He may be an Emmy and Grammy Award winner, as well as the beloved host of The Tonight Show and a proud dad to two daughters, Winnie, 6, and Frances, 4, but Jimmy Fallon never anticipated that he'd be a New York Times-bestselling author.
"It's the best, it's the greatest thing in the world," Fallon says. "It's so fun. I never thought I'd ever do it in my lifetime. It's craziness. I never thought I'd be in the kids' book business, or in that world at all, but it's really fun and rewarding to see kids reading [my books] and parents reading them with their kids and kids chewing on them."
But after winning rave reviews his 2015 children's picture book debut Your Baby's First Word Will Be DADA and following it up with another hit, Everything Is MAMA, in 2017, it only made sense that he would come out with a third "novel" (as he jokingly referred to it on The Tonight Show back in April) called This Is Baby, which came out this week.
Macmillan Children’s Publishing
"DADA did really well, and MAMA did really well, so I wanted to do another one to continue in that series, and I thought Baby was just the perfect one for the third installment," Fallon explains. But the big question was whether or not the book would feature just animals—like the first two books—or human babies, as well. "I asked our illustrator Miguel Ordóñez, 'You draw humans? You must!' And so, he drew these babies, and they're the cutest things, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is perfect, we have to do this.'"
What Makes This Is Baby Unique, According to Jimmy
Fallon jokes that this book is also different in that it has more words than DADA and MAMA. The rhyming picture book centers on teaching your little one all about their different "parts of baby" from their ears to lips to "arms that are made for super-hugging!"
But extra words aside, the book's format allows for either a super-speedy or lengthy creative reading, the author points out. "The thing about my books is you can read them as fast as possible or as slow as possible," Fallon says. "Speaking as a tired parent, there are three books I usually read to the kids before they go to sleep, and so, usually that third book, I'm like, 'Let's hurry up and get this over with.' You can finish this whole book in 30 seconds or you can be extra-descriptive, like, 'Oh, that boy is friends with an octopus. How many arms does an octopus have? What color is it?' You can branch out into other stories from the pages in this book, and it could go as long as you want, or finish real quick and go to sleep."
He sees the book as a perfect read not just for parents but grandparents or other loved ones who might be visiting or babysitting. "If they want to interact with the baby and teach them to touch their toes and their fingers, or say, 'Where are your eyes? Your eyes are right there! That's your eyes!'" Fallon says. "So, you can teach them as they're reading the book, and it's more interactive, and it'll make the baby want to read as they grow up."
Macmillan Children's Publishing
How His Daughters & Wife Inspired His Writing
A major driving factor behind Fallon's foray into children's books was his motivation to foster a love of reading among kids—his own included, of course. "I grew up loving books," Fallon says. "My mom would drop us off at the library and have us spend the whole day there."
So, when he and his wife, producer Nancy Juvonen, welcomed their girls, they started reading with them as soon as they were born. "We'd pick up and read any book, just so they could understand what books are," Fallon says. "Now, we have a full-on routine, read three books each, and I split it up with my wife."
They've also come up with their very own creative storytelling routine. "We'll also say, 'OK, let's make up a story,'" Fallon explains. "I say, 'Give me a letter in the alphabet.' They're like, 'G.' I say, 'Give me a number.' They say, 'Eight.' I'm like, 'OK, here's a story about the eight goats.' It's fun, but now we have to do every single night, so be careful what you wish for."
But it paid off. "Frances is too little, but Winnie is reading on her own now, which is great," he says. "She loves the Mo Willems' books, the Elephant & Piggie books. She also loves tracing paper now. She'll trace the words and the elephant and show us and read us what that page is."
Winnie and Frances have also offered their input for all three books. Fallon shares, "They'll be like, 'Oh I like fish' or 'I like elephants!' When I did MAMA, my youngest was really into giraffes, so I had to put a giraffe in there eating noodles. They're really playful kids."
He shares that Juvonen also weighs in on the process, noting, "She's really my inspiration on everything I do, with this and the show and live in general."
Macmillian Children's Publishing
How Other Parents & Kids Have Motivated Jimmy
"When I did DADA, it was kind of a joke, but then people started to send me videos of their kids reading the book to them, at like 1 year old," Fallon says. "And they're laughing. I go, 'Oh my gosh, this is awesome. These kids are laughing about reading!' I'm building their confidence. This is so fun. It's so rewarding."
Macmillian Children's Publishing
Fallon says started with baby books because his girls were babies at the time, but as they get older, his target audience might, as well. "The older my kids are getting, the more I'll branch out and write more," he says. "Eventually I’m going to start writing full-on kids' books and then maybe teen books. I'll see what they’re into and how I can keep it interesting and keep them reading."
Although he admits parenting has its challenging moments ("That Barbie Dreamhouse is really tough," Fallon notes. "I'm sitting there, it's like two in the morning, and I'm putting the sticker on Barbie's paella dish!"), the author believes reading is one way to make the most of time with your kids.
"It's weird that everyone tells you, 'It goes by so fast,' but they're right," he says. "Another reason I did this book is to give parents more quality time with their kids. The next thing you know, they’re going to be teenagers, and they're not gonna want to read with you. So, read with them, play with them, have fun with them, and make more memories."