Archive for Jigsaw Jones

Fan Mail Wednesday #315: Alexander in Alabama, Still Deciding If He Wants to be a Writer

 

 

This one came the old-fashioned way, so here’s a snap of it . . . 

 

My reply . . . 

 

Dear Alexander,

It’s a mystery. Your letter is dated “September 3,” but the envelope is postmarked “21 Oct.” And here we are in November. Time flies, I guess. Or maybe it’s just a really, really long walk for you to the post office?

Anyway, we’re here now, altogether!

Thank you for reading my Jigsaw Jones books. I like your strategy: If bored, read book. Works for me, too. 

The trick to the Secret Valentine, by the way, was that it centered on a gender assumption. You see this technique in other mysteries in movies, books, and television. It’s a magician’s trick, too, called a misdirection, where essentially the “trick” is to get you looking at the wrong thing. The detective assumes that the perpetrator (the person who carries out the “crime,” in this case, simply sending a card) is female. Well, not always!

I liked Jigsaw’s complaint to Mila early in the mystery: “You know what the worst part is. This girl is ruining a perfectly good holiday. I mean, I like Valentine’s Day. You get to eat cupcakes. Why does she have to drag love into it?”

So, you suggested a book title: The Case of the Neighborhood Gaser. But you neglected to describe the plot. Is this a book about someone who FARTS A LOT??!! Are you suggesting that I write an entire book about flatulence? 

Scene one: Jigsaw and his friends enter a Mexican restaurant. “Tacos all around,” Joey orders . . . 

Anyway, thanks for the idea. 

Er, I guess. 

You wrote, “If you don’t get to read my letter it’s fine.”

Too late, my friend, too late.

I’m always glad to hear from my self-proclaimed #1 fan (though, be warned, you have rivals). Thank you, too, for the Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope (SASE). I appreciate that. Stamps ain’t cheap!

Probably the book I’m happiest with, if you asked me today, is titled Blood Mountain. It’s a wilderness survival thriller. You might also like my “Scary Tales” series: Swamp Monster, One-Eyed Doll, Nightmareland, etc. 

I hope this letter finds you well & in good spirits. By which I mean to say: I sincerely hope you aren’t a turkey. Thanksgiving is around the corner and things might get rough on the old ruffled feathers.

James Preller

FAN MAIL #313: Feeling Great About These Sweet Messages from a Teacher in Terra Haute, Indiana

It’s a hard career, I’ve got to admit. Ups and downs and times when I’ve wanted to give up. But I received the sweetest email the other day from a special education teacher in Terre Haute, Indiana. There’s a bit of background about this particular group of readers that I won’t disclose here, other than to say that as a group they struggle with reading. Many of us do. According to the email, “None of them are very excited about reading as it is extremely difficult for them.”

Anyway, here’s an except of the first of two emails I received . . .

Dear Mr. Preller,

 

< snip >
I recently began reading some of your Jigsaw Jones books to them, and they LOVE them!  They have so enjoyed using the clues to make predictions and inferences.  We have used the stories to practice finding the main idea and details, problem and solution, and visualization. They are so engaged with these books they have begun checking them out of the library to read on their own. We recently finished The Case of the Mummy Mystery and they were so disappointed.  They said, “That can’t be the end, what about the mummy that walked through town on Halloween?  Who was the mummy?”  They were still talking about it the next day, so I took advantage of their engagement with a writing assignment.  They have written you a letter asking if you would consider writing another version of the book and they even included some ideas.
I want to thank you so much for giving my students the joy of reading.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see them so excited and engaged with a book. I will send you an email of their letter, but wanted to explain things first.  I also noticed that you do Zoom meetings with classes and was wondering if you could give me some more information on that? Thank you again for writing such engaging stories.
Sincerely,
Mrs. J
I immediately wrote a response to the class (below) and we’re already planning for a little Zoom get-together just for the fun of it. I also wanted to share this email I received after my reply. Maybe other authors will be cheered to read it. Maybe teachers will see the value in making these connections.

Hello Mr. Preller,

I read your reply to the students today and they were beyond thrilled!!! They couldn’t believe that you actually took the time to respond to their letter.  As I read your explanation of the mummy, it was like little light bulbs went on above their heads.  One student said, “Oh…I get it. The

mummy wasn’t real, it was just a story.  So there weren’t any clues for Jigsaw to follow.” They were all very excited when you talked about them writing their own book. They couldn’t stop talking about their ideas – from the title to the plot! What struck me the most though, was when I read “Your friend, James Preller”.  One student asked, wonderingly, “He’s our FRIEND now?”  and another said, “Wow!  I always wanted to have a famous writer for a friend!”  You will never know how much that email meant to them…or to me.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making my students feel special, loved, and IMPORTANT.  Thank you for encouraging them to keep reading (and recommending books!)  I can’t wait for our Zoom meeting when they will have a chance to talk to you “in person”.  Until then, please know that you have made 6 children and 2 teachers very, VERY happy!!!

Mrs. J
And while we’re here, this is the long, rambling reply I sent:

Wow, you guys are tough!

But before I get into answering your comments and questions, a few things. I received the nicest letter from your teacher, Mrs. Johnson. You are so lucky to have a teacher like her —- someone who reads full books out loud, someone who really cares about you, someone who believes in you. 

Please, please, take a moment in your hearts and be grateful for that. We all need someone who believes in us.

I will get to your FANTASTIC IDEAS about future mummy stories. But first, a word in my own defense:

I’d give you a SPOILER ALERT, but since you already read the book, I guess I can’t exactly ruin the ending.

I appreciate that you are careful readers. If you go back to the story, you’ll see that all of the talk about the mummy was just that . . . talk. Stories, legends, and possibly exaggerations. Not necessarily the truth. It begins with Jigsaw’s older brothers, in Chapter 3, “The Legend of the Mummy,” telling Jigsaw a scary story. Is it true? Or are they just having fun scaring the pants off their little baby brother? Did they make it all up?

Fun fact: I am the youngest of 7 children, with 4 older brothers. Do you think they ever tried to scare me with made-up stories? 

I’m the little guy, surrounded by giants.

Oh yeah, they did!

Later, Ralphie Jordan repeats another mummy story that he heard. Is it true? Is it a fact? Maybe. But there’s no reliable witness we can trust. It’s just a story. Like, oh, all those legends we hear about Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. Is it really real? Personally, I have my doubts. No one knows for sure. 

Meanwhile, for Halloween, we see that Joey is dressed as a mummy. Is he the “real” mummy from the stories? No, it’s just Joey. So when Geetha see “the mummy,” it’s just good old Joey Pignattano. 

Was there a real, actual MUMMY walking in graveyards, pushing poor Earl Bartholemew?

Nobody knows. That’s for you to decide. The job that Jigsaw got hired to do was the make sure that Joey didn’t get cheated in the bet, and I think he earned that money.

Thanks for all your wild, smart, creative ideas. I’m impressed. I wish my brain worked that well! Forget me, you are the ones who should be writers! I had to laugh at your recurring comment, “you take it from here.” Ha, ha, ha. Everybody has work for me! 

Well, here’s an idea: YOU WRITE IT!

You have my official permission to write your own mystery. If you wish to include Jigsaw Jones, yes, please, go for it. Or invent your own character. If you are not an illustrator, maybe you could act out the mystery and take photos, telling the story that way.

(Note: If you do write a story —- together or individually —- please send it along. I’d love to STEAL YOUR IDEAS!)

Mostly, I just want to say how happy I am that you enjoyed my books. I have been a reader all my life. It’s not something that happens overnight. Slowly but surely, book after book, I became a more skilled and enthusiastic reader. It took time. And yes, reading will make you smarter and it will help you in school. It will help you in work, too. But most of all, reading has given me a lifetime of pleasure. It’s given me happiness. I couldn’t imagine life without good books to read, to enjoy, to learn from.

You are all doing great. Thank you for reading Jigsaw Jones. By the way, you might enjoy my “Scary Tales” books. I recommend Swamp Monster or I Scream, You Scream or Goodnight, Zombie or Nightmareland or One-Eyed Doll. Any of them, really, though I think Home Sweet Horror is the scariest and maybe not the best place to start. The books are not too hard to read and grades 3-5 love ‘em! No one gets hurt in those stories. But I do want readers to lean in on the edge of their seats, heart pounding. I love suspense. The doorknob slowly, slowly turns . . . 

Happy Halloween and please keep reading —- my books or any books at all!

Your friend & fellow reader, 

James Preller

Jigsaw Jones featured in WORLD Magazine

I received a very kind, complimentary letter from a reader, mother, and journalist, Whitney Williams, who has been enjoying my Jigsaw Jones books with her seven-year-old son. They’ve read 15 books so far — and counting!

Whitney wrote: “I’ve enjoyed them so much that I decided to include your series in a children’s book review page I recently wrote for WORLD Magazine . . . You’ve done a great job.

Do you have good eyes? That’s Jigsaw, getting the sidebar treatment.

NOTE: Readers who are new to Jigsaw Jones should be aware that not every book (out of 42) is currently available. Now published by Macmillan in an updated, slightly larger format, you can currently find 14 books in the series available where all books are sold. The numbers in the series have been dropped, since they do not need to be read in order.

Thank you, Whitney!

 

 

And for those of you without eagle eye vision . . . 

A Guided Tour of Delmar’s Little Free Libraries

Wouldn’t it be cool, I thought, if somebody could make a map of my town’s Little Free Libraries?

After all, we love ’em, right?

I see them here and there in a random, disorganized way. Where are they exactly? And how many are there?

So I did a little crowdsourcing — and internet sleuthing — and came up with a starter list. I doubt that it’s complete. And one could certainly make the argument that such a list should include other nearby, closely connected neighborhoods of Bethlehem proper.

But I’m happy to just start the ball rolling. If you know of another neighborhood LFL that I’ve missed, please let me know and I’ll include it here in what could ultimately become a Master List.

As for that nifty map? Sorry, I don’t have those cartography skills. Truth is, I hardly have any skills at all!

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED

For the tour, I grabbed a bunch of books that were around the house, since the concept of a LFL is to “Take a Book, Leave a Book.” Because we recently had a “bear scare” in our little town, I figured that young readers might be primed for Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Bear Scare. Besides, I had a pile of ’em doing nothing in a closet.

 

ADDENDUM NOTE (6/18/21): I’ve updated this list with 4 more LFLs, addresses at the bottom of the tour. 

14 PARTRIDGE ROAD

         

A lovely beginning. This LFL contained almost exclusively adult titles. Neat and tidy. As our tour proceeds, I’ll refrain from rating individual libraries. I imagine that the quality of the books ebb and flow, according to usage, though I am convinced that the best LFLs are actively curated. Some old titles are better tossed in the trash, especially if no one grabs one after a period of time.

9 CATHERINE STREET

         

Gorgeous — I wish my house looked this good. And during my visit, this fine libary featured almost exclusively children’s books! Perfection.

101 ADAMS PLACE

         

There’s a fun hit-and-miss quality to visiting a LFL, not unlike stopping at a garage sale or thrift shop. Sometimes you hit gold, other times you decide to check back another day. Regardless, I’m always happy to leave a book — and grateful to the owners for sharing these libraries with our community.

160 ADAMS PLACE

         

A surprisingly high percentage of these people are my friends. Maybe not that surprising, since I’m drawn to book people and, of course, these LFLs are in my purview. Here’s an example of the odd kind of book you can find. Nothing I’d ever search for, or even think I’d like, but interesting. I didn’t take it home — but I almost did.

107 ELSMERE AVENUE

This is on the corner of Elsmere and Norge. I drive past it all the time. The trick is to turn on Norge, climb out of the automobile, and take a look. Or, better yet, walk or take a bike. Worth a stop.

25 LINDA COURT

         

We don’t play favorites here at James Preller Dot Com. But this is the sweetest LFL I came across on the tour. Good vibes abound, you can sense a child’s touch. Also, a different approach in the construction. It looks . . . portable!

18 WOODRIDGE ROAD

         

Beautifully constructed and curated with a nice balance of children’s and adult’s, literary and popular. Big bonus for the tasteful peace sign attached to the side. Just the right touch. Book people are the best people.

24 TIERNEY DRIVE

         

Must have been my lucky day, because I coveted quite a few titles in this LFL. Excellent balance of children’s books on the top shelf, literary fiction for adults in the main section. I was tempted to saw it off at the base and carry it home. But that would have been wrong. Right?

1 JUNIPER DRIVE

.       

An interesting location, in front of Adams Station Apartments. The books here were, on this day, very much the type that are consumed by avid readers. My money says this is a much-frequented LFL.

RAIL TRAIL, ADAMS STREET. & HUDSON AVENUE

         

I don’t know who takes care of this LFL — but what an awesome location. Next time you go for a walk on the Rail Trail, or a jog, bring a gently used (and enjoyed) book that’s sitting around your home. Trade it in for something new.

311 KENWOOD AVENUE

Fancy lighting, don’t you think? This one is super close to the middle school, sure to get a lot of readers passing by. If you’ve good books for grades 6-8 readers, this is the place where you could donate a few.

51 FAIRWAY AVENUE

This is the last stop on our tour, 12 Little Free Libraries in all. This one has no window, no sign — but don’t let that fool you. It’s yet another LFL, sharing books with anyone who stops by, complete with a nearby bench where weary travelers can read, rest, and reflect. The owners will even let you jump in their pool. Well, maybe you ought to ask first.

 

THUS ENDS THE TOUR . . . 12 LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES IN ALL . . .

BUT MOSTLY, ALL I REALLY WANT TO SAY IS . . . 

THANK YOU!

 

OWNERS, CARETAKERS, NEIGHBORS, READERS,

FOR PROMOTING LITERACY IN OUR COMMUNITY,

FOR BRINGING BOOKS FRONT AND CENTER,

FOR SHARING THE LOVE OF READING,

FOR DOING ONE SMALL THING 

TO MAKE OUR TOWN A LITTLE BIT BETTER. 

 

ADDENDUM, UPDATE!

I’ve learned of four more local Little Free Libraries at the following locations: 

93 Winnie Street

12 Plymouth Avenue

192 Adams Street

Rail Trail II: A big one on the Trail at the main parking lot off Kenwood, near MegN’s and the New Village Deli.

 

POSTSCRIPT I

 

 

Here’s the result of my haul that day. I guess I have some reading to do. And when I’m done, I’ll pass the books along to a LFL near you.

 

POSTSCRIPT II

         

 

Our neighborhood had a black bear (or two!) visit the area recently. The above photo was posted by a resident. Yes, bears love birdseed and compost heaps. Events like that inspired my book, Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Bear Scare, which is the title I stuck in every neighborhood Little Free Library. Watch out for those clues! The bear scat is highly suspicious . . . 

Fan Mail Wednesday #310: Emir Calls My Book a “Literary Wonder” — I Take the Rest of the Day Off

A reader, Emir, wrote a nice letter about a Jigsaw Jones book, The Case of the Million-Dollar Mystery. By way of background, somebody in room 201 has been leaving behind anonymous notes that read:

It’s time for Jigsaw and Mila to figure out who’s behind these mysterious notes. Let’s move on to Emir’s letter . . . 

Dear Mr Preller,

I am writing to you to express my great appreciation for the book which you have written called The Case of the Million-Dollar Mystery.

I have found the book to be fascinating and absorbing. I like mysterious stories which keeps me eager to read. I was very curious and excited throughout the story and I was really surprised at the end. I really enjoyed reading about Jigsaw and Mila’s mysterious mission. Also the way they inspected and found the suspect was brilliant. The illustrations of the book were actually really helpful to recognize the character and to visualize the plot.

Illustration by Jamie Smith.

Additionally the book gives a really good message to the reader. I think giving such a good message like be a better person through an interesting story is a brilliant idea. The girl in the story makes an experiment to invent goodness and it works, that raises awareness of being a better person
Again, I would just like to express my deepest thanks that you created this literary wonder which has raised my awareness about being a better a person.

I replied . . .

Emir,

Thank you so much for your kind letter. I’m glad that I managed to surprise you at the end.
And wow, you called my book a “literary wonder” — what a fine compliment! I’m just going to take the rest of the day off. Sit by the bird feeder and see who flies by.
You inspired me to pull that book off the shelf and read the last few lines:
“I looked around at the class. Everybody seemed happy, smiling, laughing together. Eddie had his invention back. He seemed happy, even if it didn’t turn out to be a million-dollar idea. And there, sitting quietly at her desk, was Geetha.
Just watching.
Maybe we can invent goodness after all. I guess it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Or a mystery.
Just one piece at a time.
We’ll all get there, together, one step at a time.”
Well, here we are, years after I first wrote those words, and I still think they are true. One day. One person. One kind thought at a time.
I believe your letter, Emir, your small kindness, brings us all a little closer to that dream.
Have a great summer, my friend!
James Preller