Archive for School Visits

Be the Change: An Author Reflects on a Career in Books

“These books are my attempt to brainwash young readers

into believing

they can make the world a kinder, smarter,

more compassionate place.”

 

This week we’ll see the publication of the 3rd book in “The Big Idea Gang” trilogy, Bee the Change. I thought I’d write a little bit about this series before turning the page, moving on to the next small thing.

At its core, these books are my attempt to brainwash young readers into believing that they can make the world a better place. If I can inspire a little bit of that, amen. 

Because that’s where my hope resides these days. I realize it’s a little pathetic, for here I am, a 58-year-old man looking to 9-year-olds for strength and wisdom and salvation. Sorry, guys, but I believe the adults in your world have let you down. We’re not going to dig you out of this mess.

The books intentionally focus on kindness and cooperation, on compassion and friendship, on seeing the world at an extremely local level and wanting to make it better. No, not wanting. On working together to make a difference.

Each book features a minor focus on persuasive writing, and includes tips in the back matter. On how to make a compelling statement, to support that statement with facts, to build a strong argument for your case. We see these characters earn a new mascot in their school, install two buddy benches in their playground, and help create a “bee friendly” garden at school. 

Quick story: My daughter is working as a nanny this summer for a local family. Three kids, five dogs. One boy couldn’t believe that the “famous author” James Preller was her father. He figured that I lived in a mansion somewhere. Ah, ha, ha, ha. Good one!

In my career, which began in children’s publishing in 1985, there’s usually a lot of silence out there. Sales that don’t often amount to much, titles that go out of print — the waves my work makes never go much beyond a ripple. Oh well. I don’t control what happens after I write the book. I try to let it go. Be sanguine about things. Though, yes, there’s a lot of disappointment. But I am truly grateful that, so far, I’ve had the opportunity to put these stories out into the world. If the world shrugs, if I’m not an “it” author of this or any moment, I can only do what I’ve always done. 

Write stories the best I can. Visit schools when I’m lucky enough to be invited. Keep on keeping on. 

After Bee the Change in late July, the next Jigsaw Jones title, The Case of the Hat Burglar, comes out a week later (Macmillan, August 6th). In late October, my middle-grade adventure novel, Blood Mountain, comes out. Next Spring, finally, we’ll see the publication of All Welcome Here, a picture book of haiku illustrated by Mary GrandPre; it quietly celebrates the openness and acceptance of our public school teachers and classrooms.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

 

              

     

      

Summer Hours, School Visits, Free Books

I blinked and July appeared. No, that is not my new secret power. My blinking didn’t cause the calendar to turn. I was more trying to make a point about . . .

Nevermind.

Let’s try this: Whoa, July already!

Over the years, I’ve learned that readership slows during the summer months. In response, I don’t put up as much new content. Think of me as a turtle overwintering in the mud — but it’s summer, and it’s a blog, and there’s really no connection whatsoever.

I mean to say, it’ll be quiet around here, but not silent.

SCHOOL VISITS

Yes, please! Send your queries to me at jamespreller@aol.com. School visits are an important aspect of what I do, the role I play on this planet, and they mean the world to me.

For more information, click on the “School Visits” toward the top of your screen. Or just write to me to get the ball rolling. It’s friendly and personal and you will be dealing directly with me. I’m not a huge consortium of anything. Just Jimmy, trying to earn a living. Happy to speak on the phone.

BOOKS

I have two books coming out this summer. In fact, just got my complimentary author’s supply in the mail, a big box of The Big Idea Gang: Bee the Change.

I like this series a lot, and I’ve been grateful for the positive reviews.

To me, these are political books that came directly out of our current reality. These are simple stories about empowerment, about young people making a difference in our world. And by featuring persuasive writing as a subtext, the books help provide some of the tools that are necessary for changing minds, for becoming powerful instruments of positive change. Hopefully they will be inspiring to a new generation of budding activists. Check them out.

Or, hey: If you are a classroom teacher or school librarian interested in sharing these books with your students, drop me a line at jamespreller@aol.com. Make the subject heading: FREE BOOK. I’ll sign it and send it out to you while supplies last. 

On August 6th, we’ll see the publication of an all-new Jigsaw Jones title, The Case of the Hat Burglar. I’m so happy with this book. I had written 40 books about Jigsaw and Mila, and then there was a long fallow period when I was off writing other things (Six Innings, Bystander, The Courage Test, Better Off Undead, etc). I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to visit those characters again. But things changed, opportunity knocked, and I was able to write a new Jigsaw Jones book after about ten years away. Thing is, I believe I’m a better writer today than I was 22 years ago when I wrote the first book in the series.

Thank you, faithful readers, so grateful you stopped by. Have a great summer — and please think of me for school visits. It’s one of my favorite things in the world to do.

 

Fan Mail Wednesday #288: Robbie Follows Up

 

This is from a particularly enthusiastic boy I met on a school visit in Vermont . . .

 

I replied . . .

 

Dear Robbie:

Dude, I totally remember your bright energy and enthusiasm. You had a “lean in” quality, engaged and alert. Why do you think I made sure to give you one of my books? I can’t do that for everyone, but something about you stood out and it felt right. Besides, those books are heavy. You lightened my load.

I hope we do get to meet again. I loved visiting VT and don’t often get invited to speak at Vermont schools. Nobody knows why! Fingers crossed, maybe that changes in the future.

Listen: I don’t often receive thank you notes after the fact. Sad, but true. It’s a good thing to do, to sit down and let someone know that you SEE them, that you appreciate what they do. In life, I’m convinced it’s all most of us ever want. To be seen, to be recognized, to be valued. This is true for everybody. Friends, relatives, teachers, janitors -– the list goes on forever.

You did good, Robbie.

Thank you. Keep reading, keep writing, keep on being the good young man you already are. I predict great things for you!

My best, your friend,

James Preller

P.S. Say “Hi” to Mrs. Moulton for me.

P.P.S. Love the SASE (Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope). I appreciate that!

School Visit Season Comes to a Close

Every year, I go out and visit as many schools as I can. And I guess I always will, so long as I’m invited. I don’t take that for granted. I’m grateful to every librarian, teacher, PTA member, administor, and school that has given me that opportunity and responsibility. I do the best I can, give it all I’ve got, and hope to leave each school just a little bit better than when I arrived. It’s not about me; it’s about books, and literacy, and creativity, and the love of learning. Hopefully I help light that fuse.

Yes, please contact me directly at jamespreller@aol.com (go ahead, make your AOL jokes, I can take it) with your queries about future school visits. It’s helpful to get those dates on the calendar for next year. If your PTA finds itself sitting on a pile of extra money, zing me an email. Maybe we can squeeze in one last visit before the school year ends — launch these kids into summer reading. Discounts available.

The photo below was taken in Gravesend, Brooklyn, on a visit to Magen David Yeshivah on McDonald Ave. So nice to visit a school for a second time. It’s a great treat for me to spend time in Brooklyn, my old stomping grounds. Love it there.

Thank you, all!

More Photos: A Middle School That Goes the Distance

I’m an unusual author — hey, let me finish the sentence before you start nodding your head! — in that I write across the board for grades K-8. That means I regularly get invited to elementary and middle schools. In general, elementary schools are warmer, fuzzier. The kids are more outwardly excited, more likely to come up and hug me around the knees. And they buy more books. 

Whereas middle schools tend to be a bit colder. You don’t get the same level of excitement and energy. There are all sorts of reasons why. The biggest, I think, is that it’s easier for an elementary school to get everyone on board. Whereas in middle schools, it’s every teacher for herself, everyone doing his or her own thing. I realize that’s a big generality, and there are exceptions in both directions.

Nonetheless!

At a recent visit to Algonquin Middle School, I enjoyed so many kind, warm, one-step-beyond-the-norm moments. All those little things contributed to a truly positive visit. Here are a few . . .

 

 

Ha, ha, ha. Will the real James Preller please stand up? These guys, along with their entire class, met me first thing in the morning. Hysterical and a little frightening.

 

     

 

A display in the main hallway that featured student artwork.

 

 

Cake. Yes, cake! The book won’t be out until October, but we’re excited about it already. I even ate lunch with a handful of students.

 

 

This young man, James, was really excited to meet me. He claims to have read all my books. Even my mother doesn’t go that far. Obviously, he’s some kind of a genius. A really nice guy, too.

 

 

One of the sweetest photos ever. I’m signing books, and this girl, Kath, is looking back at her mother; the shivery excitement is real. Forget that it’s me. Plug in any other author. The point is: this student, this young woman, quietly thrilled to meet a real, live author. To go home with a signed book, eager to read.

 

      

 

Another bulletin board in the library featuring more of my books.

 

And best of all, the energy and enthusiasm of young readers. They wouldn’t stop reading. None of it happens without the incredible dedication (and preparation) of school library media specialist Rebecca Ekstrom and the support that comes from the school principal, Mr. Messia, whose presence was felt (and appreciated) throughout the day. He cares and he models it for teachers and students. Thank you all, so much.