Zoom, zoom out and other wordless stories

As you may have guessed from the title of our article, we will talk about zoom! What do we mean by that? In our new, literary and playful article we will discuss wordless books, watch short films, and play two games for both kids and adults! And as a gift, an observational game for you to download!

One of the games we made… At the end of the article!

Wordless books, in our opinion and according to the scientific approach, are not just for children. Wordless books are suitable for young and adult readers. We have already made an introduction to this category of children’s books in our article “Books with no ending… and the story of a drawing“. Today we will see them in a little more detail…

In our previous article we read the wordless book Journey (2013) by Aaron Becker (source)

Worsless books aren’t a new thing. As we read, they have their roots in expressionist creations of the early 20th century, mainly in Germany. During the 1920s and 1930s, artists made books with woodcuts and experimented with printing techniques.

God’s man (1929) by Lyn Ward, the first American wordless book with woodcuts.

But we also found an even older book without words, the Wordless book. This book was made by the Baptist priest Charles Haddon in 1866 as a catechism tool. It consists of monochrome pages with religious symbolism.

Preaching in China with the use of the Wordless book. (source)

Back to nowadays… We asked adults who have read wordless books what they felt those books had offered them. They answered more or less the following: that these books took them back to their childhood, where we used our imagination a lot more, took them out of their everyday life for a while and put them into the world of the books. This is one of the primary features of wordless books, which is common for both adults and children: since they don’t provide a “ready-made” story, they intrigue the imagination.

Wordless books may seem “easy” and childish, but they are not… Exactly because they have no written story, there is plenty of room for the reader to write his own story, and that’s not easy. An image can get unlimited interpretations. Depending on the elements that each one will pay attention to, we will form various meanings. Wordless books are addressed to all of us, since each one will create his own plot, which will vary depending on their age, knowledge and experiences.

The cover of The red book (2004) by Barbara Lehman (source)
Pages from The red book (2004) by Barbara Lehman (source)
Pages from The red book (2004) by Barbara Lehman (source)

According to Angela Yannicopoulou, professor at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, wordless books help us understand the structure of the story and try to narrate our own stories. They offer benefits and challenges to both children and adults. As Angela Yannicopoulou points out in another article, a worsless book can become an original mental challenge entertaining and concerning readers, regardless of the age group to which they belong.

Wordless books are recommended for those learning a foreign language, children with mental disabilities, gifted children and children coming from different socio-economic backgrounds. A wordless book, for Angela Yannicopoulou, is also an excellent vehicle for children to develop “visual literacy”, that is, to learn to decode images’ conventions.

A wordless book that gave us a hard time is The other side (2005) by Istvan Banyai. (πηγή) In this book, each page with its back depicts the two views of an image, from one side and the other. While this is easy to understand, it was quite difficult to find links between all the pages in order to “read” the story of the book.
Greek wordless book by illustrator and painter Persa Zacharia (source)
With this book’s illustration, for example, children can understand the conventions of how distance gets depicted with the use of perspective: an element of the image is small in size (a boy in a boat) to show the depth of the scene. Another example of visual literacy is for children to realize that when an element (here the whale) appears half in the image, this doesn’t mean that this is in reality its body; the rest exists “outside” of the image.

A wordless book gives many ideas for activities. We can play and get inspired by its form. A typical example is the book Open this little book (2012), which consists of multiple book covers inside each other. Doesn’t this provoke us to make our own book with our favorite covers?

Open this little book (2012) by Jesse Kleusmeier and Suzy Lee, a book inside another book, inside another book…
Opening this little book…

So, what wordless books offer readers – adults and children – is the freedom to read their own story, since these books were created for that very reason and there is no specific story that the reader should “find”.

For the games we prepared we got inspired by the book Zoom by Istvan Banyai, a Hungarian illustrator and animator. The wordless book Zoom (1995), on the year of its publication, according to Wikipedia, was awarded as one of the best children’s books by the New York Times and Publisher Weekly. So, let’s read a wordless book together!

Istvan Banyai (1945-) when living in New York gained international acclaim from critics and audiences for his wordless book Zoom (1995), which also became a short animated film by Nickelodeon. (source)

In the video below you will see the whole Zoom book. It essentially consists of successive zoom outs on every page of the book, through which a story unfolds. Pay attention to the clues indicating that what we see is not exactly what we have thought it to be at first glance! We’ ll say nothing else, so that everyone can read their own story, as is the purpose of wordless books…

The book Zoom (1995) by Istvan Banyai with its pages, as it is in its literal form.

After reading the book on our own, let’s take a look at the book’s zoom outs in a continuous animation, as well as the short film Istvan Banyai made in 1996 for Nickelodeon. Worth to see!

Τhe book Zoom (1995) by Istvan Banyai in animation.
The (very) short animation film Zoom (1996) by Istvan Banyai for Nickelodeon, which earned second design award in 1997 at ASIFA-East Animation Festival awards.

We read a book, watched movies, now it’s time to play! The purpose of the game we made inspired by the book Zoom is to guess what the food and sweets shown are, while depicted in a very small size. Don’t zoom in, because that way the meaning of the game gets lost… Attention! If you are reading the article from a computer or tablet, open it from your mobile phone, because the sizes have been calculated for a mobile screen. Good luck!

We hope you enjoyed the games we made! You can also download them in pdf format by clicking the following button:

Happy sweet games everyone!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Hello!!! Thank for recommending this particular blog to me. I read and watched the videos too. I love this concept of a Wordless book. It’s really very interesting and enjoyable. The books without words, as you say, have more to say than books with words. A great piece of writing. 🙂


    1. Thank you so much for your kind words!! Have a nice day!!


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