there really are no pictures!

written and (not) illustrated by BJ Novak - Penguin Putnam, 2014
ages 4 to 8 but older kids will respond too / funny, language

There's quite the craze happening for this book - simply because it's heaps of fun! It really is a book with no pictures, but. There are typeface changes, colour changes and white space. Which all go together to give it plenty of life.

While it relies on a comic reading, that’s not to say it has to be an enthusiastic comic reading – deadpan will work, wry will work, exhausted will work – pretty much anything will do the trick. The book carries the reader.

Basically, it’s a conversation between the reader and the book. The listener is invited along for the ride and invited to whole-heartedly laugh at both book and reader. It absolutely works.

Funny is great. It’s worth reading just because it’s funny and unexpected. There’s more to do though. I’m forever saying things like … don’t labour the book etc … but after a couple of laugh out loud readings, this is a great book for early literacy. 

Young kids could try coming up with new words to substitute for all the coloured words. Some of the coloured words are nonsense words like ‘blork’. 

Nonsense words in the context of a book are a great early writing exercise because you kind of can’t go wrong. Too many consonants in a row can easily be fixed with the addition of a vowel or two and that’s a great conversation to have about writing. But otherwise: spelling isn’t an issue, context isn’t an issue and grammar isn’t an issue - brilliant for early or struggling writers.

It also lends itself to short-grab story writing. Finding substitutes for “Also I am a Robot Monkey” is doable for even the most creatively shy child.

And there’s rhyme to work with: “glug, glug, glug, my face is a bug” can become “glug, glug, glug ,my face is ….jug, mug, shrug” and so on – it doesn’t have to make sense. 

There are just a lot of good times to be had playing with The Book With No Pictures at home or in the classroom.

There’s a website here and the tab for teachers has a few discussion questions. I’d suggest they'd be better used with older kids – maybe even early high school aged – because the last thing you want to do with a book as fun as this one (or any book actually) is turn it into a test. Keep it fun I say, and the learning will just happen.

For older kids (10 and above, say) this is a great book to open up questions like those on the website. Older kids will be able to see how it is funny and start thinking about what makes something funny and how the unexpected can cause us to re-think assumptions.  

Here's BJ Novak (the author, but also from The Office in case you're wondering where you've heard the name) reading. It’s very cute, but don’t feel that you have to read the same way. The book really will do all the work and pretty much any way you read it will be funny. And, even though BJ is clever and funny, don’t feel that you have to be.

The best experiences always come from reading in person with people who know and love each other.

You can buy The Book With No Pictures via these direct links: Amazon - Book Depository - Booktopia