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The Book With No Pictures: B. J. Novak

Book: The Book With No Pictures
Author: B. J. Novak
Pages: 48
Age Range: 5-8

The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak is clearly a gimmick. It's a picture book that doesn't have any pictures. Even the cover is just plain white with black text. The idea is that if you have a book that only has words in it, the adult's job is to read all of the words to the child. This is true even if (especially if) the words make the adult sound foolish. Like "BLORK", "BLuuRF" or "I am a monkey who taught myself to read." So the kid feels powerful by forcing the adult to keep reading, even as the book gets sillier and sillier. 

Novak does use different font sizes and colors to jazz things up a bit. There is primary text that the adult is supposed to be reluctantly reading, as well as smaller, secondary text that seems to reflect the response of the reader to the primary text. Like this:

Big font, last three lines in huge red letters:

"My only friend in the
whole wide world is
a hippo named

Then in small font:


I'm afraid that I can't comment on how this book works with an actual child, however, as my four year old flat-out refuses to let us read this book to her. She says: "Maybe when I'm older", which is her diplomatic way of telling us that something is just not for her. But I do think that this book could work well when read aloud to a slightly older child, one with a developed enough sense of humor to appreciate the feeling of having power over the adult reader.

I do have to give Novak (and the publisher) points for originality and downright chutzpah. They have produced a picture book that doesn't have any pictures, and people are reading it. It's kind of the antithesis of the trend by which books for older and older children have illustrations.

I don't personally think that The Book With No Pictures is going to hold up over the long-term, and become any sort of classic in picture books, or even hold up in the home for repeated reads. But it's an interesting idea, executed about as well as it could be. And it's likely to generate a bit of buzz for picture books in general, which I think is a good thing.

By all means, public libraries should purchase The Book With No Pictures, because people will be curious about it. It is original and entertaining. But I don't think we'll be adding this one to our home library. 

Publisher: Dial (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Source of Book: Library copy, checked out for Round 1 Cybils consideration in Fiction Picture Books. All opinions are my own. 

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon and iBooks affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).