Wordless Asian Picture Books

by Lori

I’ve long been enamored by wordless books. They force the reader to be more involved in the reading, have a way of capturing the imagination more than books with text, and tend to reveal more of their secrets each time they are reread. When my girls and I started reading our way around the world, and I started coming across wordless books by artists from different countries, I began to wonder if the subject matter contained in wordless books would translate. From my experience, it does. For this post I am focusing on wordless books that have been published recently by artists from eastern Asia. My hope is that you consider adding more wordless books to your shelves and library lists after seeing these. All of these artists have other books available. Let us know if you pick any of them up, or if you know of any others!


Written by JiHyeon Lee
Illustrated by JiHyeon Lee
English copyright by Chronicle Books
From South Korea
Published by Chronicle Books

Pool is a fantastical story about diving into friendship despite fear. A child arrives at an empty pool, looking unsure, and is left feeling trepidatious when a crowd of rowdy swimmers arrives and takes over the pool. After hanging back, the child finally dives in, finds a kindred spirit below the hubbub, and together they enter a previously unseen world of mythical creatures including a huge, hairy white whale. When the two leave the pool on the opposite side from which they arrived, they are smiling and have clearly left their fears behind. The use of blank space on the pages showing the pool keeps the reader focused on the main character’s facial expressions, and is a wonderful contrast to the full page illustrations that show the pairs’ underwater adventure. The linear story is easy to follow, even for young readers.

The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky

Written by Kim Jihyun
Illustrated by Kim Jihyun
Rights arranged by S.B. Rights Agency – Stephanie Barrouillet
From South Korea
Published by Floris Books

The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky is a stunning wordless book that opens with a child playing in a room strewn with toys. We watch as a car heads out of the city to a house in the countryside where the child greets older adults. After looking around the house, the child sets off with a dog down a path into the woods where the fauna is explored, and a dock is seen jutting into a lake. The child jumps in with a splash, plays with fish, and surfaces to bask in the sun on the dock. Heading home, the child is greeted by the family, and afterwards stares, awestruck, at the stars above. This oversized book with full-bleed illustrations pulls readers into an exploration of the power of nature to inspire awe and encourage inner peace.


Written by Suzy Lee
Illustrated by Suzy Lee
From South Korea
Published by Chronicle Books

Wave is a deceptively simple story about a girl and a wave and the fun they have at the beach. Throughout the story, the girl creeps toward the sea, taunting it, daring it to come closer, before crossing the page to splash in the surf. As the wave grows, she runs back to the beach, sticks out her tongue at it, and gets clobbered. Nature has won, but left her with a consolation prize in the smattering of shells left on the beach. Although I did not notice them at first (my daughter did), the seagulls are a funny addition to the story. They mimic the girl in her taunts, but also know when the wave is going to crash on her, and get out of the way. Using bold lines, only 2 colors, and page spreads wisely, Suzy Lee is able to masterfully tell a universal story of childhood joy, and the power of nature. 

The Only Child

Written by Guojing
Illustrated by Guojing
From China
Published by Schwartz & Wade Books an imprint of Penguin Random House

International Award Winner The Only Child is an exploration of loneliness and isolation, which is based on the author’s experience as an only child living in China, which had a strict one-child policy until recently. Scenes of urban China fill many of the multiple-paneled pages in the beginning of this crossover picture book/graphic novel. A young child, left home alone, becomes increasingly bored before deciding to set off to her grandmother’s house. When the girl becomes lost in the woods, she follows a mysterious stag, which carries her off to a magical world in the clouds where she is surrounded by friends. Fun ensues, until the stag realizes he must take the child home where she is loved. The pencil-drawn illustrations manage to convey an amazing amount of feeling and depth. The story will be a comfort to anyone who has ever felt alone.

Meet Lori

My name is Lori. My family and I live in New Jersey in the United States. My husband and I have two daughters, 5 years old and 3 years old, and two 11 year old cats named Kalina and Tiger. Growing up I wanted to become a teacher, but it wasn’t until college that I decided to become a special education teacher, which is what I have been doing now for 17 years. I love finding new ways to reach and teach kids. Besides reading (mostly picture books), I love to cook for my family. I hate ketchup, but love all other tomato based products. We all love to garden, but this year the neighborhood bunnies have been reaping most of the rewards of that endeavor. Find more of my book posts at Kids Read the World.