When Pictures Tell a Thousand Stories

a guest blog by Melanie McGilloway

2019 BookList: When Pictures Tell a Thousand Stories – A Selection of Wordless Picture Books for All Ages

Looking back at what I have done in the last few years, it seems I spend a lot of time thinking about wordless picture books. I have written about them regularly on my blog Library Mice (including Why Wordless Books?, A Voice for the Voiceless 1 and A Voice for the Voiceless 2), I have written an essay about them during my MA in Children’s Literature and I gave a presentation about them to teachers and other interested parties (https://tinylittlesparks.uk/2017/10/13/pictures-without-words/) So, yes, I am quite the fan, which is why I was delighted to be given an opportunity to write a booklist on that theme for the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.

This is not my first venture in writing a FCBG book list; in 2013 I wrote It’s Never too Early to Start (a selection of contemporary books for the under 5s), and in 2015 I co-wrote  Inside the Box  (a selection of comics and graphic novels for all ages) with Zoe Toft (www.playingbythebook.net), so I knew what I was getting myself into, including the agonising selection process. What do you include? What do you exclude? Is there any point including ‘classics’ of the genre? Will people be staggered if Title X or Title Y doesn’t appear?

I know from my job as a school librarian that book lists are so subjective. After all, they are only a snapshot of what is available (even with the best of intentions it is impossible for me to access ALL wordless picture books), they are mainly only one’s person viewpoint (even if I did ask the Twitter Kids’ Lit community, a super supportive and helpful bunch, for suggestions) and they can be outdated fairly quickly, particularly now that children’s publishing is such a flourishing business. In fact I can think of two wordless picture books that are either just out or about to come out which would have been perfect for the list. 

So the best way, I think, to look at book lists is a ‘snapshot’; that’s certainly how I wrote it and I am hoping that is how readers will see it. For me it was important to include some classics, but also some more unknown titles. I also wanted to showcase a breadth of books as far as suitability is concerned, particularly at either end of the spectrum of children’s publishing. I also wanted to ensure there was a variety of themes, including some which would be considered as ‘non-fiction’.   So yes, some favourites might be missing, but I hope you enjoy my selection, and maybe even discover your new favourite silent narrative from it.

Join the conversation on Twitter @FCBGNews to tell us which book(s) you would have included. It would make a nice post scriptum to the list!

Many thanks to Melanie McGilloway for compiling this fantastic list of wordless picture books for all ages. The list is available to download here, where you can also view our other booklists. Printed copies of the list will be in the delegates’ bags and available for our Children’s Book Groups to collect at the annual conference.


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