Tag Archive for The Case of the Buried Treasure

Cover, Back Cover of Possibly My Favorite “Jigsaw Jones” Title

A funny thing about the newly re-published Jigsaw Jones books: I kind of like the back covers best of all. It’s nice to see all the new covers ganged up together. That great feeling of: there, we did it.

Buried Treasure_Back Cover (1)-A funny thing about the newly re-published Jigsaw Jones books: I kind of like the back covers best of all.A funny thing about the newly re-published Jigsaw

I mean compared to the front covers. (I still like the insides, the black squiggles between the covers, the stuff I did.)

I’m sometimes asked about my favorite Jigsaw Jones book. I don’t have a firm answer, but this title would definitely be in the running. Each book is different. In this one, I like how the mystery unfolds as a chain of mini-mysteries to solve, sort of a “Da Vinci Code” for grades 1-3, and I’m happy with the ending, always glad when there’s a sweet moment at the conclusion, some kind of heart that lifts the story up to a better place. To me, that’s when I’m happiest with a book. I often aspire to that pang at the end. And, okay, this book also includes a few sly references to the New York Mets.

This book is due out in November, I’m almost positive.

Buried Treasure

Fan Mail Wednesday #212: “The good part about your books . . .”



Hey hey, here’s one postmarked “Seattle WA,” one of the best places that I haven’t been to yet.

There’s a great sentence in this letter, a unique insight that I’ve never heard expressed exactly this way before. I wonder if you’ll find it.

Keala wrote:

Scan 2

I replied:

Dear Keala,

What a nice name! My name, of course, is James. Or Jim. Or Jimmy. Or, hey, we’re friends — you can even call me Jimbo.

Just don’t call me “Worm,” like my brothers used to do. I wasn’t too crazy about that nickname. I mean, seriously. Worm. Do I look like a worm to you?

Don’t answer that!

Maybe we should stick with “Mr. Preller.”

Cover by the great illustrator, R.W. Alley. I'm so grateful for his terrific contributions to the series.

Cover by the great illustrator, R.W. Alley. I’m so grateful for his terrific contributions to the series.

Thanks for reading my books. I have great fondness for The Case of the Buried Treasure. Even the opening sentence tickles my fancy:

“It all started when the little round thing-a-ma-whoosie fell off the whatsit on Big Maloney’s chair.”

Ah, the discovery of the secret message and the start of Jigsaw’s most complicated mystery. I’m so glad you liked it.

There’s an idea in that book — that the treasure can be found under the “Big Y” — that I borrowed from one of my favorite movies from childhood. It was called “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” At that time, back in 1963, they used the word “mad” to mean “crazy.” They still do today, I guess, just not as often. In that movie, which is super funny (and crazy!), the treasure is hidden under the “Big W.”

Here’s a shot from the movie to help you understand:


I was especially happy to read that you felt you could understand the mystery. Do you know what that tells me? Keala must be a smart cookie! Because I tried to make that mystery really tricky. It’s not easy. But somehow you followed along and figured it out. Must be all those books you’ve read.

Better be careful or you are going to grow a big brain.

A huge, gigantic brain!


And you’ll need to buy all new hats.

Thanks for your letter, Keala. Have the best summer ever — why not? And keep reading books, any books at all, even mine.

Your friend,

James Preller

Fan Mail Wednesday #116

Hey, I think I’ve got one!

I replied:

Dear Brennig,

Thanks for your letter. You are my first Brennig, though I should mention that I’ve received letters from 37 Brendans and 6 Brendens.

I have to agree with you, The Case of the Buried Treasure is, overall, one of my favorite Jigsaw Jones books. It was my first “Super Special” and I think I gave it my A+ effort. I haven’t read it in many years, but I do remember the opening sentence:

It all started when the little round thing-a-ma-whosie fell off the whatsit on Bigs Maloney’s chair.

I smiled when I got toward the end of your letter, and you wrote, “I read the whole thing.” For someone your age, that’s a huge accomplishment. If you can read my book, now imagine how many more books you can read all by yourself. Watch out world, here comes Brennig!

Thanks for including a Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope. Your autograph is in the mail!


The Great Comedy Albums of My Youth: “March Comes In Like A Lion . . . and Out Like a Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse”

“Now look, pal! I know a country where March comes in like an emu and goes out like a tapir. And they don’t even know what it means!” — John Belushi

Do you remember listening to comedy albums? I sure do. In the 60’s, I inherited some classic Bill Cosby disks from my folks, plus the great Allan Sherman. I wore the grooves off his debut record (below), which featured tracks such as “The Ballad of Harry Lewis,” “Shake Hands with Your Uncle Max,” “My Zelda,” and “The Streets of Miami.”

According to the usually reliable Wikipedia, Sherman’s 1962 disk, “My Son, the Folksinger,” became the fastest-selling album up to that time. Think about that for a minute. Imagine everyone on the show “Mad Men” running around quoting Allan Sherman. Soon after, I guess, the Beatles showed up and changed everything.

The Cosby album that I loved was “I Started Out as a Child,” and again, I listened to it over and over again. Those routines are burned into my skull: “The Giant,” “Sneakers,” “Oops!,” “The Lone Ranger,” and “Ralph Jameson.”

As I got older, I remember when Pat Sweeney and I discovered his older brother’s album, “Big Bambu” by Cheech & Chong, which came out in 1971 (“Sister Mary Elephant,” “Ralphie and Herbie”). Oh my, oh my. The original album, as I recall, came packaged with rolling papers! We didn’t even know what they were for . . . yet. Comedy was taking on a new edge, an outsider status — and we loved that subversive quality. Just listening to it felt like a small criminal act. For that reason, we loved George Carlin, who raised the stakes considerably. In 1972, he came out with “Class Clown,” featuring “I Used to Be an Irish Catholic” and, most famously, “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television.”

Again, it’s hard to describe the naughty thrill we felt as boys huddled around the turntable. We lapped it up and laughed and laughed, and somehow that counter-cultural strain seeped into our consciousness and shaped the way we looked at the world. Looking back now, I realize that I was at the exact right age for that moment in America, a tween when all the hypocrisy was hilariously exposed.

In 1976, when I was fifteen, I got a new album for Christmas (it was on my list, taped to our refrigerator), featuring The Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players. We had moved past Watergate and Vietnam, the 60’s were morphing into the Carter era and Disco was beginning to thump from speakers — as the Sex Pistols began gearing up against the bloated rock excesses of bands like Pink Floyd — and somehow this troupe of Saturday Night Live regulars had its collective finger on the pulse of America.

The stars are now legendary: John Belushi, Garrett Morris, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, Loraine Newman, and Chevy Chase — with a memorable guest appearance from Richard Pryor (“Word Association”).

The one skit that inspired me to write this today came from John Belushi, as a high-strung weatherman. Here he plays with the notion of March coming in like a lion and out like a lamb. (See full transcript below.) You can also click here to listen to a 30-second snippet of that routine, plus many other classics (“Emily Litella,” “News for the Hard of Hearing,” “Uvula,” “Dueling Brandos,” “Jimmy Carter,” and more). I loved that album, just as I loved the excitement of staying up late to watch the weekly show.

It may be an overstatement to say that comedy was dangerous, but it was definitely no longer my dad’s old Allan Sherman albums. Times had changed and it was reflected in what made us laugh.

Here’s the skit:

Chevy Chase:
Last week we made the comment that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Now here to reply is our chief meteorologist, John Belushi, with a seasonal report.

John Belushi:
Thank you Chevy. Well, another winter is almost over and March true to form has come in like a lion, and hopefully will go out like a lamb. At least that’s how March works here in the United States.

But did you know that March behaves differently in other countries? In Norway, for example, March comes in like a polar bear and goes out like a walrus. Or, take the case of Honduras where March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a salt marsh harvest mouse.

Let’s compare this to the Maldive Islands where March comes in like a wildebeest and goes out like an ant. A tiny, little ant about this big.

(holds thumb and index fingers a small distance apart)

Unlike the Malay Peninsula where March comes in like a worm-eating fernbird and goes out like a worm-eating fernbird. In fact, their whole year is like a worm-eating fernbird.

Or consider the Republic of South Africa where March comes in like a lion and goes out like a different lion. Like one has a mane, and one doesn’t have a mane. Or in certain parts of South America where March swims in like a sea otter, and then it slithers out like a giant anaconda.

There you can buy land real cheap, you know. And there’s a country where March hops in like a kangaroo, and stays a kangaroo for a while, and then it becomes a slightly smaller kangaroo. Then, then, then for a couple of days it’s sort of a cross between a, a frilled lizard and a common house cat.

(Chevy Chase tries to interrupt him)

Wait wait wait wait. Then it changes back into a smaller kangaroo, and then it goes out like a, like a wild dingo. Now, now, and it’s not Australia! Now, now, you’d think it would be Australia, but it’s not!

(Chevy Chase tries to interrupt him)

Now look, pal! I know a country where March comes in like an emu and goes out like a tapir. And they don’t even know what it means! All right? Now listen, there are nine different countries, where March comes in like a frog, and goes out like a golden retriever. But that- that’s not the weird part! No, no, the weird part is, is the frog. The frog- The weird part is-

(has seizure and falls off chair)

As a final comment, and coming full circle, I have to confess to lifting some of those ideas for a brief scene in Jigsaw Jones Super Special #1: The Case of the Buried Treasure (maybe my favorite out of all the Jigsaw books, and amazingly still in print). I don’t think I consciously made that connection to Belushi and SNL, but in hindsight I can see that my roots were showing.

Setup: Jigsaw and Mila are at the bus stop, talking with Joey Pignattano. Note to teachers: the book focuses a bit on similes — it’s a minor theme running through the story — and you may find that instructive/helpful.

“I was wondering,” Joey Pignattano said to me. “What kind of animal do you think January would be?”

“What?!” I replied.

“I mean, if January were an animal, what kind of animal would it be?” Joey pondered.

“Do you understand what he’s talking about, Mila?” I asked. “Because I sure don’t.”

Mila smiled. At least I think she smiled. There was a big, fluffly scarf wrapped around her head like a hungry boa constrictor. “Maybe Joey is trying to think of a simile,” she offered.

Joey nodded gratefully. “You know how they say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb? Well, I’m thinking that January would be an aardvark.”

I sighed. “Let me get this straight. March comes in like a lion. So you think January comes in like . . . an aardvark?”

“Yes,” Joey answered. “Or do you think maybe it’s more like an American bald eagle?”

“A woolly mammoth,” Mila stated.

I turned to her in surprise. “Nuh-uh,” I retorted. “January is definitely a skunk. This weather stinks.”

Fan Mail Wednesday #70

It’s snowing in upstate, New York! Time to break out the snow plow, because we’re still looking at a 9:40 dentist appointment for Gavin. Bummer. Let’s reach into the big barrel and see what we come up with today . . .

Dear James Preller,

I have almost read all your books but I am stuck on one book its #2 which is The Case of the Christmas Snowman. I asked my teacher if she can buy that book but she can’t find the book.

Before I go any farther I’ll tell you about myself I am turning ten, my name is Jobert, my grade is 4th and I enjoy your books.

I’ve only read The Case of the Missing Hamster and The Case of the Buried Treasure (Jigsaw Jones Super Special #1). In that book I like it how they find the time capsule and Jigsaw Jones dad put an action figure in the time capsule.

And on book #1 when they tried to find the hamster they thought Wingnut’s brother’s boa constrictor ate the hamster but actually Hermie was in the closet with her babies.

Mr. James Preller my questions for you are:

#1 What inspired you to write Jigsaw Jones?

#2 When you were a kid did you want to be a detective?

#3 When you were a kid did you want to be an author?

#4 What is your favorite book out of the books you wrote? Well that’s all my questions.

Now I’ll tell you more about myself I have black hair, my skin color is brown, I like your books and I am a shoe head.

When you write back can you please tell me about your self? Oh and I go to elementary school. Please write back soon Mr. James Preller.

Sincerely, a big fan,


I replied:

Dear Jobert,

Thanks for your letter. I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed so many of my books, especially The Case of the Buried Treasure, which is one of my favorites.

I see you asked some questions and –- hey, wait a minute — did you say you were . . . a shoe-head?

Yup, there it is. You snuck it in toward the end of the letter, as if I wouldn’t notice. I quote: “I have black hair, my skin color is brown, I like your books and I am a shoe head.”

Maybe I’m out of touch, because I don’t know if that’s a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. But, okay, hey, I’m cool with that. Some of my biggest fans — and newest friends — are shoe-heads. According to the Urban Dictionary, it means you’re in love with shoes. As Jigsaw might say, “Go figure.” I’m in love with chocolate and the sound of the electric guitar.

Okay, here comes the part of the letter when I answer your questions. Are you sitting down, all buckled up?

1. Writing a mystery series was almost an accident. I started out just writing scenes about a boy character with a vivid imagination. He pretended to be a cowboy, a scientist, an astronaut, a detective. An editor, Jean Feiwel, encouraged me to focus on the mystery element. We never expected that it would turn into 40 books.

2. I liked to spy on my brothers and sisters (I had six, total), but that was the extent of my detective work. And, oh yes, I loved to sneak around to find Christmas presents hidden in closets or under beds. By the time Christmas came, I knew about 90% of what I was going to get. I don’t think that made me a detective, exactly, more like just a nosy kid who usually found Christmas to be a little anti-climactic. That is: a letdown.

3. As a southpaw from Long Island, I wanted to pitch for the New York Mets. Too bad my fastball couldn’t break a window. I was definitely more of a “get outside” type kid than a “sit inside and read” one. I didn’t become crazy about reading until my teenage years, I guess. The writing came along at that time, too, when I started to buy journals and notebooks, writing to help sort through my teenage feelings. Actually, come to think of it, when I was very young I used to FILL notebooks with imaginary baseball games that I invented using a pair of dice.

I played hundreds of those games alone in my room, thousands maybe, kept statistics, box scores, the whole works. I know that kids today, in this age of Xbox and PlayStation, can’t relate to spending hours throwing dice and scribbling figures in a notebook, but that’s what I did. Not exactly writing, but nevertheless I had a pen and paper and I kept my mind engaged, and myself happy. Maybe those days were the early roots of my life as a writer, just that it became a comfortable place for me, alone with a pen and a piece of paper.

4. Besides the Jigsaw Jones books, I’m most proud of Six Innings. And Bystander, too (click here for a sample chapter). I have a new one coming out late this summer, Justin Fisher Declares War! (Scholastic, August, 2010), and I like it because it’s upbeat and funny — it doesn’t mean anything, just a fun bumpy ride in the amusement park. Sometimes it’s nice to keep things light.

Be well, Jobert, and have a great holiday.

P.S.: By the way, Scholastic offers a number where customers can call to request specific titles that might not be offered on recent book clubs. Your teacher you can contact Scholastic Book Clubs at 1-800-724-6527, or go to this website for more information. I hear they are receptive to customer’s requests, and will try to do everything possible to be helpful. Thanks for reading my books — and good luck with the footwear, Mr. Shoe Head!