I was asked by an Oregon bookstore to create a brief video talk (under ten minutes) about my new picture book, All Welcome Here. This is part presentation, part read-aloud, targeted for young readers. I had a little production help this one, and I think it turned out okay.
Teachers, feel free to share with your students. And parents — hey, why not? — share away.
Note that I’ve put up other videos at a dedicated “James Preller Youtube Channel,” including read alouds of the first Jigsaw Jones book (out of print!), Scary Tales: Goodnight, Zombie, along with general talks with writing tips for middle graders and very young readers.
But mostly, I know this is such a tough time for teachers, students, parents, so many of us. Hopefully this book celebrates the best of us, sending positive signals about acceptance, kindness, and community. Good luck, be smart, and stay healthy!
I posted a week ago about our collective struggle to find ways to do something meaningful, helpful, positive during this challenging time. As a children’s book author, my immediate goal has been to provide some online material that teachers and parents can share with young learners.
As of today, March 26, I’ve created six videos and posted them on my own Youtube channel (link below). I’ve also learned how to embed them here, also below. For me, that’s saying something.
But, as we’re finding in these days of physical distancing, a valuable way to connect.
Please feel free to share these videos with fellow teachers, media specialists, parents, students, children. If you have ideas or suggestions for future videos, I’ll be happy to respond to that. Thanks for what you are doing.
Stay smart, keep safe, and enjoy the moments we are given. In my house in upstate New York, we are hunkered down with two of our three children, Gavin (20) and Maggie (19), along with my midwife-wife, Lisa (no age given). Our oldest, Nick (26), is in his NYC
apartment, working online. We miss him terribly. Each night, we’ve been enjoying lovely family dinners. We’re rotating who cooks and (purportedly) who cleans. In many respects, it’s been a beautiful experience. Trying to hold onto those positive feelings. Not worrying, for now, about all the lost income, the stress about bills, all the money stuff. There will be time to recover from that. For now, we embrace the now.
I’ve included a brief description and target age level immediately below each video
THIS IS THE FIRST VIDEO I made, and the shortest, and it touches upon a theme I try to emphasize before every student I meet, regardless of age (though the delivery gets more sophisticated at middle schools): “You are unique. You have stories inside you that only you can tell.”
I MADE BOOKS WHEN I WAS a little kid. I sold them to my friends and neighbors. My mother saved one and I read it here. Kind of funny, I think. Hopefully this video inspires young people to make their own books. In the case above, I needed help with the words from my oldest brother, Neal. Ages 4-up.
FOR FANS OF JIGSAW JONES: Here I talk about what I was like as a kid — more of a spy than a true detective — and how I gave my favorite childhood toy to Jigsaw Jones. I read a scene from THE CASE OF THE BICYCLE BANDIT.
FOR GRADES 4-UP, JUST RIGHT FOR MIDDLE SCHOOLERS. THIS VIDEO LESSON centers around a writing tip first offered by Kurt Vonnegut Jr: make awful things happen to your leading characters! I discuss that idea and, to make the point, read two passages from BLOOD MOUNTAIN, my most recent middle-grade adventure novel and a 2019 Junior Library Guild Selection.
HERE’S ONE FOR THE YOUNGEST READERS, ages 3-up, where I read from WAKE ME IN SPRING. I also describe the creative process, the thinking, behind the story. And again, as always, I try to turn it back to the reader, to inspire their own creativity moving forward.
MY “SCARY TALES” BOOKS are often wildly popular on school visits. Though the books seem to hit that sweet spot of grades 3-5, I’ve met very young readers who are impervious to fear, second graders who love them, and also, by design, readers in uppers grades and middle school who have enjoyed this high-interest, low-reading level stories with the super cool artwork by Iacopo Bruno. For some, their first successful reading experience of a full-length book that is not heavily illustrated. Here I read from the first two chapters of GOODNIGHT, ZOMBIE.
I’LL CONTINUE TO POST MORE VIDEOS — including a full reading of “ZOMBIE” — as time allows. Please, by all means, feel free to share these videos far and wide. Obviously, if I hear positive reports, I’ll be encouraged to do more. Thanks for stopping by.
Everyone is scrambling to catch up with an ever-evolving news cycle where the world beneath our feet seems to radically shift by the hour. Schools are closed or closing. We’re all supposed to stay indoors. We’re not sure how best to respond.
As an author of children’s books, familiar with speaking to large groups at school visits, I haven’t figured out my best response to all of this just yet. But I do expect to offer up some Youtube content, book talks, readings — I’m not really sure at this time what would be most helpful. There’s a learning curve, most certainly.
Illustration by R.W. Alley from Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Hat Burglar.
If you are interested in anything like that, or in something more interactive with readers, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and hopefully I can provide some support for meaningful, book-centered learning.
My inclination is that this would be free or low cost, depending on the time and effort required. I’ll keep posting as this concept develops. Please don’t hesitate to write to me with your thoughts, questions, ideas. I’ve never used Zoom before, but my wife has, and it sounds user-friendly. Most important of all, please take this virus seriously. Stay home. Hunker down. Read, think, reflect. Take long walks. We’ll get through this.