Journey: a wonderful world

There seems to be a trend here: beautiful, imaginative books with strong storylines and no words! Another example of this is Flotsam. These books are great to look at, the pictures worth spending time to explore but the stories are far from trivial; don’t mistake the absence of words for a pre-school target age.



Aaron Becker

Walker 2013

This book is beautiful, every page a delight. While we could tell the story as we turn the pages I think the maximum enjoyment will come if we can get the listener to tell us about what’s on the page.

Who is this? (The main character might be a boy or a girl, I’ll assume the latter.)

What does she want to do?

Who is in the house?  What is Dad doing? What is Mum doing? 

How does the girl feel now? [The illustrations capture the disappointment and boredom so well!]

What’s that on the floor?

Is it usually a good idea to draw on the wall with a red pen?

What’s happened to the wall? Where does that door go?

How can she travel on the stream? 

The boat journey and the rest of the story unfold, there’s drama and resolution. A perfect tale that I don’t think could be as magical in any other medium.




Good Night, Gorilla

We found this to be the perfect book for a very young Harry. It might have been the way Grandma read it, the theatrical intake of breath when the interloping animals are discovered, but Harry requested the book again and again, and again …

Good Night, Gorilla


Peggy Rathmann

Putnam 2002

When the Gorilla gets his hands on Zookeeper’s keys he can help all the other animals to go on a little expedition to the  Zookeeper’s cottage; it’s so comfy there! Mrs Zookeeper is not impressed. The climax of the book has a black page with a pair of astonished white eyes; hilarious!

Charming story, lots of animals to identify, much detail to look at, very funny, plenty of opportunity for some play-acting too. It’s easy to see why this book has won many awards since it was first printed in 1994.



Flotsam: Eloquence without Words

I came upon this book in the Maryport Maritime Museum, a charming little establishment in the North of England, on the coast of the Lake District. They had an excellent selection of books for sale, I bought two of them. More about “The Storm Whale” another time, here I’ll be concentrating on a remarkable book, with no words and yet a wondrous eloquence.



David Weisener

Andersen Press, 2012 in the UK and originally in the USA Clarion Books, 2006

Flotsam is the third of David Weisener’s books to win the Caldecott Medal, and justly so; this is a book I would keep whether or not I had grand-children.  I find it fascinating on several levels. First, the way the whole story is told, without words, in ravishing detail purely in the beautiful water colour illustrations; an inquisitive child could spend a while looking at the details. Second, the lovely idea of an old camera washing up on the shore and the pictures that camera somehow gathered in its undersea journey. There is so much wit and invention in these scenarios, I laughed out loud at one of the ideas. What’s more there’s an fascinating exploration of the history of the camera, and glimpse into it’s future.

There are so many clever ideas here that I’m not sure what age of child would actually understand the whole story but the undersea pictures may well enthral some pre-school kids.

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