Hunters of the Great Forest by Dennis Nolan
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: October 28, 2014
On a warm night, a band of hunters sets out on a journey. As they travel over hills, through thickets of trees, and around mountains, nothing will keep them from their ultimate goal. What that goal is may surprise you. Dennis Nolan's remarkable, imaginative illustrations lead the way in this wordless picture book about an epic journey.
This is not going to a regular book review, but rather a commentary on wordless picture books. I have long been a fan of the wordless picture book format, the first book I remember loving being Sector 7 by David Weisner. I would spend countless minutes poring over the cutout diagrams in Cathedral and analyzing the dinosaurs in Dinotopia. Since I was a child myself though, I was curious how a child reacts to a wordless picture book.
Now, I have no children. The librarian thinks I do based on the amount of children's books I check out of the library, but as of now the only guniea pigs I have are that of my niece and nephews. I am the book aunt. They know it. I know it. I buy them books, I read them books, and I even ask about other books they have read recently. When I walked in the other day and told them I brought some books for us to read, the five-year-old's eyes lit up and the two and a half-year-old didn't care. As I have mentioned in some previous posts, there were books they didn't care about (The Last Christmas Tree), some that they showed excitement for (Piggie & Elephant #21), and then there was this wordless picture book that I had only glanced through. The first time we "read" through it, my five-year-old nephew curled up beside (the two year old was stepping on the other books) we just looked at the pictures, commenting on what we saw.
"Again," he said. "But this time we will read the story.
"But there are no words," I explained.
"No. You read one page and I will read the other."
So we went back through the book, this time we beginning with, "Once Upon a Time..." and us taking turns. The most important and adorable part of this story is how he would run his little finger across the page as if he was reading and following along with actual words. "Again," he said when we had finished. So we "read" it again, this time he taking the lead, "Once In a Time..." The fourth time he insisted on making up the story by himself. I think we would have read it again if I hadn't stopped it at this point.
What did I learn? I saw a readiness for reading, an affinity for storytelling, a book that helped spur the imagination of a kindergartener. I saw excitement, laughter, and everything that is necessary to tell a good story all rolled up in one beautiful picture book with no words.