Wordless Picture Books about making your way in America and other creative pursuits

I’ve been reading stories without words. Turn the pages and you see beautiful picture puzzles for all ages of readers.  Here is a collection of stories I love, ones I’ve also brought to international students who are learning English. And we have fun composing the story in words from the perspective of many cultures.  The first one is a little bit longer than a picture book; in fact, it’s called a graphic book:  Here I Am by Patty Kim, with pictures by Sonia Sanchez. Here’s a taste of a boy’s journey in this strange new land.

Mirror by Jeannie Baker is by now a classic and is still wonderful. The book guides us to read two different pages side by side. Each set of pages depicts times of the day of a family, one in Morocco, the other in Ms. Baker’s home country of Australia.  I love how one culture becomes much more clear when we see how another culture shares much in common.








I’m including The Red Book by Barbara Lehman because this book could be from any culture,  any reader in the world.  It’s about the magic and wonder that comes from opening a book.









Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson,  illustrated by Sydney Smith. A winner of a book from Canada. Like The Red Book this is also about wonder and imagination.  Wonder in a red coat.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell.  I love this book.  It is simply a story about  kindness overcoming fear, which I include here for the obvious reason among stories of many cultures.









Now,  from one of my favorite illustrators, Raul Colon:

A boy alone in his room.
Sketchbook in hand.
What would it be like to go on safari?

That’s what these books seem to have in common. They open their arms to our imagination.










And here’s an article with some creative activities one could do with these books and others with English language learners,  Wonderful World of Wordless Picture Books



A Different Pond and more 2017 Books about Refugees

Across the world, families are crossing borders in search of a resting place where their children can be safe and go to school. 2017 saw new books coming out to help children understand the lives of other children displaced by war and poverty.

A Different Pond by the poet Bao Phi, whose family migrated to the U.S. after the American war in Vietnam, and illustrated by Thi Bui is one. Bao Phi tells a story of a small Vietnamese-American boy’s ritual of fishing early in the morning with his father to catch food for supper before his father goes to work, one of his two jobs. The text and illustrations capture the boy’s love for his father, his growing skill in their ritual, his fear, and the tight web of their family as they learn to survive in the U.S. This story is a model for writers who seek to tell their own migration story. The author selects one ritual vital to the life of a migrant family and allows the emotion and the story to flow from it.

The Canadian magazine Quill and Squire profiles a number of books to help children understand the lives of other children seeking a safe place to call home in the article, Publishers and Authors Answer the Need for Books that Shed Light on the Refugee Experience.

One of my favorite books from the list is My Beautiful Birds, about a Syrian child’s survival, written and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo. Del Rizzo’s polymer clay and acrylic illustrations help us imagine the black sky, the walking for days from a small child’s mind. “Day’s blur together in gritty haze. All I have left are questions. What will we do?  How long will we be here?”  The child has one thing in the camp that becomes home, birds he watches and feeds.  And he has his parents who love him.

A 2017  booklist produced by the New York Public Library is 16 Books about Refugees for Kids & Adults.  I’m honored that two of my books are on it. This list begins with this epigraph:

you have to understand/ that no one puts their child on a boat/ unless the water is safer than the land – from “Home” by Warsan Shire










#Reading Africa

For #ReadingAfrica, I compile here some of my favorite books and links to sites that feature books written today by African writers and make them available in the U.S.


A Reading List from BookWitty which includes Chicken in the Kitchen from Nigeria by Nnedi Okorafor

BookShy by An African Book Lover 

Some of the books on this list of YA Fiction from Africa are classics and you might know them. Others are new. I love the AYA graphic novels.







BookShy an Almost A_Z of African Children’s Literature








Children’s Africana Book Awards, 2017





Below are selected novel for adults, as well as high school and college student readers.

From Literary Hub , New Books by African Writers You Should Read

My own favorites:

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinau Mengestu (Ethipioan-American) Exquisite book.

All Our Names by Dinau Mengestu

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (Nigerian)

War Child by Emmanuel Jal (Sudan)

Escape from Slavery Francis Bok (Sudan)