April 15 was World Art Day, an observance established by the UNESCO to “promote the development, diffusion and enjoyment of art.” Art, of course, plays a huge role in children’s literature. Our Outreach Coordinator Leena Desai recommends some wordless books in which the illustrations do all the heavy lifting of conveying the message and the story.
Geraldo Valério has gained recognition as the master of wordless picture books and in At the Pond, he explores the meaning of true friendship and love. In the book, a boy and a dog go exploring in the woods. Soon they are at a pond with snowy white swans. One of the swans invites the boy and the dog for a ride and they hop on and sail away into a stunning, magical scenery which is dotted with foxes, rabbits and deer and a profusion of wildflowers, spoonbills and ibises. When they arrive at a shore, the boy lets the dog run without a leash, but he leashes the swan, assuming that the swan is now his pet. As soon as he does so, the scenery changes quickly. The boy soon realizes his mistake and removes the leash and sets the swan free. Valério uses simple crayon illustrations that clearly convey the message of the book about friendship and freedom. Grades Preschool to 2
In Grasshopper, a little girl is exploring a garden and through curiosity, she sets in motion a chain of events with unintended results. She finds a caterpillar inside a pea pod and places the caterpillar on an anthill only for them to immediately swarm it. She captures a grasshopper, but in so doing, breaks one of its legs. When she places it inside a jar, it becomes vulnerable to other creatures inside it. Through the use of vibrant colours that pop, Tatiana Ukhova conveys the message that our actions have consequences and more often than not, those are to the detriment of nature and wild things, who should just be left alone without human interference. Grades Preschool to 3
Marion Arbona’s astonishingly detailed black-and-white illustrations in Window invite readers to go on a journey with a little girl as she explores her city. While making her way back from school, a little girl gazes up at the differently shaped and coloured windows of her city and imagines what could be inside: an indoor jungle, a whale in a bathtub or may be some vampires playing badminton? Thirteen windows open up to reveal stunning tableaus such as a gathering of gnomes, a deep-sea diver among glowing underwater creatures, a collection of masks, cars that drive up the walls, and more. Arbona’s sketches are packed with intricate details and celebrate curiosity, imagination, and a sense of wonder about the world that children have. Grades Preschool to 3
Mental health is not an easy subject to discuss with kids, but Mel Tregonning’s wordless graphic novel accomplishes what many worded texts struggle with and truly demonstrates the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In the book, we meet a boy struggling with anxiety. He has difficulty fitting in at school and getting good grades. This manifests in bouts of anger against those who love him. The boy always feels like there are tiny beings that crowd around him constantly, overwhelming him and even gnawing away at his very self. Eventually, the boy overcomes his isolation and realizes that the tiny demons of worry surround everyone, even those who seem to have it all together. This is a short, but hard-hitting book that serves as a tool to talk to kids about anxiety and acceptance. Grades 3 to 7