mostly-wordlessIn his principally wordless slender collected work, Jed Alexander’s artwork dances and flows across the pages, celebrating the whimsy and imagination of young children. The first of the eight vignettes and stories, “Ella and The Pirates,” takes the reader on a journey across the water to a land filled with adventure, swordplay, and pirate treasure. A change in the colour palette as the protagonists sit down to eat a small picnic reveals that the entire adventure may have taken place in their imaginations. But wait—a small spot of green hints that perhaps the parrot from the land across the sea may actually have followed them home. The second offering, “Midnight Snack,” is a very short nonsense poem illustrated in an appropriately whimsical manner. “Rainy Day” is a short vignette, offering the reader more of a stimulus for the imagination than a story. The cover illustration and the end papers are from this three-page dream sequence.

The next four vignettes feature the same young girl, Ella, in various playful antics. She is magnificent as a dancer, portrayed with a great deal of motion, her face filled with determination and pride. There is an equal amount of joy and movement in the artist’s portrayal of Ella interacting with a large exercise ball, as girl and ball gracefully roll and bounce across three double-page spreads. Unlike the previous story, “The Dancer,” “Girl Meets Ball” utilizes a variety of colourful backdrop splashes of colour in the romp of girl and ball. The young ballerina, splendid in teal outfit and shoes, dances only in a pink spotlight of colour. She appears again in a double-page spread composed of four individual illustrations as she transforms into a witch. “Transformation” is followed by “Beatnik,” another double-page spread that with a few simple lines aptly captures both the premise and the attitude of the young girl as she dances to an eternal beat. The final piece is an adaptation of the nursery rhyme “Jack be Nimble.” Ironically, in an almost wordless book, the familiar words for the entire rhyme are incorporated into the story of an athletic mouse as he warms up and accomplishes his historic jump over the candlestick.

There are heaps of movement, joy, gentle colour, and prods to the imagination in this collection, which is essentially a vehicle for Alexander’s playful illustrations with occasional nods to linear narratives. The pages do not include gutters, so the simple illustrations flow naturally and continuously over and through the pages. Blues, grays, and greens permeate the pages, highlighted with spots of pinks and golds. The book can be read and re-read by people of all ages, shared between children and their caregivers, used as story starters in language arts, and as an exemplifier of delightful, unpretentious, and realistically expression-filled character sketches.

(Mostly) Wordless
by Jed Alexander
ISBN: 9781934460337
Alternative Comics, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: All ages

  • Gail

    | She/Her Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta


    In addition to teaching at the School of Library and Information Studies (University of Alberta) where she is an adjunct professor, Gail tells stories and conducts workshops on a wide variety of topics across Canada and the United States. Each year she teaches the following courses for the University of Alberta. All of her courses are delivered online: Storytelling, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries, Canadian Children’s Literature for School and Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. She also teaches a course on Indigenous Literature for the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program) at the University of Alberta. Gail is the award-winning author of nine books on storytelling and folklore in popular culture.

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