Jimmy Kimmel can now add children’s book author and illustrator to his list of credits.
The late-night host makes his authorial debut with The Serious Goose, out Dec. 3, an adorable children’s book all about a serious goose. Readers are encouraged to make the goose laugh (or even crack a smile), complete with a mylar mirror for you (and your kid) to pull all kinds of silly faces in.
Kimmel is well-known for actively including his family in his pursuits, from inviting his Aunt Chippy and various cousins onto Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He’s also a proud father, regularly working stories of his wife and kids into his monologue or bits of the show.
The comedian has been outspoken about his son Billy’s health struggles, who had heart surgery at only three days old to address a congenital heart defect. Following the surgery, Kimmel has been an advocate for affordable healthcare, as well as inviting guests on his show to educate audiences about his son’s condition.
It’s a natural next step then for Kimmel to turn his picture book, inspired by his own kids, into a way to help other children. All of his proceeds from The Serious Goose will go to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (where his son received care), as well as other children’s hospitals across the country.
“I wanted to do something big for children’s hospitals, so this seemed like a good way to go,” he tells EW. “Those hospitals, the work they do, and how under-appreciated they are, is actually shocking to me. It’s great to raise awareness and money. No matter what side you’re on, [who] doesn’t support donating to children’s hospitals?”
In advance of the book hitting shelves this December, EW called up Kimmel to discuss the origins of this serious goose, what it was like indulging his childhood dreams of being an artist, and just how to draw the perfect goose.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When and how did you first get the idea for this book?
JIMMY KIMMEL: I went through a lot of different ideas. This was my first idea. I wanted to go through a lot of ideas before settling, and ultimately, that was the one I wanted to do. I wasted a lot of time going through a lot of different ideas that I ultimately abandoned in favor of this. On my show for instance, I would never have somebody who isn’t my cousin and call them my cousin, or isn’t my aunt and call that person my aunt. I think people just know when it’s fake. I’m hoping people can feel a real connection to our family when they read this book.
Everyone knows the phrase “silly goose,” but when did you first devise the notion of this opposite creature — the serious goose?
I just said it to my daughter once. She was in a bad mood, and she had a sour face, and I said, “Are you a silly goose or a serious goose?” She answered very sternly, “I am a serious goose.”
Was this something you’d done as a bedtime story or done your own version of just for your kids before deciding to make a run at publishing?
No, I hadn’t. I had to figure out what the story was. At first, it was going to be some kind of [Ant and the Grasshopper] story where the Serious Goose had been doing serious things all year-round, and all the silly geese made fun of the Serious Goose. But then, at the end, the Serious Goose saved them because the Serious Goose had prepared. Then, it seemed more fun to put a mirror in the book and put the kids to work making the goose silly.
You’re donating your earnings from the book to children’s hospitals. Are there other ways in which your experiences with your children directly influenced or inspired this book?
One of the most important things you can do is read to your children. Feeding them, then reading to them. My kids demand book after book after book, so I look for books that are short. Based on that experience, I wanted to write a book that was one you could read to your kids in five minutes. Bedtime sometimes takes a long time.
When you’re reading at bedtime, do you improvise or re-write because you’re tired of re-reading the same book?
My daughter demands the book be read exactly as written. Billy can’t read, but she can be a real serious goose.
What was it like getting to jump back into what was a former dream career path for you and do the illustrations?
It is what I wanted to do: be an artist of some kind. But the sad thing that you realize when you set out to tackle a project like this is that you’re not as good as you could’ve been. I slaved over it. I don’t know how to use Photoshop, so I did everything on paper. If I screwed up, I’d start over again. I just kept drawing over and over and over again until I had it. The hard part was the lettering, really. A goose can look any way you want the goose to look, but the letter “O” has to look like the letter “O.” Sometimes drawing a circle is the hardest thing to draw.
With that, did you have to choose a particular font or typeface to emulate?
There are no fonts or typefaces. I just went with it. I tried to make the letters express what was being expressed on the page. I did the best I that I could do, but boy, that’s a lot more difficult than I imagined it was going to be.
The mylar mirror is such a fun, interactive piece that makes kids a part of the story. Where did you get that idea?
I like watching my daughter when she’s looking at herself — the faces she makes and kids looking at themselves in the mirror is always funny. I told Random House I wanted to put a mirror in the middle of the book, which apparently is a lot more expensive. They weren’t excited about doing that. I think they used that as a carrot for me. They were like, “Well, if you don’t meet this deadline, we’re not going to be able to put the mirror in the book.” That’s how they kept me on track.
How did you hit on the design of the goose himself?
I bought a bunch of books about geese. I printed their pictures out off the internet. Another thing I learned is that a goose is a female, so that goose is not a he, it is a she. Because gander is a male. I really went to extreme lengths to try to find the right type of goose. Ultimately, it’s an amalgamation of a lot of different varieties of goose. I even bought a book about the care and feeding of geese. You know when Christian Bale prepares for an acting role? That’s what I did [with geese].
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