Nature-Connected Parenting: May We Raise Children . . .

I came across this poem today, posted on Facebook by a teacher friend. Comments below . . .

I googled the author, Nicolette Sowder, and learned that she started a website and Facebook page, Wilderchild.com, that’s dedicated to the idea of nature-connected parenting. Go ahead and click that link if you are interested.

Nicolette writes: “Guide your family back to nature. We were once wild. I want to help you slow down, simplify, and invite nature back into your family’s life. Let’s go wild together.”

You can sign up for the newsletter:

“Slowing down and connecting with the rhythms of nature is an easier path to walk when you are supported by an amazing community of families who you resonate with. There are different areas of the Wilder Child ecosystem depending on where you are in your journey. The thing that connects all those paths is the Wilder Child Newsletter. I will never spam you, and you’ll only get an email filled with updates & goodies once a lunar month on every full moon. Sign up here and get your free Nature Play printable.”

Amen, Nicolette, whoever you are!

 

Awesome Review for BLOOD MOUNTAIN

“Preller combines brave characters
with vivid descriptions of the perilous mountain,
grasping readers’ emotions in the same way
as Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet series.” 

 

The good folks at Booklist have long been sympathetic to my work. It seems I can always count on them for a fair and thoughtful reading. This review came across my desk yesterday. As you know, I’m very proud of this book, can’t wait to get it out into the world. Here’s the full review . . .

Combine a strenuous hike in an unfamiliar wilderness park, lost kids, a dangerous hermit, a rogue mountain lion, a faithful dog, and a savvy female ranger and you have the gist of Preller’s exciting thriller. Grace, 14, and Carter, 11, have agreed to a day hike up Blood Mountain with their father, though their dog, Sitka, is the only one who seems excited at the prospect. The siblings soon leave their slow, out-of-shape father behind, zipping up to the breathtaking outlook. What they don’t realize is that their father has had a heart attack and collapsed, and a PTSD-plagued Marine, who resides on the mountain, is stalking them. Lost, hungry, and alone, Grace and Carter encounter dangers from the wilderness and the Marine. Sectioned into six parts of a day each, this tale of survival is relayed in short chapters that cycle through the various characters’ perspectives. Preller combines brave characters with vivid descriptions of the perilous mountain, grasping readers’ emotions in the same way as Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet series. 

 

BLOOD MOUNTAIN IS A 2019 JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION!

Shucking Corn: Memory’s Golden Haze

“There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow
The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye
And it looks like it’s climbing clear up to the sky”

Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’

by Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers


We all have them, the sights and sounds that trigger memories, connect us to our past. The old times. Our long gone days.

For some, it might be the sight of an old red wagon, the bells of an ice cream truck a block away, or the aroma of fresh, baked bread. We see it, hear it, smell it and are magically moved, transported, to another time, another place. Our former lives, the past.

J.K. Rowling plays with the idea of the transporting object in the fourth book of the Harry Potter series, The Goblet of Fire, when she introduces the concept of the portkey. It is an object that, once touched, holds the power to warp space, shifting a body to another place — a portal not unlike Proust’s light, spongey madeleine cakes. In the case of Proust, the experience takes you to another time. One sniff carries you away.

I experience a reliable portkey whenever I shuck an ear of corn, an act which always evokes memories. The stripping away of outer leaves is similar, in affect, to peeling back layers of time. I instantly (and involuntarily) recall being a boy again — standing barefoot at the side of my old red house on 1720 Adelphi Road, that narrow strip of property just outside our kitchen door abutting the Esteps’ place, literally our next door neighbors. I am handed a brown grocery bag and pushed out the door, tasked with the chore of shucking the corn.

There are seven children in our family and this is a job that even the youngest child can’t screw up too badly, though I don’t recall ever having a perfectionist’s patience while pulling away each fine strand of corn silk. I loved tearing away the rugged green leaves, layer by layer, revealing the bright kernels of sweet summer corn. So delicious and suddenly in season, piping hot on our kitchen table in a great steaming bowl, wrapped in a kitchen towel to keep warm.

I still love that job today — shucking the corn — and always volunteer. I even love the word itself: shuck. Aw, shucks. That wonderful “uck” sound: truck and cluck and who knows what else. It’s as fun to say as it is to do. Each time I’m brought to a simpler moment from the past, a childhood ideal. Our family, bustling and busy, together. A time before any of the hard stuff ever happened.

We even had a dinner bell my mother would let me ring. And I’d shout: “Barbara! Neal! John, Al, Billy, Jean! Dinner’s ready!”

And then we look up and the leaves have turned, we blink and they have fallen, and soon we’re wearing sweaters and tramping off in heavy boots. The harvest season is over. The corn spent, the stalks cut, the fields brown and barren. But the golden memory persists.

Some folks talk with disdain about living in the past, as if it were a bad thing. We’re told that we need to focus on the here and now, the life that’s lived in front of our senses. And I suppose they’re right about that. But the older I get, the more past I gather. There are people I love who exist only in my past, exclusively in that long gone time: two brothers, Neal and John, a father, some absent friends. I visit with them only in memory.

Richard Ford, one of my favorite writers, has his most well-known character, Frank Bascombe, make a casual comment about dementia. Frank opines that it’s probably not as bad as it’s cracked up to be. Perhaps not for the circle of loved ones, but for the dementia-sufferer herself. Living in that white-blue haze, staring off at the television screen, watching something or some time, misty and uncertain. The chair my mother sits in becomes a portkey and the crumbling architecture of her mind lifts off, roams and wheels like seagulls above the surf. And there in the lambent light steps forward a flickering image, her youngest child struggling with a heavy brown bag filled with corn, tasked with shucking, peeling away the outer leaves and silky tassel to reveal, once again, those yellow rows of tasty kernels, a bright golden haze on the meadow.

 

 

 

Junior Library Guild Selection for “Blood Mountain”

          

 

Happy to share that BLOOD MOUNTAIN (Oct 8, 2019) is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Think “Hatchet” meets “Misery” . . . and there’s a dog! Perfect for fans of wilderness survival and adventure stories. In this fast-paced novel for middle-grade readers, two siblings, Carter (11) and Grace (13), thought the hike with their dad and their dog would be uneventful. But the hike on Blood Mountain soon turns ominous as the siblings become separated from their father. They are lost, braving the elements, fighting to survive. They are also being tracked, but who will reach them first: the young ranger leading the search, or the erratic mountain man living off the grid? When Grace injures herself in a fall, Carter decides to set out alone to seek help, leaving them both more vulnerable. Told in alternating points of view, this survival story will have readers on the edge of their seats.

Institutional reviews should start coming in soon — fingers crossed. This is one of those rare cases when I know, deep in my bones, that this is a book readers will really enjoy. I believe in it with all my heart and I’m proud of it. Early feedback from friends and family has been very enthusiastic (I’ve heard “best one yet” from a number of folks, including my wife). And the recognition from the Junior Library Guild is a very encouraging sign. 

I hope this book finds an audience.

Oh, and by the way, still have far too many open slots for school visits. Contact me directly at jamespreller@aol.com. 

My thanks for your support!

My Favorite Illustration from “Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Hat Burglar”

 

I’ve written a lot of Jigsaw Jones books over the years. Some are, of course, better than others, though I hope there’s a good baseline of quality to all of them. The books that please me most tend to have heart, emotion, a moment that tugs at your sleeves. I don’t always pull that off, and can’t force it, but I do incline in that direction as a writer.

Maybe that’s why this is my favorite illustration in the new Jigsaw Jones book (which has been picked up by Scholastic Book Clubs). For here is the terrible moment when Jigsaw Jones figures out the mystery, and a trust is broken, and his heart splinters a little bit. Beautifully illustrated by R.W. Alley in the newest book in the series, The Case of the Cat Burglar.

You can order it now. Visit your independent bookstore. Or whatever!

In other news, there are now 14 titles — new or newly revised — available from Macmillan where fine books are sold. I just received word that the audio rights have been sold for all 14 books. No idea what they are going to do or when they are going to do it, but it’s exciting to think of these books in that format.

Back to that illustration. Check out Rags. It’s a little trick illustrators often use, the reaction shot from a pet or a mouse or some other animal. Often that’s how they inject humor into the illustration, or just liven up the dynamic. In this one, I think Rags just underscores the sadness of his sweet boy.