I was very struck by the number of people on the last post who noted that they were driven especially crazy by books without words.
When Diana was a teeny tiny baby, these were books I especially prized because I felt they didn't call for anything from me, once she could turn the pages.
But the strange thing about books without words was that I always, somehow, ended up putting my own words in. Even in that most excellent section in Where the Wild Things Are where the wild rumpus starts, I was always compelled to put words to it, words that I wanted
to leave out but somehow couldn't. It wasn't that I pretended there were words there, it was all in the role of audience with my child, just little narrations: "Oh, look! They're
swinging from trees. They're parading around with Max on their
shoulders" sort of thing. Why did I do it? I can't rightly say.
It was the same with Goodnight, Gorilla.
maybe the hardest and least adult thing in the world to just read
through one of those books by looking—and not say a word. I've never been able to do it. And whatever strange compulsion made me put words in at all made me use those very same words every freaking time I "read" that story.
I wonder if this is in any way related to the other thing about books without words: that children seem to have a really passionate and intense feeling for these books. Does the lack of words makes the pacing dreamy and otherworldly—and thus, far more in keeping with the pacing and reality of childhood than books with normal stories made in words do? I always wonder what it would have been like if I could have left the words behind. Would the child put the pictures together into a story? Or would they create some whole other narrative—or non-narrative—and do something else?
Diana did look through those picture books on her own, but of course it wasn't because of any genius insight of ours. Instead it's just that she liked then, and likes still, to look through books and get caught up in her own world. And even if they drive people crazy, I still have a soft spot for the completely wordless book.Even if I can't quite live up to its promise.
Here are some of our strange old favorites, either completely wordless or nearly so:
This is the story of an ignored older sister; it is excellent.
This one everyone knows, but I really like it.
I can't think of any more this second—but maybe you can?