Books

the story behind the book

‘The Book With No Pictures’ by B.J. Novak

david wilson for the boston globe

“I’m always looking to get a laugh from everyone,” B.J. Novak says. The Newton native grew up in a family that valued humor, honed his skills at the Lampoon and Hasty Pudding Club at Harvard, then spent nearly a decade writing, producing, and acting in television’s “The Office.”

Once the show ended, he turned his attention to writing, publishing “One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories” earlier this year. That book was for grownups, but his latest project explores new comic territory.

“I love to get a laugh from a kid,” Novak said in a telephone interview. “That is one of the great pleasures in life.” He isn’t a father yet himself, but he’s hit the age when friends are having kids. “I would always ask when I was visiting a house with a little kid: ‘What’s your favorite book? Can I read a book to you?’ I would always hope for a funny book.”

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After a while, he said, he began to wonder: “What’s the kind of book what would be the kids’ dream book? And I thought that it would be a book that would get the grownup to say ridiculous things they didn’t want to say.”

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The result was “The Book With No Pictures,” a perfectly-pitched tool for parental humiliation and childish glee. Its ground rules (“Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say”) soon force formerly dignified grownup readers to say things like, “My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt.”

When told that line sounds like something a kindergartener wrote, Novak says, “Thank you. No, they were all my inventions, but they were kid-approved. That one in particular was a very, very big hit.”

Novak will read today at 2 p.m. at the Wellesley Free Library, 530 Washington St., Wellesley (registration required, at http://wellesley.indiebound.com/event/bj-novak).

Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.