Sometimes fan mail comes from unexpected places . . . and says just the things you long to hear.
Hello Mr. Preller,
I am a full time dad for 3 young boys, Isaiah (8), Luke (7), Noah (3). Your books have been a staple for our bedtime reading time. I’ve found myself reading on after I hear the 3 stooges snoring away. I genuinely appreciate your style and content. My 8 year old is usually the one to discuss possible outcomes and facts about the stories the next day. In a time when innocence, manners and values seem to escape our kids media, I admire Jigsaw Jones for the stories that make us think and still hold to some old school innocence.
If you’re ever down around Newport News, Virginia, let me know. Our Elementary school may be interested in your appearance next year.
Thanks for that great letter. As much as my books are intended for children, I always wonder about the parents out there. After all, I identify with both perspectives, much in the way I see myself in both Jigsaw and his father, Mr. Jones. Like you, I’ve spent many, many hours reading to my children. I know what it’s like to read on after they’ve fallen asleep; I know how it feels when we discover a wonderful, worthwhile story to share. And, yes, I’ve read poorly-written books and cringed at TV shows and movies with inappropriate language.
In our house, words like “dumb” and “stupid” and “fat” are considered bad words — language that my children are not allowed to use. I never expected that I’d become a conservative parent (as I am one heck of a cool guy, believe me!), but in this regard my wife and I are mindful of setting limits for our children. It’s so disappointing to encounter those same words, and more significantly, the attitudes that inform those words, in popular media. When I started this series, I decided that my readers were young, and that there was time enough for them to encounter those things . . . elsewhere. So thank you for noticing. And while I strive to avoid obvious messages, writ large — I gag at the Berenstain Bears, for example — I am fully aware that values are imbedded in every story we tell. The way characters interact, the way I might describe someone’s appearance, or how I depict a dinner scene. I’m proud of Jigsaw’s friendship with Mila, the respect and caring they show for each other.
You know what TV show I really came to admire? This is almost embarrassing, and might even surprise you . . .
. . . but, yep, Full House. I know, I know. How uncool is that? But the more I saw it, the more comfortable I became with allowing my children to watch it. Those characters were genuinely decent. They were a family — Jesse and Joey, D.J., Stephanie, Danny and Michelle — all doing the best they could, struggling with everyday problems: Joey has to change his first diaper . . . Stephanie is afraid of going to kindergarten . . . D.J. struggles with music lessons . . . and a frozen turkey threatens to ruin Thanksgiving! A little bland? Um, yes. But also realistic and reassuring for young kids. It’s not easy to pull that off, week after a week, in a culture that celebrates all things “edgy.” Fortunately, there are many, many great children’s books that are age-appropriate. There’s no end to the good things available to you and your family — and to me and mine.
As for being down in Newport News, I don’t have anything planned. Since I live outside of Albany, New York, a trip like that would require the coordinated efforts of a school district, where I would have the opportunity to visit schools for 3-4 consecutive days. There’s travel, hotel arrangements, basic economics to consider. That said, it’s been done before. I’m always happy to discuss the possibilities with any school that shows interest.
Have a great summer — and thanks again for bringing my books into your home, and sharing them with your children. I consider it an honor and a responsibility.
My best to Isaiah, Luke, and Noah!
ADDENDUM: I just discovered that author Tony Abbott, a fine writer and a deep thinker and a friend, took on this topic of “responsibility” over at his blog. Check that out by clicking here.