4 Must Have Wordless Picture Books

The first time I read a wordless picture book with my students, they thought I was crazy.  After all, how could that count as reading?  There were no words after all.  Yet the wordless picture book, in all of its sophistication has provided some of the best reading moments in my classroom.  The inferring, the questioning, the interpretation that students have had to do to understand a story cannot be beat.  The imagery in the books is astounding and leads us to use these stories as anchor texts in our mentor text collection.  Here are the 5 picture book that I plan on using extensively next school year.

Float by Daniel Miyares will be one of the first picture books I use due to its simple, yet beautiful story.  This book will be excellent for discussing how we can take a small event in our life and craft a story around it.


A little boy takes a boat made of newspaper out for a rainy-day adventure. The boy and his boat dance in the downpour and play in the puddles, but when the boy sends his boat floating down a gutter stream, it quickly gets away from him.

So of course the little boy goes on the hunt for his beloved boat—and when the rain lets up, he finds himself on a new adventure altogether.

Bluebird by Bob Staake has been a mentor text in my classroom for several years.  The powerful story always shocks my students but I love how it enables them to interpret what happens in different ways.  I also use this book often when teaching theme because students can see what happens rather than trying to decode the text.


In his most beautiful and moving work to date, Bob Staake explores the universal themes of loneliness, bullying, and the importance of friendship. In this emotional picture book, readers will be captivated as they follow the journey of a bluebird as he develops a friendship with a young boy and ultimately risks his life to save the boy from harm. Both simple and evocative, this timeless and profound story will resonate with readers young and old.

Unspoken by Henry Cole is a picture book we always have to read twice in a row.  Students always miss some of the details of the story the first time, which is part of the reason why I love it.  I use this as a mentor text when we discuss adding small details, symbolism, as well as using powerful words (or in this case powerful images) to tell your story.


When a farm girl discovers a runaway slave
hiding in the barn, she is at once
startled and frightened.

But the stranger’s fearful eyes
weigh upon her conscience,
and she must make a difficult choice.
Will she have the courage to help him?

Unspoken gifts of humanity unite the girl
and the runaway as they each face a journey:
one following the North Star,
the other following her heart.

Journey by Aaron Becker and his follow up book Quest are two staples of my classroom instruction.  Students love when I turn the page to see what happens next and I love how it enables me to teach them to trust their imagination and also that they can use a unifying “thing” to move a story forward.


A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire?

While I have many other wordless picture books, these are the ones I continually pull out and use (Except for Float because it is new to me).  Which wordless picture books do you use again and again?

4 thoughts on “4 Must Have Wordless Picture Books

  1. Love these! One of my favorite wordless books is ‘You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum’ by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman. In the story a little girl has to tie her balloon outside while she visits the museum. While she is inside with her grandmother enjoying the exhibits, the balloon becomes untied and has an adventure, too. So much fun to see how the adventure going on INSIDE the museum ties to the adventure going on OUTSIDE the museum.

    I taught children how to write for the dreaded TAAS, TAKS, and now STAR test in the state of Texas and used picture books to show the kids how stories were developed. This complex plot would be wonderful to show even older children how a complex and parallel story lines can be developed in a story.

    It is also on my list of stories to read before visiting NYC http://theeducationaltourist.com/read-before-you-go-nyc/ . Traveling is a great reason to read….but there are a MILLION reasons to read!! I’m enjoying your lists and making a list of things to add to my library.

  2. I have to recommend “The Arrival” by ??? Tan (can’t remember the first name). Absolutely gorgeous storytelling about an immigrant coming to a foreign land, and how he’s able to acclimate.

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