A weekly look at SoCal life covering news, arts and culture, and more.
Hosted by John Rabe
Airs
Arts & Entertainment

BJ Novak writes a children’s book with no pictures, still makes kids laugh




Comedian and author BJ Novak signs copies of
Comedian and author BJ Novak signs copies of "The Book with No Pictures" for students at 52nd Street Elementary School in South Los Angeles
Stephanie Lopez/KPCC
Comedian and author BJ Novak signs copies of
BJ Novak interacting with students at 52nd Street Elementary School.
Stephanie Lopez/KPCC
Comedian and author BJ Novak signs copies of
Students pose with their brand new copy of BJ Novak's book, 'The Book With No Pictures.'
Stephanie Lopez/KPCC
Comedian and author BJ Novak signs copies of
BJ Novak reads his book to students at 52nd Street Elementary School.
Stephanie Lopez/KPCC
Comedian and author BJ Novak signs copies of
BJ Novak donates copies of his book to students at 52nd Street Elementary School.
Stephanie Lopez/KPCC


Listen to story

03:42
Download this story 3MB

Actor, comedian and writer BJ Novak wrote a children's book called "The Book With No Pictures" in 2014, but his work didn't stop there.

This month, Novak and his publisher donated 10,000 copies to First Book, a nonprofit that provides educational materials to low-income families. He stopped at 52nd Street Elementary in South Los Angeles to present the books and give a reading to students.

On writing a children's book

I had this idea of what I would laugh at as a kid, and I often read books to my best friend's kids, my cousin's kids. I am always looking for the funniest book I can find. And as I was reading one, I just had this idea, ‘You know, I think if the book were making me say silly things, that would the funniest thing to a kid.'

A book that looked serious and it made me say these words. And then I thought 'Well, that could be the whole premise of the book.' And then when I thought 'What would the pictures be?' I thought maybe it doesn’t need pictures. And then I thought maybe that’s the hook.

On choosing a title

The whole idea it’s kind of introducing the kids to deadpan and comedy. The book has a kind of formal look to it. It’s white with black text and just words: The Book with No Pictures. And I think that’s the idea. That if you play it straight, it's much funnier when something goes off the rails.

And my favorite thing about its look is that once a kid is in on that joy of the comedy, it’s kind of branding books without pictures as funny, crazy, who-knows what could happen types of experiences. So once a kid associates plain black text on a white page with 'Who knows what could happen?' That’s a very very good message for reading in general.

On donating 10,000 books

When kids have a book that feels brand new, it feels like a toy. It’s shiny, it’s theirs. I think it competes on a whole other level with the other distractions in their lives. And I think if a kid can feel like they own some popular funny fun book as opposed to a video game or a toy or anything else... it really lets books compete. As they should, with sort of the prime spot with a kid's treasure chest.