I Feel Smart: On Wordless Picture Books and Perception
Just thinking out loud here…
It’s another great year for wordless picture books.
What draws us to stories told exclusively through illustration? A good story is paramount, of course, but I think there’s something about our brains that respond to visuals first. It’s how we take in the world.
I keep coming back to the idea that wordless books have the side effect of making the reader feel smart.
I don’t mean this in a negative way. In wordless books, the reader isn’t guided through the story – she must interpret the narrative on her own. This gives a feeling of accomplishment. Perhaps even subconsciously, you feel smart for “getting it”.
Is this a bad thing? Not at all. But I wonder if this perception means that we (without necessarily knowing it) see wordless books as having a leg up in some way. Are we more likely to have positive impressions of a wordless book because it’s wordless?
Is a story better when it’s in more our heads than on the page?
What do you think?
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About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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