Some picture books are literally just that — stories told entirely with pictures. These new books are so powerful that words aren’t even needed. Children’s creative processes grow when they call on their own imaginations to concoct a story’s text through an art-filled backdrop.

The Whale

By Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow; Templar Books/Candlewick Press; 32 pages; $17.99

Told with black and white pencil sketches and a couple of newspaper articles, the Murrows’ story, The Whale, depicts a boy and a girl who set out to find the truth about whether the giant whale in their town is a hoax.

They build a boat and fill it with cameras and lighting apparatus, head out to sea on a stormy night, and encounter huge waves and rain that splinter the boat. Still, the kids hold on to a mast and manage to film the big beast close-up as it performs jumps and breeches.

When the sun comes up, the kids, still holding onto the splintered mast of their boat, wave to the cheering onlookers watching from a local lighthouse.

Realistic, detailed sketches from Ethan Murrow paint this tall tale with plenty of action-filled drama and ironic twists. Kids of all ages will appreciate the lively art and child-power theme. Murrow’s sketches fill the large pages with all sorts of close-up details.

The imagination aspect of the book adds extra appeal.

The Journey of the Penguin

By Emiliano Ponzi; Penguin Books; 86 pages; $18

Penguin Books has been around for 80 years, and so the iconic publisher celebrates that anniversary with a charming story of a penguin that waddled its way into history.

With lovely retro blue and green hues, the old-fashioned pages of The Journey of the Penguin introduce a lonely Antarctic penguin that sets off on a long swim, arrives in London in the 1930s and auditions to be the face of a new publishing house. He charms everyone, of course, and begins an adventure that takes him to New York to become a star.

The depiction of the beautiful journey at the beginning of the book — a polar bear standing on cracks in arctic ice and a big penguin tear — could either be viewed as climate change’s effects or just an animal’s friends being sad it’s leaving. The penguin takes off swimming ahead of an orca, through a giant octopus’ grasp and under a rainforest tribe on a canoe.

The penguin is homesick at first and seems to wonder its place among people — that is, until it spots the “Do you feel like a star?” audition sign in a London phone booth.

Beautiful, timeless artwork from Emiliano Ponzi tells a satisfying life story of an iconic penguin with charisma and motivation and an intense sense of self. Kids will find much to gaze upon in these 80 lovely pages, and they can make up their own side stories. It’s an appealing tale for all ages!

Little Butterfly

By Laura Logan; Balzer + Bray; 32 pages; $14.99

A little girl rescues a monarch butterfly with a torn wing from her cat and sets it free. Then she falls asleep under her torn orange blanket and dreams that her blanket is wings that allow her to fly off with the help of hundreds of orange butterflies. She flies above rivers and flies with soaring geese, eventually turning into a butterfly herself.

With flowing gray sketches accompanied by orange as the main color, Laura Logan offers a heartfelt story about kindness in Little Butterfly. The little girl’s genuine acts toward the smallest of creatures have the power to alter the butterfly’s course, and her own.

The “butterfly effect,” whether real or in dreams, is transformative. It’s a smart lesson for kids to learn that acts of kindness — large or small — return in spades, and that helping others is heroic.

An author’s note at the back of the book explains Logan’s motivation to use a monarch butterfly in her story. No creature symbolizes growth and change like a butterfly, she says.

Near, Far

By Silvia Borando; Candlewick Press; 44 pages; $14

Very simple but fun, Silvia Borando’s colorful book, Near, Far, is part of the Minibombo book series — “a little book buzzing with a big idea.”

We first see two green hill-like humps against a clean yellow background. On the next page, there are more humps, and the humps eventually become the back of an alligator.

Next up is a curved rectangular shape that becomes a bird’s tail when pages are turned. Other creatures grow in the pages, too.

The point is that things can look so different up close versus far away, and that by looking closer we can see things much differently.

With clean lines and basic shapes, Borando presents a cool-colored little book that’s perfect for preschoolers’ little hands. The appealing cover is vividly orange and shows only a peeking circular eyeball. Sometimes the genius is in simplicity.

— Lee Littlewood writes the Kids’ Home Library column for Creators. The San Diego wife and mom’s pure love of children’s literature helps her stay interested in words and pictures meant for tots to teens. Click here to contact her, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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