OK, this is NOT a wordless book. But it earns its place on this website because the language used is an invented one – a made-up ‘bug’ dialect – that isn’t spoken anywhere in the known world.
Because these words aren’t ‘official’, they don’t technically provide a recognisable written narrative. Yet we invest these invented words with meaning by imagining what the bugs could be saying. And we are helped in this by the pattern of the language, which will be familiar to many readers.
This extraction of meaning is an individual process for each of us, and in this respect it is similar to the way in which we make sense of pictures in a wordless picturebook.
As in a traditional wordless title, the sequential images have to be examined closely so that we can create our own version of the story. Likewise with the made-up words. In conjunction with the images, the words need to be read carefully to deduce what they might mean. Luckily this isn’t anything like as hard as it sounds.
The story shows a group of insects discovering a small green shoot emerging from the ground. At first they wonder what it is; then, as the plant grows larger, they realise they can climb on it.
Soon the plant has grown so tall that the insects need a ladder to reach the next level of leaves. Much discussion goes on in bug language and it is fun to guess what the creepy-crawlies might be saying.
Even the night-time creatures are fascinated by the plant, with a snail coming to investigate it and a melodious cricket serenading it from a nearby log. (A log upon which hangs a strange object.)
Danger threatens in the form of a giant spider, and drama ensues when the spider is defeated.
The real excitement, though, happens when the plant suddenly produces a magnificent flower – or ‘gladdenboot’ in bug language. All the insects admire the wonderful creation and gaze at it in awe.
But what grows also decays. The natural cycle of life moves along its inevitable course and sadly the plant withers and dies.
There is still one surprise in store, though, and it has something to do with the strange object suspended from the log…
Carson Ellis is a Canadian-born illustrator now living in America. She has illustrated several children’s books and is both author and illustrator of the picturebook Home.
Du Iz Tak? is a Caldecott Honor Book and a recipient of an E. B. White Read Aloud Award.