Wordless Books: Hello, Mr. Hulot by David Merveille and Mr. Wuffles by David Weisner
Now feels like a good time to champion the art of the wordless book, as we've just had two two unique new titles arrive into the shop. I considered the idea of expressing my appreciation in a wordless review, then quickly dismissed it...
The first of these delights is Hello, Mr. Hulot. Monsieur Hulot was the screen persona of actor/filmmaker Jacques Tati (1907-1982). For those unfamiliar with his films, they contained little or no dialogue and were packed with clever visual gags. They inspired, among other things, Rowan Atkinson's (less subtle) Mr Bean character and Sylvain Chomet's animated film The Illusionist, based on a unfinished Tati script. There's a quiet beauty about his humour; you might not be guffawing out loud, but you can't help but smile. And so it is with David Merveille's graphic sequences.
Mr. Wuffles is a very innocent-looking picture book, but it hides a sophisticated story that makes it a good reccomendation for older readers and graphic novel fans. A crew of tiny aliens, whose craft unfortunately looks like a cat toy, are being victimised by the ferocious feline, Mr. Wuffles. They forge an alliance with a group of insects in hiding, who communicate with them via strange caveman-style wall paintings. This really is a beautiful, wacky example of what a wordless book can be.
Older wordless books for children include Shaun Tan's The Arrival, an imaginative adventure in which an immigrant to a foreign land finds himself in truly alien territory. We also have Ingrid & Dieter Schubert's gorgeous picture book The Umbrella, featuring a small dog, hanging onto his umbrella for dear life as the wind carries him through a series of amazing landscapes, and Bob Staake's sad but lovely Bluebird.
Reading a wordles book is a bit like watching a silent film; your mind soon switches from the verbal to the visual and you start searching for clues with your eyes, often leading you somewhere you could never have expected to be. The rest is silence.