Tag Archive for Kirkus Reviews Preller

Kirkus Reviews on THE FALL: “A timely, important message.”


My mom loved it. Do you really need the opinion of professional journals?

My mom loved it. Do you really need the opinion of professional journals?

Okay, here we go, the professional journals are starting to weigh in on The Fall (September, Macmillan). Kirkus Reviews has a reputation for bringing the snark, for the unkindest cut, so it’s always good to get out unflayed, skin intact. In truth, I’ve found that they’ve been fair to me and I am grateful for the critical attention.

Thank you, Kirkus, whoever you are!

Actually — the truth — I’m never happy unless I get a star. I want to write great books. I want people to think they are great books. And I mean, by “people,” folks other than my beautiful, 89-year-old mother.

That’s the aspiration anyway.

For the full review, click insanely right here, right now.

Money quote:

“With its timely, important message and engaging prose style, Sam’s journal ought to find a large readership.”


Cover Reveal (Not Final): THE FALL by James Preller





9780312643010 (2)


This is the image that will appear on the Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) that goes out for review. In the words of my long-suffering editor, “It’s the most up to date. Not final, but fine to use now for your school visits.”

It’s a process, and I don’t steer the ship. In the simplest terms possible, I think that the author is responsible for the inside of the book, but that the cover is in the domain of the publisher. I have input, but mine is only one of many voices. They have a lot more experience at this sort of thing.

9780312547967So: trust, hope, collaboration, respect.

The book is for middle school readers. It falls somewhere in that Grades 5-9 category, probably best for 6-8. A good companion book for readers who enjoyed Bystander.

In an interview with Kirkus, I said this about the book to the charming Julie Danielson:

I have an ambitious hardcover coming out next year, titled The Fall (Macmillan, August 2015), in which I return to some of the themes first explored in Bystander. We’ve seen “the bully” become this vilified subcreature, and in most cases I don’t think that’s fair or accurate. Bullying is a verb, a behavior, not a label we can stick on people to define them—especially when we are talking about children. Walt Whitman wrote, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”The book is told in a journal format from the perspective of a boy who has participated in bullying—with tragic results—and now he’s got to own it. A good kid, I think, who failed to be his best self. To my surprise, the book ended up as almost a meditation on forgiveness, that most difficult of things. The opening sentence reads:

“Two weeks before Morgan Mallen threw herself off the water tower, I might have sent a message to her social media page that read, ‘Just die! die! die! No one cares about you anyway! (I’m just saying: It could have been me.)”

I was guided throughout my writing by a powerful quote from the great lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson: “I’ve come to understand and to believe that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”


Kirkus Reviews “A Pirates Guide to First Grade”

“Good fun, me hearties!”Kirkus Reviews.

Ahoy, lubbers! Here’s the first review for A Pirate’s Guide for First Grade:

“A little boy with pirates on the brain navigates the first day of school. Narrating in a vigorous piratespeak, he takes readers through his day. “Then in the galley, I mashed me choppers on grub and drowned it with grog.” It may come as no surprise to learn that school comes as a bit of a letdown: “ ’Twas good enough for lubbers, I suppose. But where’s me treasure?’ ” he asks his teacher, “Cap’n” Silver,” at the end of the day, and she obliges. Ruth matches the narration with striking line-and-watercolor graphics, surrounding his hero (who sports a skull-and-bones athletic jersey) with sepia-and-white pencil renderings of pirates (and a parrot) who silently kibitz on his day. Pirate-addled readers will dance a jig; press-ganged kids will be happy for the glossary. Good fun, me hearties. (Picture book. 4-7)

I’m not sure about “press-ganged,” this might be an advance copy that hasn’t had the final proofread. Or maybe it’s just a word or phrase I don’t know.

That said, I agree. The book is good fun and Greg Ruth’s illustrations are great.

UPDATE: You know what they say, ignorance is Jimmy! Author Kurtis Scaletta explains the meaning of a “press gang” in the comments section. Arrr.