Archive for Family

The Author in 7th Grade

I’m wearing my favorite “Wantagh Grapplers” sweatshirt with the sweet cut-off sleeves and Incredible Hunk visuals. 

Do I look tough? I might have thought so at the time.

I wrestled for one year at 92 pounds, did okay, and that was that. 

Yes, a lot of hair.

I’m exactly twice that kid’s size today.

My Name Is Jimmy & I Have An Australian Licorice Problem

I don’t know why it took the Australians to crack the code, but I freaking love their licorice. Best in the world. Just the perfect combination of soft and chewy and flavorful. I discovered the Wiley Wallaby brand at my local ACE Hardware store. In the same way that independent bookstores carry earrings and plush toys and birthday gifts and kites, ACE carries aisles of Carhartt clothing, plus specialty sodas and, yes, Australian licorice.

As documented previously, I painted my house this summer and found myself in ACE several times a week. Wood filler, sandpaper, paint brushes, window glaze, rope, and so on.

And while I was there, if my resistance was low, I’d grab a bag of Wiley Wallaby’s “classic red” licorice.

After about 8 weeks, I finished painting the house. My trips to ACE slowed. It put me in a quandary. I couldn’t go to the hardware store just to buy licorice. How would that look? So I’d be alert for shortages of ice melt or leaf bags, that kind of thing, any excuse for a quick trip to ACE.

“Propane low? I’m on it!”

One day I plucked up my courage and tried the “green apple” flavor. Not bad. It was like an autumn trip to the orchard. Plus they made great stocking stuffers.

Soon I began to devise elaborate home-improvement projects just so I could buy more licorice.

Honey, I’ve going to lay down a fresh bead of bathroom caulk!

Off to ACE Hardware!

Honey, I’m thinking about removing that old wallpaper from the hallway!

Off to ACE Hardware!

Honey, I’m going to rewire a vintage entry lantern by the front door!


(Maybe I shouldn’t mess with electricity.)

The problem is, I’m not good at this stuff. My default is shiftlessness and sloth. I don’t even own many tools. I once mashed my thumb with a hammer and I don’t want that to happen again. All I really want to do is sit in my chair and read books. But the licorice is so darned good.

Honey, I’m thinking we need a bomb shelter in the backyard. I just don’t like what I’m hearing from North Korea. I’ll be back in a minute. Just need to run to ACE for a few supplies . . . .

MY GREAT-GRANDMOTHER’S IRISH OBITUARY: “There Is General Regret in Ravensdale”

I heard from a distant family relative recently who shared with me the obituary of my great-grandmother, “Mrs. McDermott.” What an unexpected treasure of family history and lost language. 


My maternal grandmother came over from Ireland as a teenager, though I’m unclear on the details. That’s where our roots are, where I sprang from, the wee county Louth.

I love so much the language from this 1936 newspaper clipping. Those wonderful turns of phrase for which the Irish are noted.

“There is general regret in Ravensdale . . .”

“a kindly and charitable woman”

“esteemed by her neighbors”

“exhibited many sterling qualities of head and heart”

“her charity was unbounded”

“whence the funeral on Friday at St. Patrick’s cemetery was very largely attended”

“sincere thanks to all who sympathized with them”

“in their sad bereavement”

Here is a photo from the mid-1960s. I am sitting beside Mrs. McDermott’s daughter, my grandmother Bridget Gilluly, formerly Bridget McDermott. To me she was Grandma Bridgie, and also, Granny Good Witch. She later came to live with us in Wantagh when she needed more assistance. As my brothers and sisters left the house, she arrived to take their place. 



Sidenote: My brother Alan — the Pottery King — just passed along this passport photo. Grandma Bridgie, also called Bride, returned to Ireland for a visit with her two young children, Ann (my mother) and Billy (my uncle). Click to enlarge if you are so inclined.

Old Photo, 1965, the Author as a Young Lad








I love this old photo of me and my sister Barbara — 1965, I am told — in front of the old station wagon that used to take us all on long summer vacations to Vermont & elsewhere. My father would spend the morning artlessly tying down luggage on the roof, good enough to get the job done, my mother stressed and making sandwiches for the road, anxious about forgotten toothbrushes & wayward children, seven kids climbing in, vying for the good spots. My parents smoking Camels or Chesterfields the whole ride out: 5 hours, 6 hours. It felt like 40 days in Noah’s Ark. But gaze for a moment at four-year-old Jimmy. I look like the future of America right there, standing on the green grass of the suburban dream, 1720 Adelphi Road, Wantagh, New York, bold & innocent in yet another ill-fitting jacket. Whatever happened to that kid?

Meet Ella, the First Young Person on the Planet to Read “EXIT 13: THE WHISPERING PINES”

This is Ella, a 4th-grader from Colorado. 

After an exhaustive search, where no money was spared (or spent), we determined that Ella is officially the first young person on the planet to read the first book in my new series, EXIT 13. 

Just look at that smile. She’s obviously in thrall. 

Thank you, Ella, for being such an enthusiastic reader. I’m lucky to have on my side (and in my family!). 

The Whispering Pines is available exclusively through Scholastic Book Clubs and Scholastic Book Fairs. 

It will be available in stores in February, 2023. 

On a personal note, this is my first book with Scholastic in a dozen years. I began my publishing career back in 1986 with Scholastic. In many ways, professionally, it’s where I grew up. I published all sorts of books with them over the years, various and sundry, including the Jigsaw Jones mystery series. However, I was given my hardcover home at Macmillan by Jean Feiwel, and I’ve mostly published with Feiwel & Friends over the last decade. I’m grateful to co-exist with them both. But, yes, it feels nice to be back with this particular series where I first began. I thank Debra Dorfman (Lakow to me) for that.

Here’s the cover of the second book in the series, The Spaces In Between. Let’s admit it: Illustrator Kevin Keele does a killer job with these covers. Even better, there’s a graphic novel element to these hybrid books, enhancing the overall Cool Factor!

Teachers, Librarians: I have a few extra books in my closet. Happy to send a signed copy your way if you hope to share it in your school or classroom. Just zing me at and write “Free Book” in the subject heading. While supplies last. 

Thanks for stopping by!