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.