Tag Archive for The Case from Outer Space

Joe Pignatano Passes, Joey Pignatanno Lives On: The New York Mets & Jigsaw Jones

By 1968, at 7 years old, I had became a huge fan of the New York Mets. That affliction was passed along by my mother, an old Brooklyn Dodgers fan who adopted the Mets on the day they were born in 1962. The Mets were, in a way, her 8th and final child. To this day, I credit the sports writers from that time — particularly Dick Young — for turning me into a reader. I remain grateful that ESPN wasn’t around in those days; I had to read to find out about the previous game, studying the box score, reveling in Bill Gallo’s cartoons, and working my way through the articles in the morning newspaper. We got the Daily News and The Long Island Press.

When it came time for me to write the first Jigsaw Jones book in 1997 (there are 42 in all, more than 11 million sold), I had to fill Jigsaw’s classroom with characters. So I named one Joey Pignattano, after the longtime Mets bullpen coach, Joe Pignatano. The old coach and former catcher passed recently at age 92. He served with the Mets from 1968 to 1981, working under managers Gil Hodges, Yogi Berra, Roy McMillan, Joe Frazier, and Joe Torre.

Joe Pignatano was famous for growing tomato plants in the Shea Stadium bullpen.

“In 1969 I discovered a wild tomato plant in the bullpen and nurtured it the rest of the season,” he remembered. “We got some tomatoes off it, but most important we won the whole thing. After that, I kept up the garden as long as I was with the Mets as a good luck charm.”

 

Yes, 1969 was a good year to be a Mets fan. And amazingly, I was there at Shea for Game 5 of the World Series. I watched my hero, pitcher Jerry Koosman, throw the last ball and fabulous Cleon Jones in left field cradle it for the final out. Whew. Game over, miracle secured. And to think I’d had a few tears fall earlier during that game, when we were down 3-0 to the dreaded Orioles. 

As a kid I was captivated by that name. Joe Pignatano! It was perfection. Of course, as these things go, I managed to misspell it in Jigsaw Jones. 

Rest in peace, Joe. I hope you didn’t mind my little tribute. And if I didn’t say it before: thank you.

 

Art from Jigsaw Jones: The Case from Outer Space. That’s Joey Pignattano and Danika Starling. Illustrated by R.W. Alley.

Jigsaw Jones Shares His “Simple Trick” for Solving Puzzles

“I’ve never met a puzzle
I couldn’t solve.”

 

Image is phone capture from THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE, illustrated by R.W. Alley.

 

Everyone seems to be doing puzzles these days. Stores are sold out, orders are backlisted, as families gather around the table and drive themselves insane enjoy time together. There’s a midpoint stage in every puzzle when you’d swear that the cat has eaten three missing pieces or there’s an obvious manufacturer’s defect. How does one persevere through the tough times? I decided to ask an expert. 

Here’s Jigsaw Jones himself, from page 2, The Case from Outer Space:

I was standing at my dining room table, staring at a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle. It was supposed to be a picture of our solar system. The sun and eight planets. But right now it was a mess. Scattered pieces lay everywhere. I scratched my head and munched on a blueberry Pop-Tart. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right. As a cook, I’m pretty good with a toaster. I began working on the border, grouping all the pieces that had a flat edge. Sooner or later, I’d work my way through the planets. The rust red of Mars. The rings of Saturn. And the green tint of Neptune. I’ve never met a puzzle I couldn’t solve. That’s because I know the secret. The simple trick? Don’t give up.

Don’t ever give up. 

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #297: Includes a Free Pro Tip on Becoming a Writer!

 

Fan Mail Wednesday actually falls on a Wednesday this time around, because eventually that’s bound to happen. The law of averages! This letter comes from Max, a Jigsaw Jones fan in Kentucky, which I understand is a state somewhere near Ohio. Never been there, though my rescue dog, Echo, hails from those parts. I’d love to do school visits in Kentucky someday.

Don’t make me beg, people. Zing me a text at Jamespreller@aol.com and we’ll work it out. Of course, we can wait for this virus to settle down. Weird, right?

BTW, I love it when a FREE BONUS DRAWING is included. Thanks for that, Max. Anyway, the letter: 

I replied:

Dear Max,

Thank you for your kind letter. I’m so happy you read The Case from Outer Space. It is one of my favorites. Were you surprised by the ending?

Illustration by R.W. Alley.

One of the first inspirations for that book came from my love for “Little Free Libraries.” I’d seen them popping up all over the place and they appealed to me enormously. I’ve even seen schools that have them. Leave a book, take a book. I love that!

So I began to ask myself a writer’s two most important words: WHAT IF? Those are the magic words that get the imagination wandering. I thought, What if someone finds a mysterious note tucked inside a book in a Little Free Library?

Could such a thing be possible? I talked to librarians. They told me they find items inside books all the time. Photos, grocery lists, baseball cards -– even a banana peel.

Another part of the book came from a long interest in NASA and space exploration. I’ve often gazed at the stars and wondered if anyone else might be out there, somewhere in the twinkling beyond, far past our solar system of eight planets and into the outer reaches of the expanding universe. Wow. I smile just thinking about it.

If you truly wish to become a good author, there’s good news. You are already on the right path! Keep reading, keep feeding your brain with words and ideas. Just about every writer I know started out by being a reader. But you don’t have to sit around reading all day. Live! Do things! Play sports, run around, make friends, build stuff, look at clouds and trees, cook yummy desserts, enjoy yourself and everything there is in this amazing world of ours –- and, okay, also read.

And, you know, Max, maybe one day you’ll pick up a pencil and draw a picture. You’ll write down some words. Maybe start a story of your own.

Keep thinking, keep reading, keep being good old Max.

Thank you, my new friend in Kentucky, I’m so glad to receive your letter.

James Preller

 

 

Artist’s Sketchbook: A Glimpse into the Process

I recently received a zippy little email from R.W. Alley, who is illustrating the next Jigsaw Jones book, The Case of the Hat Burglar.  I think that Bob — yes, I call him Bob — is a remarkable, sensitive talent. He really captures Jigsaw’s world, the essence of everything I hope to achieve through my words. Bob lifts it all up and makes it better. He’s done all the covers to the books, and (so far) the full interiors to three titles. The first two, much beloved, are currently out of print (grumble, grumble): The Case of Hermie the Missing Hamster and The Case of the Christmas Snowman. Last year, Bob illustrated The Case from Outer Space, which is available, published by Macmillan. Very simply, I love his work. So grateful, so blessed.

Hey Jimmy,
I feel moved to let you know what fun I’m having sketching up this mysterious hat story of yours.
Here’s a little peek.
Happy wet Wednesday,
Bob
I’m a huge fan of process — except when it comes sausages — and it’s great fun for me to see how a book comes together over a long period of time. So many people touch it, shape it, contribute to the final “real” book. Mostly after I’m out of the picture. Just yesterday my editor, Anna Poon, sent along flap copy for my approval. Maybe I’ll share that another day. 
Must run now. Headed down to Westchester to speak at a middle school where all students (purportedly) read Bystander. Then on Saturday, it’s the glorious Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. Hope to see you there! Please say hello.

Fan Mail Wednesday #273: Avigayil from Inwood!

 

 

You all buckled up? Let’s go. Because Avigayil is learning how to write letters.

I replied . . . 

Dear Avigayil from Inwood!

What an interesting name you have. I’ve received many letters, and signed a lot of books, but you are my first Avigayil. Congratulations.

Am I your first James? Or Jimmy? Or Jimbo?

For someone who is just learning how to write letters, you did an excellent job. Thanks especially for including the stamped, self-addressed envelope. That saved me time and money!

I’m glad you liked The Case of Hermie the Missing Hamster and The Case of the Race Against Time. The second title features a bad haircut –- and let me tell you, I’ve had a few. I remember looking in the mirror and feeling sad. Ack! My head!

I wrote a new Jigsaw Jones book last year, titled The Case from Outer Space. I had a great time writing it, and maybe even made myself laugh here and there. I’m working on a new one right now. The title will be, The Case of the Hat Burglar. It centers around the “Lost and Found” at Jigsaw’s school.

Do you have a “Lost & Found” at your school? What do you think would happen if most of the hats were suddenly . . . missing? It’s time for Jigsaw and Mila to solve a new case.

But first, I guess I’ve got to write the book. When I start, I take notes and do a lot of thinking and planning. I don’t actually start writing until several weeks go by. Right now, I’m almost ready to begin. Thanks for your letter, Avigayil. Great job!

Your friend,

James Preller