Fan Mail Wednesday #78-80 (Thursday Edition)

My apologies — bloggy weirdness going on with my typeface below, but I’ve already spent too much time trying to fix it. The truth is, I’m not good at letting these things go (I like my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed). But, enough. Here’s a three-for-the-price-of-one deal!

Letter #78:

Dear Mr. Preller,

I am Miguel. I am in 4th grade. I like the Jigsaw Jones especially the Groaning Ghost because one part they said don’t eat the evidence and the end when they had a party. I have 3 brothers. 1 brother is in 1st grade the other two are four years old. What’s your favorite book you wrote? Do you like to play any sports other then baseball. How many books have you wrote? What new books are you writing in 2010? How many books are you writing in 2010-20ll? I hope you write more books of Jigsaw Jones.

Sincerely,

Miguel

I replied:

Dear Miguel,

Thanks for your letter. I’ve got you beat by one brother. Growing up, I was the youngest of seven children, five boys and two girls. We had the girls outnumbered! But you’ve got LITTLE brothers, whereas I specialized in the BIG ones. Jigsaw Jones is the youngest in his family because I know all about that. In your case, Miguel, you could write about being the oldest, and how the younger ones sometimes drive you crazy (wild guess).

When I was your age, I didn’t play many organized sports, but I constantly played DISORGANIZED ones! That’s the big difference between kids when I grew up (born in 1961, back in the waaay back) and kids today. I played pickup basketball behind the local elementary school, and we played tackle football almost every day until it snowed. Then we played some more. No adults standing around, no fancy equipment, nobody setting up teams, blowing whistles, or settling our disagreements for us. We had to work it all out for ourselves. It’s like a lost skill.

(Sorry if that makes me sound old, but I guess I kind of am.)

I have a new book coming out this summer, called Justin Fisher Declares War! It’s set in a 5th-grade classroom and involves a boy who attracts trouble. It’s pretty funny, I think, but that’s not really for me to decide. Very quick and easy to read.

I’d love to write another Jigsaw Jones book, but right now there are no plans for that. It’s up to my publisher. Fortunately, I wrote 40 of them, so there should be enough to keep you busy for a while!

JP

Letter #79:

you are the best author in the world. I love your books more then ice cream. my name is natessa but people call me Tessa i am in second grade in illinois. maybe you can visit my school. love tessa

I replied:

Tessa,

Thanks for that great email. More than ice cream?! Really? Any flavor?

Wow, that’s something — I never dreamed of beating ice cream. But I have dreamed of eating ice cream!

I love to visit schools and talk to kids. Maybe someday I’ll meet you in Illinois!

In the meantime: read, think, feel, grow!

JP

Letter #80:

James,

My four year old was given the Jigsaw CD (via Wendy’s), The Case of the Mummy Mystery, and that got him hooked on all the books. He has the mummy book memorized, which is hilarious when we read it to him and make any ‘mistakes’ at all, he’ll correct us. I typically read the first couple words and let him finish the paragraph. He LOVES Jigsaw Jones and often calls his 1 year old brother ‘Theodore’ instead of his given name, Eli. He also calls me ‘Mila’ and says that he is ‘Joey’. Not sure why he’s Joey Pignatano and not Jigsaw, but you can’t decode the mind of a four year old, can you?

Just thought I’d send out my big thanks and congrats because these books are a big hit in our house and Ethan’s first ‘big boy’ book that he’ll sit the entire book through without concern for ‘no pictures’.

I particularly love that there are not any rude words in the book, name calling, or other random things that some authors think they need to pull the kids in. There are couple books we read that I have to change the words (idiot, stupid, that’s not fair, shut up, etc. are not cool in our house).

Love your work and excited to be picking up more books. Take care, love to your family.

Trinity

I replied:

Dear Trinity:

Thank you for sharing that story. Your description of Ethan reminds me of when my middle child, Gavin, was in his Beatrice Potter stage. He was three or so and had a complete set of all the books. Used to carry them around everywhere, a challenge that required great effort. It was wonderful — a little nutty and eccentric, yes, but wonderful — and I loved the opportunity he gave me to read those books over and over again. Such lovely stories, true classics. I enjoyed discovering the lesser-known titles (to me, at least), but still remember The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies as my personal favorite.

We frequently played “Peter Rabbit.”

I’d be Mr. McGregor, chasing Gavin all around the house. Lisa would stand in as Peter’s mother. Maggie, Gavin’s younger sister by eighteen months, would want to play, too. Which led to this memorable exchange:

Me: “Okay, who do you want to be Maggie?”

Maggie: “Butter!”

Me: “What?”

Maggie (more insistent): “Butter!”

Me: “Butter?”

This went back and forth for a long while, to the point where we had linguists flown in from Princeton University, all to no avail. The house was in crisis. Maggie, frustrated and angry. Finally, we got it: Not butter — “Potter!”

She wanted to be Potter!

Thanks for reminding me of that story. As for the memorization, Gavin did the same with Peter Rabbit. I distinctly remember him reciting, almost word for word, the first 25-30 pages of that book. Three years old! Craziness. These kids are such sponges. I felt grateful for Beatrice Potter, that his young developing brain was filled with such incredible images and language.

I was happy to read your closing comments about the Jigsaw Jones series. My children were taught that words like stupid and fat were bad words. And truly, bad thoughts to have about other people (and “words” and “thought” are indelibly linked). So I made it a point to keep these words and therefore those thoughts out of the Jigsaw Jones books. And like you, I’ve often been disappointed by some of the (unnecessary) choices made in children’s books and movies in the hopes of bringing in that older, edgier audience. There’s time enough, later in life, for that stuff. I mean to say: I totally hear what you are saying and couldn’t agree more. I’m not trying to sit in judgment. It’s just that as writers we all have to make choices of what we want to put out into the world. And likewise, as parents, what we bring into our homes.

My best,

JP

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