APPLAUSE, PLEASE You know Jimmy Kimmel as a comedian and the longtime host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” But show business wasn’t part of his grand plan until he got the college radio show that first landed him in front of a microphone. Kimmel says, “I always wanted to be an artist. That was my goal. I’d draw insulting caricatures of my teachers and classmates, or I’d sit in front of the television drawing David Letterman.” This month, his dream came true: Kimmel published “The Serious Goose,” a read-aloud magnet that is now No. 1 on the children’s picture books list. (It should come with a warning: “May rev kids up.”)
The story was inspired by 5-year-old Jane Kimmel, who is already following in her father’s footsteps: “She’s ambidextrous,” he says proudly. “She can draw with both hands.” Kimmel used to call his younger daughter a “silly goose,” and then started thinking about the alternative: the serious goose: “I thought, I should look this up to see if anyone has said it before. They hadn’t. I was pretty pleased with myself.”
Kimmel describes the writing and illustration process as “torturous.” He worked on the book all over the country, even on getaways with his wife. Using a fine tip black Chartpak pen (“Sharpees are fine for some things but they bleed a little”), he sketched on hotel notepads, consulted reference books about geese and made clay models so he could photograph his creations from multiple angles. The biggest challenge? Making his goose consistent: “Like Snoopy, I wanted the Serious Goose to be recognizable no matter what angle you see her from.” Along the way, Kimmel learned a few things, like the difference between a goose (female) and a gander (male) and his subject’s preferred snack (snails).
Kimmel, the father of four, is donating all proceeds from “The Serious Goose” to children’s hospitals around the country, beginning with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where his 2-year-old son, Billy, has been treated for a congenital heart defect. Kimmel says, “There is nothing permanent in my daily work; I do a show and it’s gone. It disappears into the air. To have something physical to hold on to, to have this book sitting on my shelf with my handwriting and my name on it, gives me great pleasure. But knowing I would make at least a million dollars for these hospitals — that was a good motivator.”