Archive for A Pirates Guide (Series)

Two Images I Love, and Why I Love Them

For starters, apologies to the artists, Iacopo Bruno (SCARY TALES #3: Good Night, Zombie) and Greg Ruth (A Pirate’s Guide to Recess).

The art represented below might make them sick to the heart; I can only guess. The shots below were taken from the books via my iPhone. The quality of the original artwork is in no way reflected here. But as far as I’m concerned, these crude snaps serve the conversation. Also: I’m going with what I’ve got.

The art immediately below comes from a spread late in the book, Good Night, Zombie. It’s an exciting moment of peril and temporary escape, of dead hands reaching, clawing. I love it. And I’m grateful for the design here, which breaks away from the usual layout of the book, with the art leaking across the gutter, where for a moment the chapter book takes on more of a picture book aesthetic.

“Up, up, up!” Carter cried.

The picture below is a detail of a larger piece of art from my most recent picture book, A Pirate’s Guide to Recess.

To me, as an ex-kid who became a published author, the moment depicted here feels like the story of my imaginal life. I was that boy. Dreaming things, imaginary games, battling monsters or tough pitchers, walking the plank or ducking for cover. Bombs exploding, tacklers approaching. Inside my private skull, it was one “Yikes!” moment after another.

And when I ran, the life of my imagination trailed after me. Stomping in heavy boots.

That’s what I tried to get at with this book — what I hoped to celebrate — and it is a personal thing. The stuff of dreams. It’s amazing that an artist I’ve never met helped bring it vividly to life.

Thank you, Greg Ruth.

And for the zombies, and all the great art in the Scary Tales books, thank you, Iacopo Bruno. I can’t wait to see what you do with Scary Tales #4: Nightmareland.

If You Really Want to Talk Like a Pirate . . .

Wake Up, It’s Pub Day!

Today is the official “pub day” for A PIRATE’S GUIDE TO RECESS.

You can run out and buy a dozen copies right now.

There’s nothing stopping you any longer.

You are free to go.

And thanks for your support.

You can buy ’em by the box!

And while you’re at it, stock up on the new paperback version of A PIRATE’S GUIDE TO FIRST GRADE. It’s cheaper than the hardcover!

Both are illustrated by Greg Ruth, who is awesome.

Publishers Weekly (starred review) for RECESS:

Preller and Ruth transform a school playground into a swashbuckling adventure featuring two rival captains—Red (from the previous book) and fearsome Molly. Their respective pirate crews are again rendered in pencil, creating a ghostly effect, and their surly theatrics will pull readers through this nautical fantasy. “Don’t scowl so, sweet Red!” Molly tells Red after his crew mutinies. “We’re just having a little yo ho ho.” Preller and Ruth put kids at the helm as they communicate the joy of escaping into a world of pretend.

School Library Journal (starred review) for FIRST GRADE:

“Told entirely in pirate lingo, this story follows a boy and his entourage of ethereal salty dogs through the first day of school. ‘Me great scurvy dog slurped me kisser when I was tryin’ t’ get me winks!’ The protagonist’s fruitful imagination turns ordinary routine into a high-seas adventure complete with a small, skirted buccaneer walking the plank during recess. In the end, where does X mark the spot? Treasure abounds in the library, with the chance to experience the adventure of the written word. The illustrations have a vintage feel, complete with boisterous grog-drinking, scabbard-waving, and bubble-pipe-smoking pirates. The combination of the muted tones of the pirates with the bold colors of the real world adds to the visual appeal . . . it can serve as a tremendous read-aloud, especially on Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

A Favorite Illustration

Greg Ruth created a lot of great illustrations for our upcoming book, A Pirate’s Guide to Recess, but I have to say that the one above has a special place in my heart. Not because it’s the “best,” but that it captures what for me is the essence of this book, and really a big part of childhood itself.

The boy off and running, trailed by whomever or whatever he might conjure in his waking dreams. In this case, pirates. In another, dinosaurs. Or ballerinas. Or baseball players.

It’s all imaginative play. You can sit down in the dirt with any five-year-old kid and he’ll tell you: “Okay, these rocks are the fort and those sticks are the warriors coming up to capture the king.”

You point to something and ask, “What’s this?”

He says, “That’s my cookie and if you eat it I’ll kill you.”

That sort of thing.

The thing is, you go along with it. You don’t step back and ask, “Oh, I see. Are we playing pretend now?”

No, you just jump into it . . . and play.

Which is how Molly deals with Red out on the playground. They become real friends through their imaginative worlds.

Starred Review, A PIRATES GUIDE TO RECESS (Coming Soon!)

It’s been a good week for reviews. Publishers Weekly just gave my new picture book — illustrated by Greg Ruth — a starred review. Eager readers can meet Greg at the Eric Carle Museum on June 8th. In the meantime, I’ll be at BEA in NYC to sign pretty much anything that’s put in front of me. (Except for feet. I will not sign feet.)

Using the same blustery pirate slang and vintage-style artwork that propelled A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade, Preller and Ruth transform a school playground into a swashbuckling adventure featuring two rival captains—Red (from the previous book) and fearsome Molly. Their respective pirate crews are again rendered in pencil, creating a ghostly effect, and their surly theatrics will pull readers through this nautical fantasy. “Don’t scowl so, sweet Red!” Molly tells Red after his crew mutinies. “We’re just having a little yo ho ho.” Preller and Ruth put kids at the helm as they communicate the joy of escaping into a world of pretend. Ages 3–6. Author’s agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (June)