Tag Archive for Preller Better Off Undead

“Sticks and Stones” in Honor of No Name-Calling Week (Yes, It’s a Thing)


This is no name-calling week (and yes, click the link, learn how your school can participate, and you can even buy the pencils!). And in honor of this week’s theme, I’d like to share the second-shortest chapter in my most recent book, Better Off Undead. The shortest, by the way, is only one word; try to beat that.

To set the scene, Adrian, a zombie, is having a hard time adjusting to middle school life. He begins the book as more or less the ultimate outsider, being the only zombie officially registered at Nixon Middle School, where they clearly had never heard of “No Name-Calling Week.” A real shame. Here on pages 47-48, Adrian reflects on some of the names he’s been called . . . 


Let’s list the names:

I am shuffler, ankle-dragger, shape-shifter, howler, freak. I am living dead, soulless corpse, brain-sucker, crawler, spitter, wraith, wuss, dumb butt, flailer, mutant, hant. I am gorgon, raver, basilisk, shambling undead, moaner, groaner, ghoul, death talker, puke machine, shade, half-life, cadaver, wailer, flailer, biter, roamer, feeder, lurcher, loser, infected fleshbag, vermin, oddball, slob, dipstick, drooler, death rattler, human fail. 

I am other, alien, outcast, misfit, and I live in your town. 

I am zombie, and names will never hurt me.

But inside, I’m a flower rising up through a crack in the sidewalk. I’m a hawk riding the upswells of wind, an athlete leaping hurdles, heart pumping, blood pulsing . . . 

Inside, in the places that no one can see, I’m freaking amazing. 

McElligott & Preller Join Forces for a Super “Team Up” at The Open Door Bookstore: 12/2 @ 1:00 – 2:30

It’s two for the price of none! Matt McElligott and I are teaming up for a unique book signing at Schenectady’s Open Door Bookstore on 12/2 at 1:00 – 2:30. Come say hello and take care of that holiday shopping with signed books!

Matt is the big brain behind the ground-breaking “Mad Scientist Academy” series, which brings scientific fact to young readers in a fresh, graphic, fun-filled format. The latest title is The Space Disaster.

msa2-jacket-green-mockup     Dinosaur-cover

“McElligott has concocted a winning formula for learning as entertainment.”Kirkus Reviews.

I’ll be there to celebrate the publication of my own space-themed Jigsaw Jones book, The Case from Outer Space, along with the return-to-print of eight “classroom classics.” In addition, I’ll be signing my hot-off-the-presses release, Better Off Undead, for slightly older readers (grades 4-8).

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“The latest early chapter book in Preller’s long-running Jigsaw Jones Mystery series has plenty of appeal for young independent readers.”Booklist.

“This uproarious middle grade call to action [Better Of Undead] has considerable kid appeal and a timely message. A strong addition to school and public library collections.” — School Library Journal.




Talking: Writing Process, Roald Dahl, Works In Progress, Lewis & Clark, and the Danger of the “Info Dump.”

Illustration by the amazing Quentin Blake, from DANNY CHAMPION OF THE WORLD -- a book that helped inspire THE COURAGE TEST.

Illustration by the amazing Quentin Blake, from DANNY CHAMPION OF THE WORLD — a book that helped inspire THE COURAGE TEST.

Deborah Kalb runs a cool website where she interviews a staggering number of authors and illustrators . . . and she finally worked her way down to me.

Please check it out by stomping on this link here.

Here’s a quick sample:

Q: You wrote that you were inspired by Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World to focus on a father-son dynamic in The Courage Test. How would you describe the relationship between your character Will and his father?

A: Yes, I came late to the Dahl classic and was struck that here was a loving book about a boy’s relationship with his father — not the kind of thing I’ve seen in many middle-grade children’s books. I found it liberating, as if Dahl had given me a written note of permission.

In The Courage Test, William Meriwether Miller is a 12-year-old with recently divorced parents. His father has moved out and moved on. So there’s tension there, and awkwardness; William feels abandoned, and he also feels love, of course, because it’s natural for us to love our fathers.

I wrote about this at more length, here, back a couple of years ago. In the unlikely event you are really fascinated by my connection to the Dahl book . . .