June 1, 2011

Wonderful Wordless (or Nearly Wordless) Books

Wordless books (and nearly wordless books) spark conversation, invite close inspection of illustrations, and are less threatening to reluctant emerging readers. Here are some of the most popular wordless books among my students and my own children.

Anno's Counting House

Mitsumasa Anno is a Japanese former math teacher who became an author and illustrator of children's books. He has written several books that lead naturally to understanding of math. Anno's Counting House, out of print, but still easy to find used, illustrates ten children moving from one house to another. One house gradually empties of people and belongings as the other house fills up. Cut-outs in the pages pique children's curiosity as they try to figure out which character will move the the new house next. Children are exposed to the the important concept of the conservation of number, which is crucial to later success when balancing equations in algebra. Interestingly the book can be enjoyed from back to front as well as from front to back I first blogged about Anno way back in 2007.

Good Night, Gorilla

Peggy Rathmann's Good Night, Gorilla is the most requested readaloud at my preschool. Other than "good night," there are only ten words in the entire book. The pictures are simple, yet full of fun surprises for those who look closely. Try to find the flyaway balloon in each photo. How many silhouettes can you see in the neighbor's window? Does the elephant really have a plush Babar? Here are even more fun illustration finds and several Good Night Gorilla activities.

1, 2, 3 To the Zoo

Animals. A train. The zoo. Eric Carle hit on several of kids' favorite things in his first picture book, 1, 2, 3 To the Zoo combines colorful animal pictures with bright clear numbers, and doesn't let words get in the way. Children enjoy finding all of the animals in the fold out page of the zoo at the end of the story. This just may be the book that your child learns to count with. Homeschool Share offers a 1, 2, 3 To the Zoo printable lapbook to go along with the book.


Besides his name, hug was the first word my toddler read, thanks to Hug, the nearly wordless book by Jez Alborough. The story story follows a baby monkey who sees several animal mothers and babies hugging one another and realizes that he has lost his own mom. A kind elephant takes him around the jungle until he finds his mother. All the animals rejoice with him. the word hug appears several times, but the only other words to appear are mommy and Bobo (the baby monkey's name).

Question: Do you have a favorite wordless or nearly wordless book?


  1. Mercer Mayer has several complex stories told completely without words:
    A Boy, A Dog, A Frog & a Friend
    Frog On His Own
    Frog Goes to Dinner

  2. I'm familiar with Mercer Mayer's "Little Critter" books, but hadn't heard of the ones you mentioned. I'll keep my eye out for them.