Archive for Current Events

Come See Me at the Morristown Festival of Books

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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!

My Tom Petty Moment: A Scene from a Book When the Radio Plays

The idea for my young adult novel, Before You Go, came fully formed. Page one, four teenagers traveling in a car at night. The radio plays. The car spins out of control, hits a tree, someone dies. Then the story rewinds six weeks into the past. The book is divided into two parts: “Before” and “After.” The book catches up with the accident about two-thirds of the way through.

02-tom-petty-90s.nocrop.w710.h2147483647I had to decide what song plays on the radio, though I guess I could have punted that one. Selecting the Petty song seemed in some ways a mistake. Classic rock. Maybe these young people would have been listening to something more current, more typical of teenagers of that age: rap, possibly. But I went with Petty because: 1) It was still believable, certainly; and 2) The song was perfect. Besides, nobody would know.

Can you name the song from the clues in the scene below, which represents pages 1-3 of the book? I’ll send a free, signed book to first person who guesses it — just send me a note at jamespreller@aol.com with your name and address.

NOTE: Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner! I’ll be sending the book out to Carlos in San Diego who correctly guessed, “Here Comes My Girl.” The key line from that song? “And then she looks me in the eye, says, “We’re gonna last forever.”

This is the moment between before and after, the pivot point upon which story, like a plate, spins.

See:

Two cars drive down a bleary road. One headed east, the other west. A small animal moves from the shadows to paw the asphalt. Not thirty seconds sooner, nor a moment later, but exactly now.

To the eastbound driver, traveling alone after a long night, the animal appears only as a dreamlike shape, two red eyes floating in the misty wash of headlights. He veers to avoid it and in doing so drifts into the approaching lane.

Music plays from the westbound car, intermixed with teenage voices, laughter. Eyes widen when the car swerves toward them. The driver jerks the wheel and the car cuts counter-clockwise, careens across the left lane. A foot stomps the brake pedal, back tires lock and skid, loose gravel sprays from the wheels. The side of the car crashes against a mighty oak that has stood undisturbed for over one hundred years. The front passenger’s door collapses inward, its metal panel crushed like a paper cup.

It happens fast. The span of a heartbeat, the time it takes to squeeze a hand, to shut your eyes and . . . nothing. Blood flows, bones shatter. It is the slice of a razor: when before becomes after, when everything changes.

And all the king’s horses, and all the king’s men . . . 

There is a moment of stunned disbelief, an absence of movement, the vacuum suck of unreality. The music still plays like the soundtrack of a frozen photograph: a car on the side of the road wrapped around a tree, broken windows, mangled metal, the cold-eyed moon indifferent; a record voice bounces off a satellite to sing about a town that seems so hopeless.

51VCNQbfPKLAfter a pause, the summer bugs start in again, the buzz of cicadas, a cricket, the croak of a bullfrog from a muddy pond. Now the screaming begins from inside the car, drowning out the other night noises. Hysterical, high-pitched, piercing. The driver’s side rear door flies open, a figure staggers out from the backseat. The figure turns, eyes wild and unseeing, falls to both knees in the middle of an empty road on a warm, wet, shimmering summer night, battered head in bloodied hands.

Movement appears from inside nearby homes. Shadows cross behind the panes, curtains shudder. A door opens and a shaft of light spills to the ground, stumbling like a drunk on the sidewalk. Phones are found, numbers punched, 9-1-1.

Hurry. An emergency. Car accident. Hit a tree. Hard to see, sounds bad. Morgan Road, please hurry. Woke up to a crash and screaming, terrible screaming.

Come and stop the screaming.

Two of the four passengers will walk away with minor injuries. A miracle, some will say. Thank God, thank God almighty. The third will suffer a concussion, three broken ribs, cuts, and bruises. The injuries will not be fatal.

The final passenger, who sat in the shotgun seat opposite the driver, never had a chance. Death came instantly, like a curtain closing, a theater turning black.

The night animal scurries into the underbrush, its role in the passion play complete. One car races unscathed into the distance, hurtling east like a bullet from a gun. Taillights dim, then fade. The crashed vehicle plays a song from the radio.

This town, it seems so hopeless, so hopeless.

That’s the scene when you run out of miracles. The light, the light just disappears.

Rest In Peace, Tom Petty. Thanks for the music. 

Come to Warwick Children’s Book Festival on October 7th!

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Come to beautiful, cozy, friendly Warwick, NY, for a really nice afternoon with more than 60 authors and illustrators along with the assembled book-lovers.

“Companions of the flame!” as the poet H.D. wrote.

It’s a great scene and sends an important message to your children. We value books, reading is important, and it’s fun, too. We can’t spend our entire lives driving to soccer practice!

Time is 11:00 – 4:00.

On a personal note, yes, please say hello. I’ll have my new Jigsaw Jones books there, as well as — for the first time! — 10 advance copies of my brand new middle-grade novel, Better Off UndeadI’m so excited about this book and can’t wait for young people to read it.

Also: Ask me about school visits!

 

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CRITICAL PRAISE for

BETTER OFF UNDEAD!

Hilarious . . . splendidly lurid.” — Booklist, Starred Review.

“This uproarious middle grade call to action has considerable kid appeal and a timely message.” School Library Journal.

“Espionage, mystery, and the undead make for a satisfying experience for readers.” —Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books.

“A message of empowerment and acceptance.” — Publishers Weekly.

PINCH ME SOMEBODY: Look Who Is Illustrating My New Picture Book!

I have good news to share.

Great news, in fact.

I have a new picture book coming out, titled All Welcome Here.

It was announced yesterday in a write-up in Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf:

Liz Szabla at Feiwel and Friends has bought North American rights to All Welcome Here by James Preller, illustrated by ____________, celebrating the first day of school and the beginning of a child’s new, diverse, and open-hearted community in a narrative composed of interconnected haiku. The book is set for spring 2019; Rosemary Stimola at Stimola Literary Studio negotiated the deal for both author and illustrator.

I deleted the illustrator’s name because I want you to guess.

I’ll wait.

Hum-dee-dum, dee-dum-dum.

Give up?

It’s possible that you know her work, but not her name.

And yes, that was a clue: she’s a she.

Here’s a hint:

 

hogwarts

Got it?

Really, not yet?

Surely I would have thought that . . .

Okay, here’s another:

 

c02--the-vanishing-glass

And one more:

 

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That’s right. I’m feeling blessed.

The great Mary GrandPre.

 

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My book is now our book.

Pinch me somebody.

More details, like the book itself, to come.

All Welcome Here, Macmillan, Spring 2019.

 

 

THE POETRY OF DONALD TRUMP: “Black History!”

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BLACK HISTORY!

a poem by Donald Trump, taken verbatim from the transcript of his address at the “Black History Month” breakfast, and rearranged in free verse.

 

 

Well this is Black History Month, so

this is our little breakfast, our little

get-together. Hi Lynn, how are you?

Just a few notes.

 

During this month,

we honor the tremendous history of African-Americans

throughout our country. Throughout the world,

if you really think about it,

right?

 

And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice,

hard work, and

faith

in America.

 

I’ve gotten a real glimpse—during the campaign

I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places

I wasn’t so familiar with.

They’re incredible people!

And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s gonna be

heading up HUD. That’s a big job. That’s a job

that’s not only housing, but it’s

mind

and spirit.

 

Right, Ben?

 

And you understand,

nobody’s gonna be better

than Ben.

 

Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.,

whose incredible example is unique in American history.

You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago

when somebody said I took the statue out of my office.

It turned out that that was

 

fake

news.

 

Fake            news.

 

The statue is cherished, it’s one of the favorite things in the

—and we have some good ones.

We have Lincoln,

and we have Jefferson,

and we have Dr. Martin Luther King.

 

But they said the statue, the bust of Martin Luther King,

was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched.

So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way

the press

is.

Very unfortunate.

 

I am very proud now that we have a museum

on the National Mall where people can learn

about

 

Reverend King,

so many other

things.

 

Frederick Douglass is an example

of somebody

 

who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized

more and more,

I noticed.

 

Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more

black Americans

who made America

what it is today.

 

Big impact.

 

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