Archive for February 18, 2011

A Boy Talking Movies

You need to stay to the end for this to make its full impact, and I strongly recommend that you do.

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The video was produced by Mama Hope:

Mama Hope is a non-profit organization focused on building self-sufficient communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.Mama Hope partners with Community Based Organizations and invests in high impact, cost effective projects, that meet their fundamental needs for food, water, education and health care. Mama Hope’s successful projects to date have directly benefited over 55,000 people.

You can learn more about Mama Hope’s “Stop the Pity, Unlock the Potential” Campaign by clicking here.

As a personal comment, I believe this video makes a point about all boy stereotypes. Forget, for a moment, that Alex is an African boy in Tanzania. In many respects, he can be any boy, head filled with action movies and explosions and whatnot. But like any boy, he’s much more than the stereotypes will allow. He’s also charming, also hilarious, also bright, also curious, also hopeful, etc. And those whole qualities should be reflected in the range of books to which boys are exposed.

Fan Mail Wednesday #109

Please note that you may click on the letter to enlarge it (very nice for older eyes).

Stephen writes:

I replied:

Dear Stephen:

My apologies for not replying sooner. I loved your letter, especially that it came with a Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope (SASE). That was very considerate of you.

For someone who claims not to be a “book lover,” you’ve done pretty well if you’ve read more than twenty of my Jigsaw Jones books. I haven’t even read that many — and I wrote them! I think that as long as you stay open-minded about books, and willing to try new things, I’m sure you’ll continue to find something that you’ll like. There are so many great books out there for every kind of reader.

At the same time, I think you should read the things you enjoy. I have three children and they are all readers. When school gets hectic, they don’t read for pleasure as much, which is too bad if you ask me. I hate to see when too much homework gets in the way of reading for fun.

Pets-wise, we’re a two-cat & one-dog household. The cats are black and the dog barks at the passing breeze, the sound of footsteps a half-mile away, and the slow turning of the globe. It can get on my nerves sometimes. How do you teach a dog to stop barking? You’ve heard of the Dog Whisperer? I’m the Dog Screamer! (“DAISY! PLEASE!! I’M BEGGING YOU — STOP BARKING!!!”Nope, doesn’t work.

I think you’re very fortunate to live with your grandparents and aunt. My grandparents died long ago, and I still think of them, still wish I talked to them more, asked questions, listened to their stories, tried to understand what a different world they lived in — before computers and cell phones and so many other seeming essentials.

Yes, I like football.

Though I’m much more of a baseball guy. My middle son, Gavin (age 11) became a huge fan the past couple of years and his enthusiasm has brought me back to the game. Gavin even signed up for an ESPN Fantasy League — and won! We rooted together for the Jets and they almost made it to the Super Bowl. Almost, almost.

My best,


The Ultimate Dad is an Adoptive Parent . . . and Wears a Yellow Hat

As a kid I loved Curious George and nothing’s really changed about that, despite a slew of less-than-stellar books published after the passing of H.A. Rey in 1977. There was a particular series done in the late 80’s, early 90’s — cheap 8″ x 8″ books based on grainy filmstrips — that was especially loathsome. I hated to see them monkey around so with my literary hero.

Best to stick with the seven “Original Adventures” produced during the lifetime of Hans Augusto Rey in partnership with his wife, Margret: Curious George (1941), Curious George Takes a Job (1947 ), Curious George Rides a Bike (1952), Curious George Gets a Medal (1957), Curious George Flies a Kite (1958), Curious George Learns the Alphabet (1963), and Curious George Goes to the Hospital (1966). After those titles, the quality slips badly. It’s just not Curious George anymore.

Here’s the man, H.A. Rey himself. And friends.

But I digress. My great pal Craig Walker, a late, beloved editor at Scholastic, once explained to me the appeal of Curious George in this way, and I’m paraphrasing:

“No matter what mistakes George makes, no matter how much trouble he gets into, at the end there’s always the Man with the Yellow Hat who forgives him, who loves him, who makes it all okay. Kids respond to that, and I think that’s part of the reason why those books are so popular.”

Isn’t that what a father is supposed to be? The safe place you can always come back to, the place where — no matter what — you’ll always be loved?

In related news, don’t miss the Curious George Campaign (click here for more details):

The Library partnered with the Ad Council, Universal Partnerships & Licensing and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company to develop public service announcements featuring the iconic characters from the Curious George series to encourage parents to read with their children. The television, print and outdoor PSAs feature George and his best friend and mentor, “The Man in the Yellow Hat” reading books together asking parents to “Read to your child today and inspire a lifelong love of reading.”

NOTE: The trouble with two blogs is sometimes a given post could sit snugly in either location. I put this one here for two reasons: 1) Right now, more eyes land here; and 2) I’m trying to keep “James Preller,” the personal stuff, out of Fathers Read, or at least on the fringes. Basically, I say less over there, and want the pictures to speak for themselves. But by all means, please swing by and check it out. I’m proud of what’s up there, and grateful for the support it’s gotten from folks both famous and far-flung.

As always when it comes to Curious George, lets try to stay legal, shall we, because heaven forfend:

For Lisa

Hey, honey. Happy Valentines Day.

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Fan Mail Wednesday #108: Boy reads book, shoots bear, continues reading book, writes report, asks for signed copy

I’ll admit it: Sometimes fan mail can get a little repetitive, become a chore. That’s not a complaint, I realize how lucky I am, and blessed, but there’s a lot of letters I don’t share here with my Nation of Readers.

That changes now. Beause this letter is awesome in about six different ways:

I replied:


Okay, that’s flat-out the coolest letter I’ve received in a while. Just to be clear: you were reading my book, got tapped on the shoulder, so you set down the book (careful not to lose your page) . . . and SHOT A BEAR!

Like, a real bear?

Somebody like this:

With teeth like this:

Oh, dear. I think I might have climbed a tree instead. But, wait. Black bears — which is what they’ve got in the Upper Peninsula — can climb trees, can’t they? In which case, maybe I would have stayed home and watched reruns of The Office.

Clearly, you are a gifted writer. I hope that you write about some of those experiences in the woods, the suspense of the hunt, the companionship with your grandfather, the waiting, the shot, all of it. I understand that it’s a gorgeous part of the country. Frankly, the hunt is a world I don’t know much about, but it appears to be something you have in your blood, even in your name. It’s one of the stories that only you could tell, and I think that’s what all writers seek, those stories that are uniquely our own. That’s rich soil for our writing.

Here at James Preller Dot Com, we have a policy, # 6.12:

6.12: When someone tells you that they shot a bear, and then that same person (possibly still armed) asks for a signed copy of your book, and he includes the book and a SASE in the letter . . . then you SIGN THE BOOK!

And if you want my wallet, Gunnar, here you go. Just don’t point that thing at me.

Thanks for including your book report on Six Innings. I love it when a review quotes a section of the book, it makes me feel like a real writer.

Excellent job, Gunnar.

My best,