Alexandra Kowal ‘14 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
To say that B.J. Novak has a great stage presence would be an understatement.
Novak graced the stage of the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square on October 2nd to present his new children’s book, The Book With No Pictures. The book is fairly self-explanatory, as it is a book for children that contains only words. The design is very sparse, with black words on a white background, and just the occasional splash of color.
What’s striking is how sincere Novak is about making a book that children will wholeheartedly enjoy. In a brilliant and kind move, he invites the children in the audience onto the stage with him for his reading. Four children join him and become a source of hilarity throughout the event. First, they face the audience and Novak has to ask them to turn around to listen to the story. He jokes about how it’s nice to have an audience watching you and how they might just end up as performers someday too.
Once the children are settled, Novak begins to read his book. It is a story that really lends itself to an actor’s voice, as it is mainly meant to be read to children by their parents. The book is full of funny words and the reader is obliged to say every one. The children crack up as Novak “blorks” and “blurghs.” He really engages with them and proves that he is a wonderful performer with his reading. When the question and answer session begins, the children, of course, get the first opportunity to ask questions. One child asks the author if there are any other books without pictures; Novak lets him know that he is in luck. Then the session is opened up to the adults of the audience.
Novak fields questions on how it’s different to write humor for adults and for children, whether he has a dark side, and what character he would play if he were in a Shakespearean play (Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing, but only with Mindy Kaling as Beatrice).
When asked about the editing process, Novak described how he was very present in designing the layout. Before being published, he printed his own “book with no pictures” so that his target readers – children – could give him feedback on it using a physical copy. Novak then sent out ten handwritten copies to publishers and was eventually picked up by Penguin Young Readers Group.
The event concluded with B.J.’s book signing.
The Harvard Bookstore did a great job in organizing. The sign-in was easy, and every guest got a free copy of The Book With No Pictures with their ticket. Copies of Novak’s previous book, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, were also available for purchase. The line for the signing took a very long time to get through, but Harvard Bookstore employees attempted to speed up the process by having everyone write their names on Post-It Notes so Novak could personalize everyone’s books more easily.
Overall, B.J. Novak’s book signing was a thoroughly enjoyable event. Hopefully, The Book With No Pictures will be the first of many children’s books by this multi-talented man.