Tag Archive for Jigsaw Jones

REVISION: Jigsaw Jones & Those Pesky Phones!


I was recently given the opportunity to revise four more previously published Jigsaw Jones books. Now there are 12 updated titles available from Macmillan — books that had gone out of print over the past five years or so — in addition to two all-new titles (14 in all). The books I revised weren’t ancient, generally around 15 years old, and I knew the stories were solid. Of course, there are things I’d want to change about every book, even on the first day of publication. What’s the old adage? “Books are never completed, only abandoned.” They can always be better. So it was a welcome pleasure to go back, improve what I could, try again.

One striking aspect reflected in these books is the profound change in our phones — and how deeply those new gadgets have transformed our lives. I was born in 1961. But until the advent of the personal cell phone, my childhood experience with phones was fairly standard for decades. In most homes, there was one phone number, one phone, maybe an extension or two. A line in the kitchen and another in the family room. Later on, a few fancy parents even had phones in their bedrooms. Usually all the same number. All calls came in and out through that central brain. In my house, the phone would ring, somebody would rush to it expectantly, listen a moment, then shout out in a teasing voice, “Barbara! It’s for you . . . and it’s a boy!”

It was a form of home security. Everybody in the house knew what was up. Strange callers had to get through a least one checkpoint. Many of us remember those teenage calls when a difficult parent answered the phone. It went something like this . . .

Mr. Flynn: Hello, Flynn residence.

JP: Is Rosie home?

Mr. Flynn: To whom am I speaking? 

JP: Oh, yeah, er, hi, Mr. Flynn. It’s Jimmy. Is Rosie home?

Mr. Flynn: She is.

JP: [pause] Um, can I talk to her?

Mr. Flynn: You can.

JP: [longer pause] I mean, may I talk to her? Speak with her? Can she come, may she come, is there any way I can —

Mr. Flynn: We’re about to sit down for dinner. Rosie will call you later, after she’s finished her homework. Click.

 

Consider for a moment all the information that was conveyed in that brief, awkward exchange. Mr. Flynn was not only aware that a boy was calling for his daughter, he actually spoke with that boy, got a sense of his manners and intelligence. He also managed to maintain a degree of control, “Rosie will call you later.” The gatekeeper. Today we talk about the loss of privacy, but the reverse is also true: sometimes there’s far too much privacy. Today a 10-year-old with her own phone has all sorts of communications and access to the internet without any family involvement whatsoever. No idea! Anyway, that’s a huge topic and not the purview of this post.

Mostly I want to say: Look at those phones, what a transformational shift in our family lives. Note: for the revisions, we deleted those dated images and I reworked the text accordingly.

 

Sidenote: I just read yet another article about the latest phone horror in a local high school. Young men making secret videos in school without consent, posting them on the internet, accomplished in the blink of an eye — a felony offense with devastating impacts on multiple students. There are articles like this everyday. These new phones are small miracles — but powerful and addictive. We hand them to 9-year-olds on their birthdays, and they only wonder what the heck took so long. 

Sidenote 2: I fear all this makes me look like an old coot, “Back in my day!” But that’s my reality. I remember how it was, and naturally compare it to how we live today. I found it interesting to see those changes reflected so clearly — and so quickly — in the relatively short time covered by this book series.

Sidenote 3: I love my phone, don’t get me wrong. But I’m also afraid of it.



               


Fan Mail Wednesday #292: On Jigsaw Jones, Ghosts, and Treehouses

 

Here’s one from a mystery lover in Indiana . . . 

 

Dear James Preller,

I really like your book, The Case of the Spooky Sleepover, because it makes me laugh. I like it because it talks about the treehouse. I think treehouses are cool. Who built the treehouse in the story? My favorite part of your book is the treehouse, I want a treehouse, I like the joke Justin played on his brother too. When he tried to scare him and his brother friends, it made me laugh. Do you believe in ghosts? Thank you for writing this book. I really enjoy reading your book.

Sincerely,

Alexander

I replied . . .

Alexander,

Oh, what a nice email! It always makes me glad to hear from a real, live reader.
I’m especially fond of The Case of the Spooky Sleepover, there’s a lot of nice moments in that book. Peeled grapes do feel a lot like eyeballs, don’t you think? Of course, I haven’t felt very many eyeballs, I’m happy to report. 

Illustration by R.W. Alley from THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE.

As a little boy, I always wanted a treehouse. It just seemed so cool. A house — in a tree! What could be better than that? Unfortunately, my father was not one of those “handy” guys with a hammer and a saw. I never got that treehouse. When I started writing Jigsaw Jones, I remembered that childhood feeling. I wanted Jigsaw to have an office of some kind. You know, a classic detective, meeting clients, looking at clues. So I decided to give Jigsaw the treehouse that I never got. Who built it? I guess I did! However, you might notice that his treehouse isn’t anything fancy. It’s pretty basic. But that’s Jigsaw — he’s just a regular guy.

Do I believe in ghosts? Not in the daytime, no. But when it gets dark, very late at night, I’m less sure.
Keep reading, Alexander, and have a happy halloween. Boo!
Your friend, 
James Preller
NOTE: The newest Jigsaw Jones book, The Case of the Hat Burglar, just came out this August! Somebody has been stealing items from the school’s “Lost and Found.” Who’s the burglar? And what in the world is he doing with all those hats?!

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.

 

Jigsaw Jones: And Then There Were 14

Good news! Coming August 6, 2019, we’ll see five more Jigsaw Jones books available for young readers.

The Case of the Hat Burglar is all-new, illustrated by R.W. Alley. I’m extremely happy with this one, a mystery centered around items that have gone missing from a school’s Lost and Found.

Who took them? And why? The answers to those questions will test the friendship between Jigsaw and Mila.

 

 

In addition, we’ve revised and updated four previously-published titles that have been (sadly!) out of print. 

Pictures like this one, for example (heh-heh), had to go:

 

 

Anyway, take a gander — here are the dazzling new covers and the slightly larger format. You can pre-order the books now. And, really, you should. What else are you going to do? Published by Macmillan. Collect all 14.

Don’t make me beg, people!

 

                    

 

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