The comedian and host of The Tonight Show hoped to inspire his youngest when he wrote his first children’s book, Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada—and it worked, though it was “a short-term fix,” he says. “She said, ‘Dada,’ but right after it all went back to being ‘Mama.’” So now the father of Winnie Rose, 4, and Frances Cole, nearly 3, is returning with a sequel, Everything Is Mama, due out October 10.
What’s the best part of writing children’s books?
Seeing 1-year-olds and 2-year-olds reading the book to their parents. People record it and send it to me on social media, and it’s crazy! It’s like, “Wait, what if this kid becomes the President of the United States, and I got them started reading?”
What was your favorite part of writing the new book?
You’ve got to think of new animals. The first one was all farm animals. I didn’t want to repeat any—except for the duck, who comes back in this one. Then you start getting into interesting animals. You’re like, ‘Um, a sloth?’ I guess?’ I don’t know if children’s books have sloths in them, but I love sloths. You might as well introduce a kid to a sloth early on.
The illustrations are wonderful—how much input do you have in them?
Miguel Ordóñez is a genius. Artwork-wise, we work great together. I just say, “A giraffe eating noodles,” and he just knocks it out of the park. I love a giraffe eating ramen noodles. That’s my favorite part of the book, I think.
Do you use your own family as a test market?
I totally showed them all the pictures way before it all came out, and I read it with them, and they said, “Mama! Mama!” They were just going for it. They feel like they’re part of the game. And I always want my wife’s input. She’s the secret to everything that’s good.
Are books generally a big part of your household?
Yes. I’ve always read to my babies. I still do. Every single night. We love it. We go to bookstores all the time and have them pick out a book, or my wife and I say, “This one looks so cool!” and we just buy it for ourselves.
What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
I think it was The Monster at the End of This Book. I loved it so much. Maybe it taught me to be brave. I think back and remember going, ‘I know Grover is cool and he’s funny, but I’m going to keep turning. I want to see the monster at the end of this book.’ And it’s him! Ugh, God, I loved that.
What’s one thing you want parents to know about your books?
Both Dada and Mama are long enough to entertain your kids, but short enough so you can kind of zip through them. I know what it’s like when you’re putting your kids down and you’re like, ‘Just one more book and we are done.’ So you can go as fast or as slow as you want with these.
What’s your best parenting hack? For example, how do you get everyone going in the morning?
We sing a song when we wake up the 2-year-old, before we even go in and open the door. We walk in and we’re all just dancing and singing. The song means nothing, we just made it up—it’s just silly. But we’re all just dancing and singing and crazy. Everyone’s happy, and everyone likes to wake up that way.
Marisa LaScala is Parents magazine's news editor.