A longtime fan of The Office (both versions), I was very excited when I discovered that B. J. Novak, writer, actor and executive producer of the show, wrote a book of short stories, One More Thing. And I bought it and it is very good, just as I anticipated. I was very surprised when I learned that B.J. Novak had written a picture book. I am prepared to gape in awe and wonder when someone writes a whole book that is good (as Amy Poehler so honestly states in her book, YES PLEASE, the act of writing is "hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not.") That said, I am always prepared to be underwhelmed and even infuriated when anyone, regardless of their other writing credentials, writes a picture book. Writing a truly good picture book is REALLY HARD. The Book With No Pictures neither underwhelmed nor infuriated me. It impressed me. And it tickled me. And I read it out loud about 25 times in one week to every single student who visited the library. And I never grew tired of reading The Book With No Pictures out loud. I loved changing up my voices and anticipating where the laughs would come, depending on what grade level I was reading the book to. Since I (finally) slapped a barcode on The Book With No Pictures and set it free into the world of my students, it has not sat on the shelf for more than the length of time it takes to read the book and has a long list of hold requests.
Like the brilliant Press Here by the creatively clever Hervé Tullet, The Book With No Pictures is radically different from anything that has come before, which is, in part, why kids love it. And, like Press Here, The Book With No Pictures is an interactive book. Where Press Here has the reader shaking, tapping and blowing on the book, Novak's book has the reader saying ridiculous things because, as the text knowingly tells listeners, "Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say." In fact, there is even a warning on the back jacket of the book ominously promising that you "will end up saying SILLY THINGS" if a kid (who is probably playing a trick on you) gets you to read this book.
Novak begins The Book With No Pictures with these words, "This is a book with no pictures. It might seem like no fun to have someone read you a book with no pictures. It probably seems boring and serious." After that set up, comes the above page. I think you can guess how the rest of the book goes, and if you are not entirely sure, definitely watch the clip below of Novak reading his book out loud to a room full of kids. Watch it anyway. He is VERY good at reading this book out loud. Then go buy it for your kids.
Here is a pretty great (despite the lame intro) interview with Novak where he discusses the genesis of The Book With No Pictures and it's pretty much exactly how I would have wished the book to be conceived. Novak wanted to make kids laugh, and an interaction with a friend's two-year-old who wanted to be read a book got his wheels turning. Even better, and something I don't think a lot of picture book authors actually do, Novak created a dummy of the book and READ IT TO A CHILD. Then he went back and edited it. Just in case you choose not to click through, here is an excerpt:
While I was poking around the interwebs to write this review, I also discovered an interview with B.J. Novak at Hello Giggles conducted by his (fictional, I quickly learned) little sister, Keough Novak. Still a high school student, Keough is quite the snark master. In fact, since 2012, she has had her own Twitter feed written by Novak (and his younger brothers?) and has 21,000 followers. Here is some of Keough/B.J.'s timely humor: