Inspired by Gerard’s inquisitiveness, I replied at length . . .
Inspired by Gerard’s inquisitiveness, I replied at length . . .
Such an impressive letter from a young reader in Istanbul . . .
Dear Mr. James Preller,
Hello, my name is Damla. I am a 9 years old 5th grade student from İstanbul Hisar School. I read your book named “ The case from outer space”. Your book was very fun and interesting and I want to share my thoughts with you in this letter.
First of all the Jigsaw Jones character was my favorite because he has good friends, he is smart and fun. Also he likes adventures and that’s why he is curious.
I chose to first read this book from the series because I am interested in getting to know more about space!
I was very curious about what would happen and what all those codes meant. So I kept reading and reading.
Finally finding out that it wasn’t an alien but a lady astrounot coming to school was a great surprise to me.
If I could be one of the kids I wish I was Jigsaw because you created this character with great curiosity, courage and power to finish whatever he starts.
Thank you for creating such a story and writing it so nicely so that I could read.
I replied . . .
That was a gorgeous letter, Damla, so kind and thoughtfully crafted. Thank you very much for that.
And all the way from Istanbul, too!
You are right about Jigsaw. It’s not that he’s the smartest guy in the room. But he’s got spirit and integrity and he never gives up. Fortunately, as you noted, Jigsaw has good friends, especially Mila. She helps him a lot.
Yes, I really like outer space too. It’s something that fascinates me. The great unknown. One of the ideas the book asks is if there’s life in outer space. Okay, perhaps not little green men from Mars. Or, um, definitely not men from Mars. But why not from some other distant planet? Perhaps a planet we don’t even know about yet!
When I researched for the book, I read about scientists who have made it their life’s work to listen for messages from deep space. They keep sending out signals, working to improve their equipment, hoping that someday, somehow, we people of earth will receive an answer. That’s why I ended the book the way I did, with the notion that maybe our current phones just aren’t good enough yet.
Like those cell phone commercials: “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?”
I particularly like that final chapter when Jigsaw, Grams, and his father walk out into an open field to stare up at the night sky. Haven’t we all done this?
“Oh hush, you two,” Grams said. “Just look at the stars.”
And so we did.
We stood in an open field.
In the dark of night.
And gazed at the stars.
In perfect silence.
“That’s the real mystery, Jigsaw,” my father said. “Are we alone in the universe? We don’t know yet. It’s a mystery that can’t be solved –- even by the best detectives.”
“Not yet,” I said, gazing at the night sky. “Not yet.”
Not terrible, right? Don’t you love that illustration by R.W. Alley? His real name is Bob. I love those brief, quiet, family moments in these books. I try to tug at the reader’s heart a little bit if I can.
Thank you for that truly exceptional letter, Damla. Here in the United States, a 5th grade student is usually 11 years old. Our 9-year-olds tend to be in our version of 3rd grade. It’s just one of the little cultural differences between us.
You know what? Boy, I’d love to see photo of you and your school. Your teacher. Your friends. Your dog. Whatever you want. You don’t have to send me anything — no pressure — I’m just happy to have a reader so far away. I’d love to see your face.
When you get a tiny bit older, and a more accomplished reader, you might like my new books The Courage Test and my brand-new one, Better Off Undead. I’d love to think of you with one of those books in your hands (and my words in your head).
Until then, I’d like to imagine that you and I will both step outside on the same warm night, to look up in silence at the same twinkling stars and distant planets, full of wonder and happiness.
Your friend, truly,
Oh, that face!
This is Cody, a precocious 5-year-old from Hawaii who just read his first chapter book all by himself. He’s also a contest winner. I actually have a hard time giving away free books on my blog. I try, and sometimes succeed, but generally don’t get a big response. People don’t read blogs that often — and I totally understand that — and, I suspect, if they are like me, they likely figure, “Oh, I never win anything anyway.”
Cody’s mother wrote:
My 5 year old Kindergarten son just picked “Good Night, Zombie” out at the library on November 2nd. This was his first chapter book EVER! He just finished it this morning before school. When I was googling the book to see what reading level it was, I came across the contest…that just ended. However. He was excited to do it and I was excited to share with you that my little guy loved the book. He told me after reading it that he had to get number one and three books (since the one he chose is number three). I wanted to thank you for your book!! My son enjoyed it…and got a little scared too! Which made me happy because I knew he was comprehending what he read.
I replied by sending Cody two books. While I think “scary” is highly individual in how readers respond to it, I wanted to give Cody a mellower option so tossed in a signed Jigsaw Jones, too. Five years old felt a little young to me. But again, as I half-apologetically tell kids (in grades 3-up) on school visits, “Nobody gets murdered in these books.”
They groan, good-naturedly, in disappointment.
By the way, I loved Cody’s mom’s comment that she was happy he got a little scared because it showed he understood what he was reading.
I don’t think it’s the end of the world if a reader gets a little scared, either. The heart goes boom-boom-boom. I think it’s in those moments of disequilibrium, of “up-set-ment,” when learning takes place.
I believe I’m in the business of disturbing the universe. It’s my job.
It’s an incredible feeling to get receive a letter like this one that Kylie from Elsewhere sent to me . . .
Welcome to Fan Mail Wednesday! We’re starting back up after taking it slow over the summer. Nobody reads blogs over the summer. I mean to say, nobody reads blogs, ever. But I persist because I am happy to do it and, hey, somebody might! You’re here, aren’t you?
Right? I mean: Somebody’s here. Hellllllooooo???
Anyway: Here’s a lovely exchange I had with Kayla, an old fan who is searching for the perfect gift . . . for her dear old dad.
Hi Mr. Preller!