Monday, June 13, 2011

The Wordless Books of Barbara Lehman

What they are about:
Red Book- A girl finds a magic book that lets her see a boy on a far-away island; the boy on the island has a magic book that lets him see her.

Museum Trip- On a school field trip to an art museum, a boy finds a secret room where he sucessfully completes a series of magical mazes.

Rainstorm- A lonely boy living in a mansion, finds a secret passage to a nearby island where he makes friends and can escape his very formal life for an afternoon.

Trainstop- On a train ride with her parents, the adults fall asleep and a young girl is the only one to experience a magical trainstop.

The Secret Box- Long ago a young boy hid a secret box, many years later three kids find the box and the clues inside that lead them to a special place.

What I love:
All of the magic and secrets I desperately wanted to believe could really happen when I was a kid come alive in each of Barbara Lehman's stories.
I will never forget the feeling of absolute awe I felt when, after dutifully ordering the Caldecott award winner and honor books back in 2005, I opened the very unassuming Red Book for the first time. That spring I shared The Red Book with every class Kindergarten through 6th grade, and all were captivated by the innocent, intricate, magical, entirely wordless story.

You may be thinking, "wordless books for read-alouds?", and my response is an emphatic YES! Wordless books are an opportunity for the students to help tell the story by reading the pictures.

 I love to talk about using "picture clues". Picture clues can help you figure out what is happening or predict what is coming next in a story. Reading the pictures can be as important as reading words. I "read aloud" Leman's books by constantly questioning, "What's happening now?", "How do you know?", "What clues from the picture make you think that?".

In the past I shared many wordless books with larger groups having only the book and continuously moving around so all students can see. Now I usually project the pages on a screen as we read.

My Favorite Part:
I love how each book ends with an opening to more story that can continue on in your own imagination. In the Red Book a new child finds the magic book the girl has dropped. In the Museum Trip, as the students are leaving readers can see that the docent has a medal exactly like the young boy. In Trainstop there are more trees around the city presumably given as gifts to other kids. The endings make for great discussions.

However,  I think my absolute favorite part is from The Red Book, when we as readers can tell the girl is arriving by balloon to the boy's island, but he has not seen her yet. We get to figure out the surprise, and then experience his joy at seeing her arrive on the next page.


  1. What a great review and wonderful choices! We have done a wordless picture book theme last March/April over at GatheringBooks and we did feature Barbara Lehman's Museum Trip which I found to be riveting. And yes I am a firm believer that wordless picture books can and does contribute to literacy - and absolutely perfect for a read-aloud. =)

  2. I am a huge wordless book fan, especially since I am in a school with a large English as an Additional Language program. Wordless books in the hands of a skilled teacher catapult kids into a range of vocabulary we'd never think to directly teach. Such a rich language experience. Thanks for posting. I'll be adding these to my wordless collection.