Archive for October 15, 2017

Now Scheduling Free Skype Visits

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To be honest, I haven’t fully embraced Skype visits in the past. I’m not great at technology and I’ve had some headaches with it. I’m kind of an “old guy” in that respect. But at the same time, I’ve had some really nice experiences, too.

So I’ve decided: Yes.

However, there are stipulations . . .

I will agree to a 20-minute, book-specific Q & A session with any classroom where the students have all read the same book. For example, the class reads The Courage Test, or Bystander, or Better Off Undead, or The Case from Outer Space. That kind of thing.

If you are all in, if you have enthusiasm for sharing a particular book, then I’d love to Skype with your students, answer questions, connect. I’ve decided not to charge anything in the hope that schools might use that money, if they have it, to purchase books for the classroom.

Please email me at, type “SKYPE” in the subject heading, and we can figure out the next step.

Or not!


9780312547967   CourageTestFrontCvr

Outer Space_FC   9781250090546.IN01

paperback-cover-six-innings   OneEyedDoll_cvr_lorez

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #256: Favorite Characters

Here’s one from Jake in Iowa . . .

     dear mr. Preller,

my favrite charecter is bigs malony. And if your wondring i read your book The case of christmas snowman. Also your books are relley good i have read some of your other books. what is it like to be a author? how much time does it take to write chapter books? Because you are good at it. Right now my favorite book out of all yours right now is the case of christmas snowman. How much books have you written?
2nd Grader 

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 

I replied:

     Dear Jake,

I love writing about Bigs Maloney. Every class seems to have that one boy who is the biggest and toughest. That’s Bigs. He might seem scary on the outside, but deep down he’s a really sweet boy. He’s one of my favorite characters in Ms. Gleason’s classroom. I think Joey Pignattano is the funniest. He’ll eat anything!
A favorite moment from the series, when Jigsaw goes toe-to-toe with Bigs Maloney. Illustration drawn by R.W. Alley.

A favorite moment from the series, when Jigsaw goes toe-to-toe with Bigs Maloney. Illustration drawn by R.W. Alley.

I love being an author, especially when I receive kind letters like yours. I can write a Jigsaw Jones book in two months. It takes a while to figure out the mystery — to really think about it: the crime, the suspects, the solution — and then I can start writing. Good writing often begins with good thinking.
My brand-new Jigsaw Jones book is titled The Case from Outer Space and I am super proud of it. The books in the series had been hard to find the past few years, but now I’m a very happy to say that a bunch of them are back in stores and on Amazon. There will be 9 out in all by November. Unfortunately, The Case of the Christmas Snowman is still out of print. Good thing you have a terrific teacher who has an old copy. Give her a big hug for me.
Thanks for reading my books. Keep it up!
My best,
James Preller

Play the “Scary Tales” Matching Game and WIN A FREE BOOK!

NOTE: I ran this contest last year (2016), and I’m doing it again. AND ALSO: The odds of winning are not as hard as you might suspect. HINT: Nobody reads blogs anymore!

Welcome, Fearless Readers! Here we are nearing the ghostly season when things go bump, and squish, and hooowl in the night.

I wish remind educators and young readers that the books in my “Scary Tales” series will make your life better by upwards to 63% or less.

No one gets murdered in these stories, everybody comes out okay, but the suspense might rattle your cage. Here’s how you can win a free book.

Yes, free book.

I’ll show six illustrations below by the great Iacopo Bruno, one from each of the “Scary Tales” titles in random order. Beneath that, I’ll list the titles. You or (hopefully) your students or children need to match the illustrations with the correct titles. Then send an email to me at under the subject heading SCARY TALES. Entries must be received by October 20th. On that date, I will send a signed book to six randomly-selected fearless readers who respond with their best answers. (Don’t have to be right!)

Please feel free to share this page with friends and foes and fish and fowl alike.

Illustration A:


Illustration B:


Illustration C:


Illustration D:


Illustration E:


Illustration F:


Now match the illustration to one of these six titles:

1. Home Sweet Horror

2. I Scream, You Scream

3. Good Night, Zombie

4. Nightmareland

5. One-Eyed Doll

6. Swamp Monster


Come See Me at the Morristown Festival of Books



For the first time, I’ll be signing books and speaking at the Morristown Festival of Books. I’ve heard great things about this event. Please click here for full details.

What makes it a little unusual is that this festival features authors for adults as well as children’s books. And unlike many festivals, boasting 75 authors and illustrators, or “more than 90 authors and illustrators,” Morristown does not appear to be focused on quantity. Check the list and you’ll find an impressive array of names. From the children’s side:

I'll be featuring my new Jigsaw Jones book: THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE, and many others.

I’ll be featuring my new Jigsaw Jones book: THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE, and many others.

Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, Emmy Laybourne, Kate DiCamillo, Tracey Baptiste, Ame Dyckman, Lauren Tarshis, Wendy Mass, and more. Best of all, I believe that all of us will get an opportunity to speak.

Oh yeah, I’m invited, too. Somehow I slipped through their defenses. I’m hoping I have time to hang out and just be a fan, because I love authors, too.

Take heart, Westchester, NY, folks: Please note that the wonderful Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival will be happening the same weekend. I’ve been fortunate to be invited to that one for years — since the old Sunnyside days — but I’m not attending this year because of a mix-up. Meaning: I got mixed up. Oh well, the festival will be perfectly fine without me — and, hey, I landed on my feet with this trip to Morristown.

If you love books, it’s going to be a great weekend!

The Incomplete Database of Song Titles with Girl’s Names



Guidelines: Here’s my exhaustive but by no means complete list. Hopefully it’s entertaining. Thanks to many of my Facebook friends who helped generate a lot of these titles — we crowdsourced the heck out of this one. As the final arbiter, I ruled out many great songs with girl’s names in the title, such as “Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad” by the Clash or “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” by the Ramones. This helped narrow the results. I was seeking that tightly focused, one name title: Deborah, Angie, Ophelia, Pocahontas. I eliminated titles with first and last names, such as “Anna Eng” by They Might Be Giants. And, yes, I tossed titles where the name is repeated, “Mary, Mary” by the Monkees, “Corrina, Corrina” by Bob Dylan. After some internal debate, I decided to keep middle-name songs such as “Barbara Anne” by the Beach Boys and “Carrie Anne” by the Hollies. However, again, no last names or initials –- I’m awfully sorry, “Suzie Q.” 

If you’d like a suggest a song in the comments section, please do. Note that the comments are moderated; if it’s your first time commenting here, it won’t appear until after I get around to approving it. Otherwise, there’s just too much spam, too much nonsense.  


Adia, Sarah McLachlan

Alexandra, Hamilton Leithauser

Alice, Moby

Allie, Belle & Sebastian

Allison, Elvis Costello

Amelia, Joni Mitchell

Amie, Pure Prairie League

Amoreena, Elton John

Andalucia, John Cale

Angela, The Verlaines

Angela, Lumineers

Angelina, Marillon

Angi, Davey Graham

Angie, Rolling Stones

Ann, Stooges

Annie, Elastica

Barbara Ann, Beach Boys

Bernadette, Four Tops

Bertha, Grateful Dead

Beryl, Mark Knopfler

Beth, Kiss

Billie Jean, Michael Jackson

Brenda, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Caldonia, Louis Jordan

Candy, Iggy Pop

Carol, Chuck Berry

Cath, The Bluebells

Cath, Death Cab for Cutie

Caroline, Silos

Carrie Anne, The Hollies

Cecilia, Simon & Garfunkel

Celeste, Donovan

Christine, Sioxsie & the Banshees

Christy, Natalie Prass

Cleopatra, Lumineers

Daisy Jane, America

Deanna, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Deborah, Dave Edmunds

Deborah, T. Rex

Denise, Fountains of Wayne

Diane, Husker Du

Donna, Hair Soundtrack

Dora, Mekons

Doreen, Old 97’s

Elenore, The Turtles

Emmylou, First Aid Kit

Evangeline, Icicle Works

Evangeline, Matthew Sweet

Evangeline, Los Lobos

Florence, The Paragons

Francine, ZZ Top

Georgia, Boz Skaggs

Gina, Blues Traveler

Glendora, Downliners Sect

Gloria, Van Morrison

Gloria, Patti Smith

Grizelda, Yeasayer

Guinnevere, Crosby, Stills & Nash

Iris, Split Enz

Jane, Barenaked Ladies

Jane, Ben Folds Five

Jeanette, The English Beat

Jennifer, Faust

Jessica, Allman Brothers

Joanne, Michael Nesmith

Jolene, Dolly Parton

Johanna, Stooges

Josephine, Magnolia Electric Co.

Josie, Steely Dan

Julia, The Beatles

Karen, The Go-Betweens

Karen, The National

Kathleen, American Music Club

Kathleen, Josh Ritter

Kayleigh, Marillion

Kim, Ryan Adams

Layla, Derek and the Dominoes

Linda, The Go

Lola, Kinks

Lorelei, The Sneetches

Lucille, Little Richard

Lysistrata, Utopia

Marlene, Jackson C. Frank

Martha, Jefferson Airplane

Mary Anne, Marshall Crenshaw

Matilda, Alt-J

Maureen, Sade

Maybelline, Chuck Berry

Melissa, Allman Brothers Band

Michelle, Beatles

Mona, Bo Diddley

Nadine, Chuck Berry

Naima, John Coltrane

Nouel, Laura Marling

Ophelia, Lumineers

Ophelia, Natalie Merchant

Ophelia, The Band

Peg, Steely Dan

Peggy Sue, Buddy Holly

Philomena, Decemberists

Pocahontas, Neil Young

Polly, Kinks

Polly, Nirvana

Rhiannon, Fleetwood Mac

Rosalita, Bruce Springsteen

Rosalyn, The Pretty Things

Rosemarie, Superchunk

Rosie, Jackson Browne

Roxanne, Police

Sara, Bob Dylan

Sara, Fleetwood Mac

Sherry, Four Seasons

Sonja, Lyle Lovett

Stacy, Ween

Sunny, Bobby Hebb

Suzanne, Leonard Cohen

Tallulah, Company of Thieves

Valerie, Amy Winehouse

Valerie, Richard Thompson

Valerie, Steve Winwood

Valleri, Monkees

Veronica, Elvis Costello

Victoria, Kinks

Winona, Matthew Sweet


So, okay, what did I miss?