wordless, or nearly wordless, picture books? And why does every single one of these I come across turn out to be so good? I have theories—only the best, most accomplished author-illustrators even attempt the challenge, or are allowed to attempt it by their publishers?—but no answers.
The latest is A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka, who certainly fits into my “most accomplished” theory. He's been responsible for several of our family's most treasured children's books already, and his sparing use of words or even mere sounds has always been a trademark, from the Caldecott Honor winner Yo! Yes? to the concentrated encapsulation of jazz Charlie Parker Played Be Bop.
A Ball for Daisy is about a happy little dog and her beloved red ball. The first portion of the book shows us her pure joy in it as she bats it around, bounces it, even cuddles up to sleep with it. But on a playdate with another dog outside, tragedy strikes—the other dog runs off with it, and as she chases after to get it back, the ball is punctured and destroyed. Daisy is devastated, until her little-girl owner and her friend, the owner of the second dog, come up with a solution.
It's a very simple story, serving up a gentle but effective message of sympathy to kids who've lost a treasured toy themselves on the side. The reason it's so wonderful, of course, is the illustrations themselves; Raschka is marvelous at capturing every doggie emotion, from manic upbeat energy to big-eyed sadness and disappointment to overwhelmed gratitude and final satisfaction. This may not be one of those visually stunning wordless books—it isn't trying to blow you away with the sheer gorgeousness of the art, as many do—but it's a great example of how good storytelling doesn't always require words at all. And it's a sure bet for any young child who has a doggie herself—not to mention a guaranteed smile for her parents.
[Images courtesy of Schwartz & Wade Books]