Friday, January 3, 2014

FLASH REVIEWS: 5 Great Wordless Picture Books of 2013

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Audience: Preschool–Grade 2
This wordless lift-the-flap book seamlessly reproduces the grace and movement of live animation. Clumsy, round Flora wishes to dance, so she watches and imitates a tall, elegant flamingo. Despite comical poses and a few mishaps, the mismatched pair eventually find their rhythm in a surprisingly graceful ballet. Expansive white space across the two-page spreads allow the dancers and Flora's facial expressions to shine. This is visual storytelling at its best, with a bonus interactive component for hands-on children who enjoy lifting flaps and controlling the pace.

 Bluebird by Bob Staake
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Audience: Kindergarten–Grade 3
A muted palette of blues and grays is offset by a bright, cheery bluebird in this graphic-novel style wordless picture book. A lonely boy in the city is befriended by a bluebird until tragedy strikes. The illustrations of the boy—who, like the rest of the book's images, is composed of minimalistic geometric shapes—still manages to perfectly convey his emotions of isolation, joy, fear, and hope. But beware, this book also has the potential to be upsetting (or confusing) for certain readers. Despite the potentially controversial last pages, this book is a fine exploration of friendship, sacrifice, loss, and hope. It may serve as a wonderful discussion opener for topics like bullying and grief in the right hands. The boy's expressions and actions in themselves may provide insight for children regarding emotional sensitivity and how to interpret (and appreciate) the feelings of others through visual cues.

Journey by Aaron Becker
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Audience: Preschool–Grade 3
This magical, gloriously illustrated picture book about a girl's adventure into an enchanted land begins with boredom in the the ordinary world and a fat red marker reminiscent of Harold's purple crayon. (The beginning also reminds me somewhat of John Rocco's Blackout, although the solution here is quite different.) Determined and fearless, the girls faces challenge after challenge before returning home to an unexpected surprise. The strong narrative, bold artwork, and imaginative settings will inspire awe and fascination.Young readers who enjoy fantasy and flights of imagination won't want to miss this one! Journey definitely gets my vote when Caldecott time rolls around (not that I have a vote :)) (BCPL copies on order)

Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Audience: Preschool–Grade 2
David Weisner (Tuesday and Flotsam) is pretty much the king of wordless picture books, and his latest offering doesn't disappoint. With bold, well-balanced artwork presented in a combination of full-page spreads and panels, he creates a secret world that humans cannot detect. The cat, Mr. Wuffles, however, can't help but be intrigued by the tiny spaceship toy and whatever drama may exist within. Animal lovers in particular will adore this comical tale.

Inside Outside by Liz Boyd
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Audience: Preschool–Grade 2

This book follows a boy and his dog playing inside and outside through the seasons. Die-cut windows allow the reader to view the scenes both in juxtaposition, and out from spread to spread. It's a simple but brilliant concept. The natural-toned pages and myriad homey details add further interest. This is a book that begs to be experienced over and over so that each detail can be absorbed and appreciated.

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