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Jimmy Fallon took a 10-minute break on Good Friday to talk about something great that happened in his career — he snagged a spot on the New York Times best-sellers list for the fifth time.
The affable late night veteran earned the distinction for his latest children’s book with illustrator Miguel Ordoñez, Nana Loves You More, from Macmillan imprint Feiwel & Friends. It follows the success of Fallon’s previous children’s titles, Your Baby’s First Words Will Be Dada, Everything Is Mama, This Is Baby and Five More Sleeps ‘Til Christmas, all of which debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-sellers list. (Ordoñez is responsible for illustrations on the first four titles.)
“It’s the most bizarre and unexpected ride that I ever could even imagine,” says Fallon over the telephone while taking a brief break from checking out the new Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga with his daughters, Francie and Winnie, with wife Nancy Juvonen. “I did the first book, Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada, as kind of a joke because I thought it’d be kind of funny to see if an experiment to make your baby say dada before mama could work. I swear that’s all it was — and then it took off. [My publisher] asked if I would like to do another one, and I said that I would have to do ‘Mama,’ obviously because I have two girls.”
Thus started a franchise of sorts even if he admits he’s still learning the ropes in the kiddie industry. “This isn’t even my wheelhouse, but I’m getting better the more and more I do these and understand how to rhyme better and add new words,” says the 47-year-old Emmy and Grammy Award winner. “But also you have to write in a way that keeps the interests of both kids and adults, especially when they have to read the same book thousands of times, as parents do.”
Fallon has said Nana Loves You More is his favorite entry in the bunch, and he credits illustrator Ordoñez with crafting the “cutest characters” for the sweet story, centered on the deep well of a grandmother’s love. “It’s colorful, it’s simple, it’s got a nice message,” explains Fallon. “It’s a little weepy, but not too cry-y, because I do have those books that make you cry and choke up, and they’re too sad for me — but this one is just perfect. It rides the line between funny and sweet. It’s a book for all those grandmas out there — abuelas, nanas, gammas, Gigi, whatever you call your grandma — to get together with the kid, read and make some memories.”
He says he had an impromptu dance party with his daughters upon hearing the news about the New York Times distinction. But after shaking out the celebration, the obvious question becomes — what’s next for Fallon in his newfound children’s book universe?
“I have a Grandpa or Papa idea, and I’m working on it. It’s going to go more back into the comedy of it all and is a less weepy version — I know how to close a franchise. So, I’m working on that now. But this one’s going to be funny or more to the tune of Dada kind of thing,” he reveals. “These books are small and thin but they take years to work on. I’m such a perfectionist and a nitpicker, so I want to make sure this looks a certain way and that the color is perfect. I work hard on them, and I’m so proud of the way [this one] landed. I’m just so excited and grateful. I’m a very lucky man.”
A version of this story first appeared in the April 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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