Define a rule, and then proceed to show kids how they can manipulate it to their advantage. Everyone knows, kids delight in that kind of power. This book makes adults who are reading it say very silly things. Because, well, that’s the rule.
I read The Book with No Pictures, by standup comedian, actor, writer, director, and executive producer, B.J. Novak, aloud to all the kindergarten through 3rd grade classes before the winter break, and it was a ridiculous amount of fun. For inspiration, I watched this video of the author reading his book to a group of kids, and I’m so glad I did. How else would I know how to sing the page about how I eat ants right off the rug for breakfast?
When I reached the marathon gibberish page that starts with “Gluur Ga-wocko ma grumph a-doo…” for about the 10th time, I decided to ask for student volunteers to try it. It’s a challenge! The kids loved getting to attempt it, so I used more volunteers for other silly pages.
At the end of the story, I asked, “What would happen if you handed this book to your dad and asked him to read to you?” (chuckles) “Or your grandma?” (guffaws) “Or how about the principal?” (completely lost it) They howled, naming all the people they’d like to make read it to them. Let that sink in for a moment–early elementary kids gleefully plotting what adults they will make read a book to them. That’s a win on so many levels.
Does this book foster a positive connection to the printed word? Does it ever.
Will adult curmudgeons sniff their noses and declare it is too silly? Maybe.
Do I wish it didn’t include the words “Boo Boo Butt?” Yes, so I whisper those words.
Is it ever going to be on the shelf again this year? Not likely.
One adorable little boy wanted it so earnestly, he stopped in the library nearly every day to see if I was done reading it to the other classes so he could check it out. When he returned it, he told me all about reading it with his dad, his mom, and his grandma. One of them may now be a recovering curmudgeon.
Next time, I think I’ll add a coloring page activity after reading this book. I downloaded these two PDF’s from the Bryce Don’t Play blog.
More info about the book and the author can be found here, http://thebookwithnopictures.com/. On the Teacher page, there’s a link to a 10-minute excerpt from B.J. Novak’s keynote address to the American Library Association, including the inspiration for the book, his process of testing it, and (my favorite part) about his epiphany that when a child hands you a book to read them, they are essentially a little producer, handing you a script:
“Here’s what you’ll be performing tonight.
These are your lines.
Feel free to make it your own, but stick to the script.
I may ask you to do it a second time.”