Reading picture books without words to children is a delightful way to introduce them to the creative art of illustrative storytelling and encourage early brain development. These types of children’s books do well in class and at home because, in the absence of rhyme and wordplay, it’s the images that set the scene and the reader joins up the dots. Picture books with no words allows an imagination to run wild and see the stories unfold in a totally new light.
Whether your little ones are mad about drawings or hold a deep fondness for written stories, they will no doubt fall in love with these classics. In no particular order, here are 50 of the best recommended wordless picture books to add to your collection.
1. Beaver Is Lost by Elisha Cooper
There’s not much to say about a book with four words. The idea came to Elisha at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. She was with her daughters at the beaver exhibit. The beavers were large and round, moving through the water with great purpose. Grace, even. These were wild creatures in the city: what if one were lost here and had to find it's way back home? Elisha went around Chicago and drew watery places a lost beaver would have to navigate: fountains, swimming pools, sewers. She doesn’t have to give too much away to say that this beaver eventually finds his way home.
2. Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
The elegant and captivating illustrations in this wordless picture book show the story of a lonely girl and a wolf who are both lost in a snow storm. Will they be able to find shelter and warmth? Will they be able to find beauty along their adventure?
3. Chalk by Bill Thomson
A rainy day. Three kids in a park. A dinosaur spring rider. A bag of chalk. The kids begin to draw. . . and then . . . magic! The children draw the sun, butterflies, and a dinosaur that amazingly come to life. Children will never feel the same about the playground after they experience this astounding picture book with no words and the power of the imagination. Bill Thomson embraced traditional painting techniques and meticulously painted each illustration by hand, using acrylic paint and coloured pencils.
4. Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Owl Bat Bat Owl is a wordless picture book by the award-winning Irish writer and illustrator, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick. It is her first wordless title and also, she says, ‘my first book with all animal characters and the first time I’ve illustrated a book using digital art.’
A lot of ‘firsts’ then. And it’s also a first for the Owl family in the story, who suddenly find their peaceful existence on the branch they know as home disrupted by the unwelcome arrival of the Bat family. These new neighbours choose to hang under the same branch the owls are perched on – and initially, from above and below, there are startled faces and wary glances. Then, after a certain amount of embarrassed shuffling, the situation is resolved as each family claims its own part of the branch. Order is restored. But is it? The two babies have other plans – and an incoming storm soon threatens the whole group.
5. Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
The only words in Pancakes for Breakfast contain the recipe for pancakes. This recipe guides an endearing old lady in her quest to make the pancakes for which she is yearning. She faces one problem after another. First, she has to leave her house to collect the eggs from her chickens. Then for the milk, she has to again leave her house and milk the cows. And even then, her difficulties are not over. But nothing can squash this lady’s spirit. She maintains her optimism and her determination throughout.
6. A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer
The three title characters are the stars of the show in this classic wordless book. It is a classic in every classroom library for young pre-readers because the everyday objects throughout the book are great for building up vocabulary.
7. Flotsam by David Wiesner
In the extraordinary Caldecott Medal–winner and New York Times bestseller by David Wiesner, a beach day is the springboard to a wildly imaginative exploration of fantastical mysteries of the deep—and of human connections through time.
A young boy comes to the beach eager to collect and examine flotsam—anything floating that has been washed ashore. But nothing among his usual finds compares with the discovery of a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera with its own secrets to share . . . and to keep. Meet unexpected underseas denizens and enter fascinating worlds within worlds in this entrancing celebration of imagination, creativity, and the impulse to share that which delights and amazes us.
8. Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle
The darling, dancing Flora is back, and this time she's found two new friends: a pair of peacocks! But amidst the fanning feathers and mirrored movements, Flora realises that the push-and-pull between three friends can be a delicate dance. Will this trio find a way to get back in step? In the third picture book for children featuring Flora and her feathered friends, Molly Idle's gorgeous art combines with clever flaps to reveal that no matter the challenges, true friends will always find a way to dance, leap, and soar-together.
9. Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day
This is a book about friends that follows a day in the life of Carl, a Rottweiler dog, and a young girl. It contains a beautifully curated set of classic coloured pencil illustrations. In this adventure, join Carl and Madeline as they visit the zoo, and get into a little mischief with a baby elephant along the way!
10. Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
The illustrations of this book take the reader on an adventure through the forest at night. It is an exciting story told with beautiful pictures that top the book lists for slightly older kids.
11. Wave by Suzy Lee
In this evocative wordless book, internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee tells the story of a little girl's day at the beach. Stunning in their simplicity, Lee's illustrations, in just two shades of watercolour, create a vibrant story full of joy and laughter. New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book 2008.
Why not try drawing your own beach adventure. Learn how with Quickdraw's desert island drawing tutorial.
12. Journey by Aaron Becker
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? With supple line, luminous colour, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.
13. 10 Minutes Till Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann
It’s almost bedtime! At 1 Hoppin Place the fun begins when a family of hamsters arrives at the door. There are only ten minutes left, and there’s still so much to do! But with the help of the Hamsters’ 10-Minute Bedtime Tour (guided by his own pet hamster), the little boy is able to get his toys put away, his pyjamas on, his teeth brushed, and his bedtime story read-all in the nick of time. This lively introduction to bedtime rituals and the concept of counting backwards will have young readers eagerly awaiting their own countdown to bedtime.
14. The Adventures of Polo by Regis Faller
Polo sets off to the big world with just his backpack and a little boat. He sees many brave things and tests his creative and critical thinking skills along the way. In the end, he returns to his comfy home.
15. Trainstop by Barbara Lehman
Riding the train is always a fun adventure, but sometimes there are especially exciting things to see and hear. This book follows an urban train ride with a young child who is excited to take it all in!
16. Tuesday by David Wiesner
The American artist David Wiesner is a doyen of the wordless book format. His beautifully constructed works are strange, surreal and intriguing. They show you an alternative universe and leave you asking questions of ‘how’, what’ and ‘why’.
17. The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
When a baby clown gets lost among the fields, it forms an unexpected friendship with the farmer. Follow their cute escapades on the farm and see how they grow a special friendship and a charming story.
18. A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
Any child who has ever had a beloved toy break will relate to Daisy's anguish when her favourite ball is destroyed by a bigger dog. In his signature swirling, impressionistic illustrations, two-time Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka explores the joy and sadness that having a special toy can bring. This utterly simple and wordless story will particularly appeal to young dog lovers and teachers and parents who have children dealing with the loss of something special.
19. Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley
While walking through the forest, Hank finds an egg on the forest floor. After spotting its nest high up in a tree, he uses his ingenuity to help get the egg home safe and sound, and is joyfully rewarded with newfound friends!
According to educators, wordless picture books engage young children, encouraging them to express stories and concepts in their own ways. Hank's endearing and genuine kindness will inspire readers young and old to believe in themselves and in the goodness of others.
20. Noah's Ark by Peter Spier
The bee and the fox, the sheep and the ox--two of each kind trudged aboard Noah's famous vessel. Peter Spier uses his own translation of a seventeenth-century Dutch poem about this most famous menagerie. This picture book without words is a great edition for your young child’s book collection.
You can have endless fun learning to draw animals. Find out how with Quickdraw's easy to follow drawing ideas.
21. The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
Imagine finding a red book peeping out of a pile of snow, lifting it up and opening it… only to discover a little boy on a sunny beach staring back at you through the pages of an identical red book.
This is the premise behind Barbara Lehman’s wordless picture book The Red Book and it’s a thought experiment that can easily tie you in knots as you try to work out who is looking at whom. But in fact it’s simply a visual realisation of what we all do when we ‘lose’ ourselves in a book – when the characters in the story reveal themselves to be so vividly drawn that it’s as if we know them as friends and neighbours in real life.
22. Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman
Museums: filled with mysterious, magical art and curiosities? Or secrets? And what might happen if a boy suddenly became part of one of the mind-bending exhibits? Join the fun in Museum Trip, by Barbara Lehman, the author-illustrator of the Caldecott Honour Winning The Red Book.
23. Time Flies by Eric Rohmann
When a few birds get caught in the museum with their dinosaur ancestors, they're in for an exciting adventure! Watch how the birds explore and learn in the natural history museum before making their great escape.
24. Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli
What does a crocodile do for a living? This delightfully unusual picture book explores that very question. We are invited to accompany Mr Crocodile on each and every stage of his morning routine and journey to work, before the book reveals the ingenious answer to its own question, with a satisfying twist.
25. Bee & Me by Alison Jay
We hear much about the plight of the bumble bee population and its implications for our planet’s future. This beautiful picture book makes the story personal and brings a message of hope. A little girl befriends a bee, which takes her on a journey of discovery and to an action each child can take to aid in conservation. Alison Jay’s original artwork brings the story gently to life, pointing out the sadness of a world without bees.
26. Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins
A charming, wordless picture book that the very youngest can “read” all by themselves. The little wooden couple are happy in their building-block house—until it catches fire. The solution? They transform the house into a fire engine! But then there’s so much water that they have to build a boat… Follow these inventive dolls as they use their imagination to adapt to each situation they encounter.
27. Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole
A young girl's courage is tested in this haunting, wordless 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. Henry Cole's unusual and original rendering of the Underground Railroad speaks directly to our deepest sense of compassion.
28. Mirror by Jeannie Baker
Page by page, we experience a day in the lives of two boys and their families – one from inner city Sydney, Australia and the other from a small, remote village in Morocco, North Africa. These worlds couldn’t be further apart, yet with the showing of the parallel lives of the two families, we see a simple truth. We see that in the context of strikingly different lifestyles, remotely different countries, landscapes, differences of clothing and all. The families are essentially the same. They care for each other, they need to belong, to be loved by their loved ones and be a part of their community. The simple truth is that even with all these differences we are all the same. We are the mirror of each other.
29. Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
In this innovative wordless picture book with interactive flaps, Flora and her graceful flamingo friend explore the trials and joys of friendship through an elaborate synchronized dance. With a twist, a turn, and even a flop, these unlikely friends learn at last how to dance together in perfect harmony. Full of humour and heart, this stunning performance (and splashy ending!) will have readers clapping for more of this fun flamingo story!
30. Lines by Suzy Lee
It starts with a line. Whether made by the tip of a pencil or the blade of a skate, the magic starts there. And magic once again flows from the pencil and imagination of internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee. With the lightest of touches, this masterwork blurs the lines between real and imagined, reminding us why Lee's books have been lauded around the world, recognised on New York Times Best Illustrated Books lists and nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honour given to children's book creators. This seemingly simple story about a young skater on a frozen pond will charm the youngest of readers while simultaneously astounding book enthusiasts of any age.
31. I Walk with Vanessa: A Picture Book Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët
This story uses beautiful illustrations to show the importance of treating others with kindness. It highlights how some easy and intentional acts of kindness can change the whole world around you.
32. Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes
Even though Molly can see monsters everywhere, she is brave and continues on her day-by-day adventures. Adept readers will notice the little details that define the amazing pictures on every page.
33. Pool by Jihyeon Lee
This trip to the community pool is illustrated to give the reader the real sense of being there on a hot summer day. Dive in and splash around, and enjoy the different retellings of the picture book each time you read it.
34. Rosie's Glasses by Dave Whamond
Rosie finds a special pair of glasses that lets her see the positive sides of every situation. Enjoy seeing the silver lining with Rosie as you follow her through a normal day that is made amazing with a positive mindset.
35. One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey by Henry Cole
This picture book tells the story of a brown paper bag that starts with its time as a tree and ends in the hands of a young boy on his first day of school. This heartwarming tale is one of encouragement for young kids who might be nervous on the first day of school.
36. Small in the City by Sydney Smith
This book really encapsulates what it's like to be an optimistic kid in a cheerless city. The pictures capture the city scene around the main character and it's a great way to see the city with fresh eyes each and every time you read it.
37. Fly! by Mark Teague
This book is a great story about taking risks and living an aerial life even when it seems scary. The bubbles above the characters encourage young readers to imagine and articulate the interactions, which is great for developing social prediction skills in young readers.
38. Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith
While a daughter and her father take a normal walk through the city, the dad is glued to his smartphone. Meanwhile, his daughter collects flowers and gives them away as she meets people along the way. The moral of this wordless story is to notice the people around you and treat everyone with kindness; when you do that, you can change the whole world around you!
39. Wallpaper by Thao Lam
This is the illustrated story of a girl who moves to a new house and has a bit of trouble coming out of her shell. She takes solace in her new room with the detailed wallpaper. Through her internal adventures, she gets up the courage to go outside and make new friends in her new home.
40. Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner
When a house cat finds a tiny alien spaceship, chaos ensues for the crew of the ship. The aliens will have to make some unlikely friends behind the radiator in order to get themselves out of the sticky situation.
41. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
The Snowman™, created and illustrated by Raymond Briggs, is one of the world's most popular and iconic picture books which perfectly captures the wonder and innocence of childhood. This timeless and magical tale tells a story of imagination and friendship as well as love and loss.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs was first published in the UK in 1978 as a wordless picture book featuring exquisite, pencil illustrations. It tells the story of a young boy who builds a snowman that comes to life at the stroke of midnight when a magical adventure begins. Click through the gallery below to see some images from the original picture book.
42. Bluebird by Bob Staake
Bob Staake is a prolific children’s book author — and New Yorker cover artist, to boot — but he’s said Bluebird is the book he was meant to write. The wordless story of a friendship between a young boy and a bird is packed with emotion and raises important questions about loneliness and the bonds that save us.
43. Spot the Cat by Henry Cole
Spot sneaks away from home by way of an open window to go on a wordless journey through the city. Follow Spot as he weaves through busy city streets, visits a farmers market, wanders into a park full of kite-flyers, and beyond. But while Spot is out on his adventure, his beloved boy owner is looking for him—seeming to just miss him every time.
44. Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin
When a young girl brings her beloved stuffed fox to the playground, much to her astonishment, a real fox takes off with it! The girl chases the fox into the woods with her friend, the boy, following close behind, but soon the two children lose track of the fox. Wandering deeper and deeper into the forest, they come across a tall hedge with an archway. What do they find on the other side? A marvelous village of miniature stone cottages, tiny treehouses, and, most extraordinary of all, woodland creatures of every shape and size. But where is the little fox? And how will they find him?
45. The Only Child by Guojing
A little girl—lost and alone—follows a mysterious stag deep into the woods, and, like Alice down the rabbit hole, she finds herself in a strange and wondrous world. But…home and family are very far away. How will she get back there?
46. The Tooth Fairy by Peter Collington
With a strong female protagonist, this shows the Tooth Fairy smelting a new coin for a little girl who has lost a baby tooth. Spread from The Tooth Fairy, showing the fairy preparing the coin. While the child is sleeping, the tooth fairy leaves the coin in the tooth box and takes the tooth home with her – to use for a rather surprising purpose.
47. Thunderstorm by Arthur Geisert
The wordless picture book Thunderstorm covers a period of just six hours. All the events take place during a single afternoon when a fierce storm suddenly overtakes an American farm and wreaks havoc.
48. The Great Escape by Philippe Dupasquier
This wordless book is one that both kids and adults are likely to enjoy poring over for ages. It’s basically a long crazy chase sequence, featuring an escaped prisoner and a gaggle of inept and frequently befuddled prison guards
49. Where’s the Starfish? by Barroux
This wordless book, which does actually have one spread with a few words, is at once a game, a story and an environmental message. The game is to find three creatures – a starfish, a jellyfish and a clownfish – on each double-page spread. It’s a fun hide-and-seek activity that is likely to appeal to even a very young child, and there are also visual jokes for them to spot as well. For instance one fish has a design of elephants on it, while another is bright pink with white splodges.
Who's the most famous starfish of all? Patrick Star of course. Learn how to draw him step by step.
50. Ernest & Celestine’s Patchwork Quilt by Gabrielle Vincent
This warm-hearted book is one in a series about the two friends Ernest, a big bear, and Celestine, a little mouse. They may appear an unlikely pair, but their friendship is rock solid.
Each of these children's picture books in our list above started with an idea and a sharp pencil. Drawing and sketching your very own characters can be tremendous fun, and if you're interested in learning where to start then try one of Quickdraw's many easy drawing ideas today, from animals, to cartoon characters, to emojis, objects and even places and food.