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Simply Wordless

Wordless picture books may be an unfamiliar medium but for those who have enjoyed and had success with them, you are looking for more. A common usage is writing text for each picture or narrating verbally. At a more basic level, teaching the grammatical elements of telling a story, identifying a verb, labeling adjectives, putting pictures in a sequence, and matching verb tense across several pictures. Beyond that there are many other interesting activities though today I want to use my space here to profile a series which exists mainly as a 9-block comic strip.



Anywhere But Here by Japanese artist Mickey Tori originally appeared as a feature in the twice monthly magazine TV Bros. The comic strip often contained a surreal narrative, referencing many common elements of Japanese society and life, such as; train travel, setsubun, particular Japanese New Year’s customs, onigiri, the public bath, the classic story of Momo Taro, crazy game shows, and many others. All the strips are wordless, often containing a pun or a twist or a puzzling end necessary to contemplate, in order to uncover the meaning. Some have more mature themes and my best advice is to choose and photocopy the particular ones that are appropriate and useful to your needs, rather than to hand the books over to students.


The above “Flower-Head” story is a wonderful example of social commentary on what constitutes fashion, along with a tongue-in-cheek pun only discoverable in the Japanese language. (*Note that the art follows Japanese order going from top right to left).


This “Alien-Encounter” narrative gives nothing more than is absolutely necessary to reach the conclusion.


Special Event” at the local supermarket yields an unanticipated prize.


Mickey Tori’s Century” is the only instance among the 5 volumes that the artist created something so intricate and detailed as to require 36 blocks. This one has been particularly interesting to use with older adults, to identify chronological news and cultural events, as seen on TV in Japan. There is no defined “key” to this cartoon. Encounter along with your students.


I hope this was stimulating and has left you with some new ideas. I plan to follow this up later with a very different set of Japanese wordless picture books, if there is interest.  If anything here leaves you with more questions please post below. Any comments most welcome. Thanks for checking this out.  

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