January 16


Sometimes, when I’m reading aloud to my three-year-old, especially if it’s something I’ve read ten thousand times before, I’ll go the teeniest, tiniest bit into autopilot. So while I’m saying this—

I would not like them here or there.
I would not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

—I’ll start thinking this:

I wonder when I last changed the furnace filter?…Do pizza stones really work?…I really need to pick up that prescription at Walgreens…We should change the comforter to the warmer one…How much sugar does coconut water have?

That’s why wordless picture books are so nice. They keep me in the moment because I have to re-create the story each time. The conversational way the story gets told leaves space for plenty of comments and questions from my son. Different details are focused on depending on the preoccupations of the day. With his help, it becomes a different book with every reading.

We’ve enjoyed Good Night, Gorilla (by Peggy Rathmann), South (Patrick McDonnell), Good Dog, Carl (Alexandra Day), and Oink (Arthur Geisert). But we’ve had the most fun with David Wiesner’s clever and ingenious books Flotsam and Tuesday. I might even go so far as to say that he’s my favorite picture book author (next to the god Mo Willems, of course).

Mr.-Wuffles-clawsSo we were excited to read his latest when it came out a few months ago. Mr. Wuffles! tells the story of a bored housecat who encounters the “cat toy” of his life: a real, albeit miniature, spaceship complete with ant-sized green aliens. Forming alliances with some of the local fauna, the aliens embark on an epic adventure to evade Mr. Wuffles and repair their spaceship. Who will prevail?

The only words in this graphic-novel style book are from a clueless human owner who occasionally shows up and from the aliens and their friends (who speak their own languages consisting of triangles, hieroglyphs, and dashes), so there’s plenty of room for storytelling by the reader and questioning from the audience.

It’s the illustrations that keep you coming back to any picture book, and Wiesner’s sly sense of humor coupled with his brilliant drawing skills keep you finding clever things to notice. And I must say his grasp of cat psychology is right on.

What are your favorite wordless picture books?