Here’s the sneaky thing about books for young kids: They give those kids quite a lot of power over you the reader. The kids get to choose the book you’ll read to them, and then . . . whatever the words on the page say, you as reader HAVE to say. Out loud. Even if those words are tremendously silly and embarrassing and make you seem completely and utterly preposterous.
That’s the sly, ingenious, irresistible premise of B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures. You probably know B.J. as Ryan Howard on “The Office,” or as a supporting actor in the movies “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Inglourious Basterds,” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” I hope you know that he was also a writer of “The Office”; and if you’re lucky, you have already read his excellent, acclaimed short story collection One More Thing.
But none of us knew B.J. Novak as a child whisperer—as one of the rare class of grownups who understand what makes young kids giggle. Boy, does he understand! I had the pleasure of watching him read his book aloud to a group of first graders. They didn’t know him from his acting roles, but he knew them—he knew what they found unbelievably funny. Words like blork and bluurf and badoongy-face. Hearing an adult forced to talk in a robot-monkey voice, and to sing a song about eating ants for breakfast, all the while protesting that “this isn’t the kind of book I wanted to read.” I still have that roar of first-grade laughter in my head.
You don’t need to be a comedian like B.J. Novak to read this book successfully, though. I’ve tested it with lots of my colleagues and friends and family. Everybody is funny when reading this book. Deadpan, singsong, completely over the top goofy . . . doesn’t matter. It always works. And I am especially fond of B.J.’s hidden agenda: to teach young kids—through this hilarity—that words are exciting. That words are powerful. This picture book, you see, doesn’t have a single picture in it, not even a jacket-flap picture of the author himself. Just words—goofy, nonsensical, wonderful words!
Bonk. (I didn’t want to say that. The kids made me do it.)
This innovative and wildly funny read-aloud by award-winning humorist/actor B.J. Novak will turn any reader into a comedian. Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, The Book with No Pictures is one that kids will beg to hear again and again. (And parents will be happy to oblige.)