Tag Archive for Jigsaw Jones

The Case of the Hat Burglar: A Visit to the Lab of Reginald Pinkerton Armitage III

Here’s the setup for this short excerpt: somebody has been taking items from the school’s “Lost & Found,” but no worries, Jigsaw Jones and Mila are on the case. However, they can’t possibly keep a watchful eye on the crime scene all day long. So they pay a little visit to Jigsaw’s old pal, Reginald Pinkerton Armitage III, a dapper lad who dabbles in gadgets and gizmos.

Now I’m a writer who loves process, especially the particular alchemy performed by illustrators when they turn rough sketches into final art. Here’s R.W. Alley’s sketch of the scene in Reggie’s lab:

If you are getting a James Bond-visits-Q vibe, you are on the right track. I’m paying tribute to that character and those old movies that I liked as a kid. 

From the book:

A while back, Reginald had started his own “secret agent” business. It didn’t work out so well. He thought being a detective would be fun, a chance to play with fancy gadgets and gizmos. But Reginald learned that solving mysteries could be a rough business. It took hard work and brainpower. Reggie was a nice kid, but he was as tough as a silk pillow. He promised I could borrow his gadgets anytime.

Today, I needed him to keep that promise. 

Reginald pushed open a door, then said over his shoulder to Mila, “Please come into my research room.”

I’d been here once before. The room looked like a laboratory. Various objects had been placed on marble countertops. “This is all your spy equipment?” Mila asked.

She picked up an old boot.

It was a mistake I’d once made myself. “Be careful, Mila,” I warned.

Sploinnng! A suction cup attached to a spring popped out of the shoe.

“Whoa,” Mila said, jumping back in surprise.

“Suction-cup boots,” Reginald explained. “For walking on ceilings.”

“It really works?” Mila asked.

Reginald shrugged and admitted, “I’m afraid to find out.”

Mila picked up two plastic goldfish. “What are these?”

“Underwater walkie-talkies,” Reginald explained.

“Glub, glub,” I commented — for no reason at all.

“And this?” Mila pointed to a tray of cucumber sandwiches. “Let me guess. Is it some kind of secret listening device?”

“No, it’s a tray of cucumber sandwiches,” Reginald said. “For snack time.”

“Cucumber sandwiches, yum,” I groaned. It was the last thing in the world I’d want to eat. I was a peanut-butter-and-jelly kind of guy. “Sadly, Reggie, we don’t have time for snack. We’re here on business.”

 

And here’s how it all looks in the book across two pages . . . and yes, I’m blessed to have R.W. Alley illustrating these books. 

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #294: In Which Ryan and Harper Turn Me Into a Turkey Man!

 

A couple of letters arrived recently along with art work, always a bonus. Please take a gander at these portraits of yours truly. 

 

So, yeah, gobble-gobble. That’s me . . . as a turkey. The art projects tied into Thanksgiving, I presume. Look at my ankle in the bottom one. Must be sprained. And look at my nose-beak on the top one! 

Oh dear. Oh me, oh my. I can’t stop staring at these!

Here are the letters and, below that, my reply. 

 

 

Dear Ryan and Harper,

I’m combining my response in one letter because I received your artwork in the same envelope. I’ve included a copy for each of you, via snail mail, to bring home, where you can treasure it always or shove it in the back of your closet or, hey, both!

Just don’t let the hamster poop on it! That’s all I ask. 

So I’m looking at your artwork . . . and I’ll be honest.

I’m a little freaked out.

You’ve turned me into a Turkey Man.

I repeat: A TURKEY MAN!

Complete with beak and feathers and goatee and, in Harper’s case, a wattle!

If I’d ever wondered before what I’d look like with a wattle, well, now I know. At least that question has been answered once and for all.

And Ryan, thanks for those feathers. “Caring” is my favorite.

I was so delighted by your artwork, in fact, that I shared it on Facebook with my very close, intimate group of 1,000-plus “friends.” It was “liked” by more than 100 people and generated quite a few comments:

Padi said, “The likeness is uncanny.”

Larry said, “Spitting image.”

Liza asked, “Did you get a nose job?”

Sigh. These are, supposedly, my friends!

Anyway, and in all seriousness, awesome job, Ryan and Harper. Now, let’s see, you also wrote letters. Thank you for those, too.

Ryan, I appreciate your encouragement. I will keep writing! Honestly, it’s readers like you who make it all feel worthwhile.

Harper, thanks for reading the latest Jigsaw Jones book, The Case of the Hat Burglar. I’m so glad that the ending surprised you. Did you fall off your chair? That’s my goal. Someday I want to write a book with a surprise that’s so unexpected readers all over America fall off their chairs. Whoops, tumble, thunk!

Thank you both for your kind notes and artwork. I love them!

Your friend,

THE TURKEY MAN!

(James Preller)

P.S. My regards to your fabulous teacher, Ms. Lukingbeal. I visited Hudson, Ohio, not too long ago. It was a wonderful week of school visits. I even got to eat dinner with her! If you ask her, she might tell you that I pecked at my food.

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.