Wonderfully Wordless: The 500 most recommended graphic novels and picture books


wonderfully wordless

William Patrick Martin, Wonderfully Wordless: The 500 most recommended graphic novels and picture books, Rowman & Littlefield, Oct 2015, 334pp.,  $83.40 (hbk),  ISBN: 9781442254770

Wonderfully Wordless is a book listing 500 books with little or no text, purported to be the ‘most recommended’ for preschoolers to teens. I did not read every review but taking a sample of the titles I saw some of my favourites listed and I have to agree with the recommendations made. Selected by 135 experts from 7200 titles, of mostly US and English origin, this collection has been collated into themes e.g. Classic Tales (although I will dispute Harry Potter and Where’s Waldo? in this category) , For and About Babies, Concepts Galore, Numbers and Letters, Fascinating Fantasies, Creative Journeys, Difficult Challenges. Each review comes with a concise synopsis, an age recommendation and a black and white cover image.

You will also find a selection on Woodcut Novels, titles on topics such as Cultural Diversity and Problem Solving and short biographies on book illustrators ‘you should know’ (sadly many are not with us anymore). The appendix provides a list of the 500 titles and lists by chapter.  The extent of the bibliography is testimony to the amount of research carried out for this book.

There are so many titles published between the review process and publication that have missed the lists and are, topic wise, possibly more relevant to today’s readers so the first thing that comes to mind with a book like this is that it takes so long to get a book to publication and as soon as it hits the market the lists are out of date. In the past libraries and booksellers relied heavily on products such as these to assist in enquiries but with the speed of online searching I feel these types of resources pass their use by date as soon as the synopsis is written for the publisher.

Although, in contradiction to this, Wonderfully Wordless is filled with an international collection of graphic novel titles that have yet to hit the Australian market. For avid readers of comic style stories and as a literacy tool for reluctant readers, graphic novels are slowly gaining momentum as more and more are sourced and bought online. Pursuers of this growing medium can benefit from Wonderfully Wordless or can just subscribe to publishers’ online alerts.

The introduction asks ‘Where can I find more of these rare and compelling books?’ Well, there did not appear to be an answer! Finding copies of many of these titles will be a mammoth task as many of the children’s picture books are out of print. Some may be found in libraries in reasonable condition but, if the reader is after a keeper, my recommendation is to approach companies specialising in second hand and rare books such as Abe Books.

Who was this book written for? I can see this being a useful reference tool for sourcing titles for libraries and for researchers studying the movement of picture books and graphic novels up to the date of its publication.

Reviewed by Sharon Smith


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