I am not a father. I am not the father. You are not my father. All of this to say, I don’t have kids, at least not yet. When I do have kids, I’m going to read to them like crazy, as I’m obligated to do by the contract all librarians must sign in blood as part of our initiation. Luckily for me, when the time comes, I’ll have no shortage of quality book options. While there are enough great picture books out there to fill Clifford’s big red bookcases*, the fact that the market is so saturated makes finding an author doing something truly unique with the medium semi-rare. Enter B. J. Novak, who most of us know as the actor who played Ryan the comely temp on The Office. Novak recently had the audacity to release a children’s picture book with no pictures, which he inventively titled The Book With No Pictures.
Kid’s books aren’t my forte, but as far as I know, Novak’s is one of the only picture books, if you can even call it one (it certainly looks, feels, and smells like a picture book), that contains no pictures at all. What kind of kid is going to be into that? I’m betting all sorts of them, because, as you might expect from a pictureless book, there’s real excellence in the words. The book spins goofy gold on the strength of the premise that whatever words are written in the book, the person reading it to the child has to say. With adult readers powerlessly locked in to their story-reading commitment, Novak gradually ratchets up the silliness they have to deliver, and hilarity ensues, hard. For visual evidence of the book’s effect on children, click here.
In addition to providing entertainment, Novak wants the book to introduce kids to “the powerful idea that the written word can be an unending source of mischief and delight.” Mission accomplished, sir. If you’re willing to take advice from a childless man whose job is to serve adults, I say parents, read this book to your kids with gusto, and librarians, add it to your storytime repertoire. Maybe I just want you all to make fools of yourselves. Maybe I want you and your kids to enjoy a unique reading experience. Can’t it be both?
*I do realize that Clifford’s bookcases, if he even has any, are likely not red, and they’re almost certainly not big, considering the whole schtick with Clifford is that he’s a huge dog in a regular-sized world unequipped to handle him. I’m just trying to say there are a lot of good picture books, alright?