys and excitement of being a child at the sea, playing chicken with the incoming waves. The little girl and a gaggle of gulls get braver and braver, until… SPLASH!

Suzy Lee’s lines are so fluid and expressive, her use of a limited palette works brilliantly, and there’s a clever use of the gutter (middle of the book) to build tension. Dare you not to smile and feel joy.

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Sidewalk Flowers

By Jonarno Lawson, Sydney Smith

Book cover of Sidewalk Flowers

Why this book?

Another beautiful book with wonderful ink lines and a limited palette. We join a little girl and her father on a walk through an urban area. The dad is distracted by his phone but the little girl sees and gathers wildflowers and then presents them to those in need of comfort. A poignant story on the importance and power of noticing small things.

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The Snowman

By Raymond Briggs

Book cover of The Snowman

Why this book?

The famous animated film began life here, as a wordless picturebook. As with Wave and Sidewalk Flowers, it’s a very immersive reading experience, there is a real sense of being in the book and experiencing the child’s journey.

Briggs’ coloured pencil art is soft and beautiful, his storytelling humorous, often hilarious, and ultimately unsentimental. The snowman melts, as is the way of snowmen, but what a wonderful adventure the boy and he (and we) share before he does.

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The Invention of Hugo Cabret

By Brian Selznick

Book cover of The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Why this book?

Cheating a bit here but this is a wonderful hybrid of half-novel, half-wordless picture reel. Both the verbal and the visual brain get a great workout as you slide from following the story through words, then through images, then words, back to images. Set in a train station in 1930s Paris, it is a story full of adventure, clocks, orphans, secrets, movie reels, wild chases, and a mysterious automaton. It is a whopper of a book but a really quick read. I’ve given this one to kids who are struggling to read full-length novels and they’ve been enthralled. I would put this at 9+.

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The Arrival

By Shaun Tan

Book cover of The Arrival

Why this book?

This is a silent graphic novel, layered and intricate, definitely aimed at older kids (9+), teens, and adults. It is the story of a man who leaves his homeland in search of a better future for himself, his wife, and his child. Tan’s art is sublime, there is so much to see (and feel) here, as we watch (and experience) the man’s struggle to settle and find work, to understand and make himself understood in this new country full of strange creatures and customs. One to pore over and revisit.

Don’t worry about how to read a wordless picturebook with your kids, just crack one open and see what happens. Pore over the images together. Ask questions and your kids will read the pictures and tell you the answers. Everyone gets to make up the dialogue and sound effects. Expect silence to be part of the experience.

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