Archive for Jigsaw Jones

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #241: From Zeynep in Istanbul, Turkey!

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This email traveled a long way . . .

 

Dear James Preller ;

Hello my name is Zeynep. I am writing you from Istanbul – Turkey. This year I am a 5th grader in Hisar Schools and my teacher gave us one of your books to read for a project and I just finished reading your book.

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First of all,I read “The Case Of The Bicycle Bandit”. When I started reading the book it made me excited immediately because the book starts with dialogue which makes it easy to read. Two pages after I understood what the story will be about. I like that there isn’t so much description in the book however It sometimes makes us hard to understand the characters. For Example, I don’t know so much about Jigsaw, is he a nice boy or naughty boy? How is his relationship with his mother and father? Or where do they live? I looked for these questions answers but I couldn’t find them anywhere.

I always liked this moment in the book when Mila consoles a distraught Ralphie. He looks around and the outside world reflects his inner emotions: "His eyes followed a bird circling in the sky. It circled once, twice, three times. Then it flew off. Leaving behind an empty sky."

JP COMMENT: I always liked this moment in the book when Mila consoles a distraught Ralphie. He looks around and the outside world reflects his inner emotions: “His eyes followed a bird circling in the sky. It circled once, twice, three times. Then it flew off. Leaving behind an empty sky.” Lovely illustration by Jamie Smith. Just right.

Finally I have to say that when I read that it was Ralph’s brother who stole the bicycle I was surprised! I couldn’t believe it. I think you did a great job by writing this mystery book because I couldn’t guess and solve the puzzle myself while I was reading.

I hope that you can continue your series in a successful and fun way.

Thank you,

Zeynep

I replied:

Zeynep, 

Greetings from Delmar, New York!

It’s exciting for me to hear from you, all the way from Istanbul. I’ve never been there. And despite books and movies, I still find it difficult to imagine your world. I wish you could have sent me a picture of your school or family or something/anything.

Or your cat! How do you say “meow” in Turkish?

It’s amazing that a book can bring us together like this. I’ve been lucky enough to have some of my books translated into other languages — Spanish, German, Korean, Japanese, Greek, Arabic, Indonesian, and more — but it always leaves me in awe.

Could there really be a young man in Turkey turning the pages of a book I wrote in 2001?

I guess so!

Thank you, friend.

Books are small objects that we read alone, usually in silence, often away from others. But they are also connectors, portals, ways of bringing people together. A shared experience. Pretty cool when you think about. We go off by ourselves to connect with other people, across time and space.

I was inspired by my own childhood for the “Bicycle Bandit.” I’m the youngest of seven children, with four big brothers who were 7-12 years older than me. I watched them as if they were creatures from another world. Neal, Bill, John, and Al. Well, behind our house we had a shed that was packed with battered old bicycles in all sorts of disrepair. Missing tires, rusty chains, torn seats, twisted fenders. They’d love to patch the bicycles together from broken parts and pieces. That’s where I got the idea from Ralphie’s bike, “Old Rusty.”

This is my family, minus Maggie, who is the prettiest of all. Gavin, Lisa, JP, and Nick. These are not our normal clothes. We are headed to a wedding.

This is my family, minus Maggie, who is in the all-time “Top 5” Best Looking Prellers. From left: Gavin, Lisa, JP, and Nick. These are not our normal clothes. We are headed to a wedding. And we’re going to dance. Badly.

 

This is Maggie.

This is Maggie.

I am married and we have three children. Our oldest, Nick, lives in nearly Albany in an apartment with two friends. He’s 23 years old. My other two kids, Gavin (17) and Maggie (16) live with us. Tonight Gavin has to work as a busboy in a nearby restaurant. Maggie is at crew practice; she is an athlete who rows on the Hudson River. Very strong! My wife is still at work. I think I might order a pizza pie tonight. But I’ll have to bundle up. Last I looked, it was 19 degrees fahrenheit outside. Brrrr.

Sound good to you?

Thanks again for your note. I tried to give you a little better sense of my world. Feel free to write back if you wish.

My best,

James Preller

POSTSCRIPT: I am thrilled to report that this book, long out of print, will be re-released this summer by Macmillan, along with these other Jigsaw Jones titles: The Case of the Smelly Sneaker, The Case of the Mummy Mystery, The Case of the Glow-in-the-Dark Ghost, and the brand new title, The Case from Outer Space.

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #240: Here’s Hannah (Sorry, No Bananas)

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I got a little absurd with my reply to this one. Poor Hannah.

Hey, it happens!

At least I’m not a robot spitting out form letters.

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I took two silly pills and replied:

Dear Hannah,

I am going to try my best not to call you “Hannah Banana.” You’ve probably heard that a lot from other people, and I guess you might be sick of it by now.

bananaYou know, the whole “Hannah Banana” thing.

It rhymes. Fine, okay, but people need to get over it. At a certain point, a serious person –- such as yourself – can’t go around being called “Hannah Banana.”

So I’m saying to you, I respect that. I will not call you “Hannah Banana.” Or hardly ever.

You asked six questions:

1) I had a dream that I wanted to write books. I felt I had something inside of me that had to get out: ink spilled on white paper.

2) I started thinking about a character, a boy, with a huge imagination. In one scene, he pretended to be a detective. The rest is history. 41 books in all!

3) No, I’ve never been to Madison. But I’d love to someday.

Here's an illustration by R.W. Alley from the upcoming book, THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE. The mystery revolves around a note found tucked into a book at a "Little Free Library." I know: genius!

Here’s an illustration by R.W. Alley from the upcoming book, THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE. The mystery revolves around a note found tucked into a book at a “Little Free Library.” I know: genius!

 

4) I don’t have a favorite book, but I find that I’m usually most excited about my newest book. In this case: The Courage Test (grades 4-7). I have a new Jigsaw Jones coming out, The Case from Outer Space, and I love how it turned it. Very funny. Look for it this summer.

5) I have a dog, Daisy, she’s a golden doodle; and two cats, Midnight and Frozone. They are both black. One is fat, the other not so much.

6) I loved college. The freedom! The books! The fun!

Thanks for your letter, Hannah Banana! Oops!

Star of Stars, Wonder of Wonders

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When we write, sometimes we reach for something we can’t quite express. In this case, a sense of wonder in the great big world.

It’s the trying that counts.

This illustration is by R.W. Alley from the upcoming “Jigsaw Jones” book, The Case from Outer Space. It’s the concluding image from the book, placed on second-to-last page.

I had the opportunity to review the sketches before R.W. went to finals. He does such an exceptional job, full of care and warmth, I don’t ever say too much. In this instance, I had only one change to suggest.

Here’s the initial sketch for that final scene:

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I asked Bob if he’d consider making them smaller. Pulling way back. I wanted to see Jigsaw, his father and grandmother, together under the stars, small in the great wide world.

More sky.

The book concludes:

After a while, we headed to the car.

My father led the way. He took the flashlight. 

I walked with Grams.

She held my elbow.

We went slowly.

“Careful,” I said.

And together we headed back.

Home.

 

I don’t think I ever did that before, stringing together so many one-line paragraphs. It seemed to fit the mood I was searching for.

I don’t know if I completely hit what I was reaching for in this scene, but I do know that Bob’s illustration will help bring readers a long way toward that goal. It’s nice for an author to have someone to lean on.

One other note. My mother is 90 years old. There’s a bit of her and me in that scene, when Grams takes him by the elbow, fearful of falling.

Today I’m grateful for this book, for Bob Alley, for my mother, and for our smallness in this great big world.

It’s a good thing, right? Just to be reminded of that fact. Our smallness.

This site, featuring images from the Hubble Space Telescope, does that for me. A place to visit every now and then. A reminder of our smallness, yes, but also our connection to the deepest, greatest mysteries.

Merry Christmas, folks. Or happy holidays. Or however you wish to express your wonder, your joy, your sense of beauty, your love.

CHEERS,

KIND READERS,

AND THANKS

AS ALWAYS

FOR STOPPING BY.

 

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #236: Jigsaw Jones, Long Island, Getting Ideas, My Favorite Color, and More

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Let’s do this people!

Good afternoon,
 –
I am a 4th grade teacher in Ludlow, Massachusetts.  My students have been selecting books to complete projects on and share them with their 51o-ewktyll-_sy344_bo1204203200_peers.  Today, 2 students shared your books, The Case of Hermie the Missing Hamster and The Case of the Great Sled Race.  As the students were sharing facts about you, we all learned that you are from Wantagh!  Guess what?  I am from Wantagh as well!  What a coincidence!  Did you attend Wantagh High School?  My parents still live there and I go back to visit quite often.  My class would love to hear from you!  They would like to know the following about you:
 
* How old were you when you started writing books?
* How did you get interested in writing?
* How do you get the ideas for your books?
* What is the title of your favorite book that you’ve written?  Why?
* What was your favorite childhood book and author?  Why?
* Do you have a favorite sport?  Hopefully you are a New York sports fan!
* What is your favorite color?
 –
We would love to have you visit our school!  If you are ever in Western Mass. please contact me!  Happy Thanksgiving!  We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
Elysa B, WHS class of ’91
 
I replied:
 –

Elysa,

Thanks for your note, and thanks for reading my books in your classroom.

Yes, Wantagh, that’s my old stomping grounds. I did go to Wantagh High School, class of ’79. My parents moved away when I was in college — don’t worry, they told me where they moved! — so I lost my reason for visiting “home.” One of my first jobs was working at Jones Beach, a job I later gave to a character in a YA book, Before You Go. In the book Bystander, I blended the towns Bellmore and Freeport to create “Bellport,” where the book takes place. Sadly, I later learned that there really is a town called Bellport on Long Island. That was mistake I regret, though I think very few people actually noticed or cared.
The alma mater, a little before even my time.

The alma mater, a little before my time.

 
Anyway, questions:
 –
1) I wrote, illustrated, and sold books to my neighbors at an early age. In second grade, I teamed up with a friend, William Morris, and we wrote a play together, which we performed for our classroom. It involved bank robbers, as I recall. I published my first “real” book when I was 25 years old, in 1986.
 –

2) I often say that all writers are readers, and that’s true. But even though I am a social creature, comfortable with people, I’ve always needed time alone. That seems significant to me today, because you can’t create anything unless you unplug and spend time alone with your thoughts. For whatever reason, I’ve always carved that out in my life. And during those alone times, I’d often find a pen and a blank page.

3) Ideas are never a problem. They are everywhere. It’s just a matter of opening your eyes and ears. I also read a lot and try to learn something every day. The world is an endlessly amazing place. There are many difficulties when it comes to writing, hard times indeed, but ideas are not one of them.

Cover art from the upcoming Jigsaw Jones book, THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE (August, 2017, Macmillan).

Cover art from the upcoming Jigsaw Jones book, THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE (August, 2017, Macmillan).

4) I’m usually most excited by my newest work. I’m very happy with the book that just came out, The Courage Test (grades 4-7). In addition, there’s a new Jigsaw Jones title coming out this summer, The Case from Outer Space (Macmillan) and I’m over the moon about it. I love those characters, and I’m proud of the kindness & gentle humor of those stories. 
 –
5) As a kid, I loved a book called Splish, Splash, Splush — about three ducklings who couldn’t swim. I also remember looking at the pictures in a big, fat collection of stories: there were evil genies, a cyclops, men with swords and other fierce creatures. I couldn’t read, but I’d look at those illustrations for hours. Maybe it led, in some subtle way, to my “Scary Tales” stories (just right for 4th grade).
 –
6) I am a big baseball fan, love the game with all my heart. My team is the New York Mets. In 3rd grade, I actually attended the 1969 World Series. I remember it vividly.
 –
7) Favorite color? The older I get, I find that I’m partial to . . . gray. Go figure.
 –
Going gray. Not old. Dignified! Right?

Going gray. Not old. Dignified! Right?

– 
My best, 
 –
James Preller

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #235: “Smell Me!”

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Okay, this is a first. A fan letter in odorama!

“Smell me!”

And I did.

Yum, black crayon.

Thank you, Finn.

Maybe next time you’ll include a pair of old socks.

 

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