Wordless Books we Love: Wimmel Books

A Wordless Book Series We Just Love!

Today, I’d like to take the time to talk about a wordless book series that we absolutely LOVE and that my two year old daughter can never get enough of. It is part of a German genre of books called wimmel books (wimmelbuch or wimmelbilderbuch in German). It can just about engage our whole family, cat included! The direct translation for wimmelbuch is “teeming picture book,” and what stands out in them is how full the illustrations are. They are loaded with characters and action and all sorts of funny details. Our favorite series is by illustrator and graphic designer Susanne Rotraut Berner, and the English version is called “In the Town All Year ‘Round.” All the action takes place on Street No. 26 of a small town, with the inhabitants making continuous appearances throughout the four books in the series.  Each book represents a season: fall, winter, spring and summer. You follow the characters as they go about their daily business throughout the year, watching as their lives unfold from season to season. We just love looking for the escaped parrot, charting the course of construction on the town’s kindergarten, watching a cat family grow and comparing the seasonal backgrounds.

You might not be able to guess this at first glance, but wimmel books actually have their roots in renaissance art and in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel. Since German illustrator Ali Mitgutsch published his first wimmel book in the 1960’s, they’ve become a regular part of children’s literature. They are wonderful for your child’s language development because they provide the opportunity to discover and rediscover a scene within the context of what matters most to them. Children have the luxury of paying selective attention to the details they are most interested in at that moment, examining those details, wondering about the motivations of the characters depicted, and then revisiting those same scenes at a later date only to discover something new. For us, these books never seem to grow old! We wrap up every bedtime routine with one of Susanne Rotraut Berner’s wimmel books, with my daughter’s final bedtime exclamation being “give me wimmel book!”

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