What are silent books? Simply put, silent books are books without words. This description might unsurprisingly lead one to ask, “How can a book tell a story if it doesn’t have words?” Rather than using text, these books use the power of images to tell their stories. Rich with visual language, wordless books can tell simple and linear tales or complex stories, and they push the boundaries of
artistic and creative expression.
These books have been particularly useful within migrant and refugee communities because translation is not an issue. Transcending the limitations of words, the same book can be “read” by children who speak different languages.
About the Silent Book Exhibition
In response to the waves of refugees from Africa and the Middle East arriving in the Italian island, Lampedusa, IBBY launched the project “Silent Books, from the world to Lampedusa and back” in 2012. The project involved creating the first library on Lampedusa to be used by local and immigrant children. The second part required creating a collection of silent books (wordless picture books) that could be understood and enjoyed by children regardless of language.
Through IBBY, the project “Silent Books. Final Destination Lampedusa”, has collected the best children’s books without words – Silent Books. This collection contained books with pictures telling stories that words cannot tell, rich in sensations, dreams and memories emanating from their characters’ silence to overcome the language barrier and foster encounters among different cultures.
This set of books was deposited at the documentation and research archive in Rome (Palazzo della Esposizioni), a set delivered to the library in Lampedusa and a further set was part of a travelling exhibition. There are, to date, three collections of Silent Books. The Silent Books Collection 2013 comprises 110 books and has toured as an exhibition to Italy, Mexico, Canada, Austria, and Germany with further exhibitions planned in Belgium and France. The Silent Books Collection 2015, comprising 51 books, has been displayed in Italy, New Zealand and United Arab of Emirates.
The third collection, The Silent Books Collection 2017 travelling exhibition was launched in September 2017 on Lampedusa. It has toured to Greece and now in United Arab of Emirates. This collection comprises 79 books from 20 countries chosen from submissions made by IBBY National Sections. As you may have noticed, the collection on display consists of more than just 79 books, rather there are 87. The reason is, we have proudly added the first Emirati Silent Books to the exhibition, all of which were published in the United Arab Emirates.
First Emirati Silent Book Exhibition
The UAE has achieved a new literary milestone by bringing out its first home grown silent books collection. Supported by the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY), the eight Emirati wordless picture books elevate the UAE’s international stature as a hub of literary innovation and appeal, especially in the children’s booksindustry. The UAEBBY’s support to these books is in line with its commitment to develop the capabilities of illustrators and writers of children’s literature in the UAE and encourage them to enrich their knowledge and experience in the field by motivating them to explore story ideas that resonate with children’s imaginations
regardless of their language or reading abilities. Where UAEBBY organised an intensive workshop for a group of Emirati illustrators with the Finnish illustrator Emmi Jormalainen on the fringe of hosting the exhibition
in 2017. The outcome of this workshop was the first Emirati collection that is added to the current exhibition.