Archive for Jigsaw Jones

Fan Mail Wednesday #287: Writing Advice from Turkey

Here’s one all the way from Turkey . . .

Dear Mr. Preller,
I am a 5th grade student in Turkey and I read “The Case of the Best Pet Ever” as my project homework. I think that your book was very entertaining for kids like me who like mystery books. Jigsaw and Mila worked hard to find evidences and questioned suspects to solve the mystery of the stolen prize. I liked the book because it has a surprise ending, I wasn’t expecting Rags to win the medal. Jigsaw thought that Rags was a hopeless and useless dog but when Rags found the prize Jigsaw understood that everyone has their own talents. Rags may not be a very talented dog to win a pet competition but he is talented in finding treasures. I also liked the friendship and teamwork between Mila and Jigsaw. There were a lot of nice sayings like “Try to be the person your dog thinks you are.” My favorite simile was “I was as frustrated as a dentist in a candy store”. If I were you I would write more about the things they do to solve the mystery to keep the curiosity level higher. I will definitely read more of your books and thank you for your time.
Best Regards,
Derin ______
I replied . . .
Dear Derin,
You wrote an excellent letter, filled with good observations and sharp understanding. Thanks for that. 
It’s funny, I get a fair amount of letters from Turkey. My guess is that there’s one teacher there — somewhere! — who has a bin of my books. I’m grateful to that mysterious superfan.

Featuring illustrations throughout by R.W. Alley!

I always have bittersweet feelings about this particular book. I’ve written many, as you know; the newest title, The Case of the Hat Burglar (Macmillan, August 2019) will be the 42nd in the series. So, yeah, that’s crazy. Some books are more successful than others. Or in kinder terms, each has different strengths and weaknesses. Some are funnier; some have sturdier mysteries, better detective work; some have more heart, emotion; and so on.

This particular title came at a time when my oldest son, Nicholas (now 25), had been diagnosed with cancer. Just a little boy, dangerously sick. It was a hard time for our family. I did my best to work through those times, but on Best Pet Ever I had some help from a co-writer. I did my best, I’m responsible for every word, but I might have been floating in outer space when it was all happening. Anyway, today Nick is healthy and strong and living in the Big Apple, i.e., New York City. 
Thanks for your letter. I do hear your advice about the detective work. I’ll keep trying!
All good things,
James Preller

This Kid

Usually on school visits, there’s at least one student who is particularly vivid. A singular personality and a sharp mind. He arrived dressed as a detective, armed with a fine idea. 

He let me try them on and everything.

Second grade going on seventeen.

 

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #281: Happy Birthday, Kiera!

Here’s a particularly entertaining letter from Kiera, who is having (hopefully!) a swinging, taco-friendly birthday on Sunday. Hey, Kiera, you don’t look a day over 37. I mean 9!

I replied . . .

 

Dear Kiera,

Oh my, what an entertaining letter that comes to me all the way from Keosaugua, Iowa. Here on my birthday –- number 58! –- it feels like a gift from the universe. Thank you.

When I look deeper into the envelope, I find a bracelet you’ve crafted for me, using Jigsaw Jones’ favorite colors, borrowed from the New York Mets. I’m wearing it right now (see photographic evidence as proof). True story!

How did you know I desperately needed one?

Our kind and shaggy goldendoodle, Daisy, died two months ago. It was heartbreaking for all of us. Like your dog, Daisy was not (at all!) the brightest, but she may have been the sweetest. To ease our pain, we got a new puppy, which my daughter named Echo. He’s a rescue pup, part border collie, part who knows! He’s full of energy and mischief. My days are filled with long walks and attempts to keep Echo from eating the furniture.

I’m glad you are a Jigsaw Jones fan. I love The Case from Outer Space and The Case of the Buried Treasure very much, but I think that the new one, The Case of the Hat Burglar, might be the best of all. It comes out in August.

Happy birthday, Kiera. You are a terrific writer, by the way. Funny, too. Keep it up! I hope there are gazillions of tacos in your future!

Besides baseball, my favorite sport is . . . READING! It should be in the Olympics.

Oh, also: I have a new book that just came out (January 29th), called The Big Idea Gang: Everybody Needs a Buddy. I think you might like it. Did you ever hear of a “buddy bench”? The story is about that, and more! Friendship, kindness, community. And benches.

Thanks for making my birthday a happy one. Your friend,

 

James Preller

Jigsaw Jones: The Grocery List Clue

I came across a meme the other day that made me smile, because it reminded of a clue I employed in Jigsaw Jones: The Case from Outer Space.

In my book, published last year, I wrote the clue slightly differently. Here’s the scene, when Mila discovers the note tucked into a book in a Little Free Library:

A few minutes later, Mila said, “Bingo!” She had found another piece of paper. It was the same size as the other clue.

Mila held it out for us to see.

Danika read the message aloud. “‘LET TOM PICK ON MAY.’ That’s weird. What does it mean?”

I looked at Mila. “It might be a secret code.”

“Perhaps,” Mila said. “Maybe it means exactly what it says. Some guy named Tom is picking on May.”

We didn’t know anyone by either name.

“I’m hungry,” Joey complained.

“Not now, Joey. We’re hunting for clues.”

And so on and so forth. I like how Joey, who is always thinking about food, on every page in every book, accidentally almost leads our detectives in the right direction. I’m hungry. But Jigsaw snaps back, “Not not, Joey.” This is no time to be thinking about food.

Or is it?

Alert readers might instantly recognize this as a grocery list, something you’d bring to the deli when ordering a sandwich for a friend. The trick for a mystery writer is to quickly distract attention, the magician’s misdirection. My characters instantly travel down the wrong train of thought. Hopefully young readers will take that ride with Jigsaw and Mila — or, hey, maybe it’s perfectly okay if the reader is a step ahead of our favorite gumshoes, rewarded by careful reading and critical thinking.

Another favorite moment comes when Jigsaw, zeroing in on his primary suspect, confronts Ms. Gleason. I love the way illustrator R.W. Alley (you can call him Bob) depicts Jigsaw in the drawing, leaning forward in absolute seriousness, while Ms. Gleason leans back, a little stunned by his intensity.

Mila, Joey, Danika and I stayed after class to have a little talk with our teacher. 

“Tell me, Ms. Gleason,” I said. “What do you think about . . . MAYONNAISE?”

“Excuse me?”

“Some people like eating it,” I said. “What about you?”

“I, um . . .” She blinked a few times. “It’s fine. I like it.”

“Aha!” I said. I made a note in my detective journal: LIKES MAYO.

“How about pickles? Do they tickle your fancy?” I asked.

“Jigsaw, what’s this all about?” she asked. 

FIVE MORE JIGSAW JONES BOOKS WILL BE AVAILABLE FROM MACMILLAN — REVISED AND UPDATED — THIS SUMMER. THAT INCLUDES THE ALL-NEW TITLE: The Case of the Hat Burglar

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #280: Kicking Off the New Year

 

I may not know what day it is, but I do know the year — 2019, people. All. Year. Long. A strange year in my professional life with a wide variety of new books on the horizon: a new Jigsaw Jones, a new series (“The Big Idea Gang”), a middle grade survival thriller (Blood Mountain), and a picture book in haiku (All Welcome Here). Crazy, I know. All over the map. I’m hoping that folks find ’em, read ’em, like ’em, tell their friends.

Today’s letter comes from Lena in deepest Ohio:

 

 

I waited a year and replied:

Dear Lena,

Whew, that’s over. Welcome 2019, glad to be here, happy & alive & writing to you.

Your letter arrived during the holidays, so I set it aside. “I’ll deal with Lena next year.”

Yes, I have a birthday coming up. Soon to be 58 years old. You should try it someday, not as bad as it sounds (or looks!). Maybe like oysters in that sense. But I still refuse to eat clams, no matter what anybody says.

Anyway! I’m as old as your grampa and you and I share a birthday month. When it comes to presents, all I ever ask for is warm socks (a result of a mid-winter birthday) and books –- always books. I guess that’s another thing we have in common, the love of reading.

My favorite Jigsaw Jones title? Hmmm. I love The Case from Outer Space because it’s funny and The Case of the Buried Treasure because the mystery is so satisfying. I have a new one coming out in August –- does that seem far away? -– titled The Case of the Hat Burglar. I’m very proud of that one. I find that my favorite books tug at your heart a little bit. Maybe it’s just a moment in the book, a brief passage, but a true emotion can lift a book into the sky.

I do have a new book coming out at the end of January (that’s, like, soon!), titled Everybody Needs a Buddy. It’s part of a new series, “The Big Idea Gang,” and I’d say it is just a notch more challenging than Jigsaw Jones. Maybe you’ll give it a try?

As a reader, I like all sorts of things. I guess I’m always trying something different: sports, science fiction, biography, mystery, graphic novels. I listen to my friends. If they rave about a book, I’ll give it a spin.

Happy New Year, my new friend!

James Preller