Archive for March 25, 2009

Fan Mail Wednesday #35

I’ve got a cold and I’m feeling grumpy. Wheezing, sneezing, stuffed up, head in a fog. Nothing can possibly make me happy . . . except for FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY!

It’s better than Vicks VapoRub!

Here’s one that asks a simple question and gets a complicated answer.

Dear Mr. Preller,

Hello my name is Isabella M. I am 8 years old. I like to play soccer and I like to read. I read your book, The Case Of The Snowboarding Superstar.  I wanted to know how did you come up with the idea of the book?


I replied:


Thanks for your email. The idea for that book was originally suggested by my editor, Shannon Penney, at Scholastic. She wanted something with a winter theme. I immediately liked the idea, because my family had recently been on a family ski trip to New Hampshire. Even better, I once edited a book by my friend, Joe Layden, called No Limits, that profiled some of the world’s best snowboarders, including Ross Powers and Shaun White.

So I already knew something about that world. I also liked the idea of getting Jigsaw away from school — and away from Mila. It would be interesting to see how he’d do without his partner, in a strange new place. Of course, as usual, Mila does manage to provide some key help along the way.

Here’s a paragraph from the book:

It was too late in the day to ski, so we gathered around a fireplace in a big open room. A large window gave us a view of the ski trails, the lifts, and the mountains looming high overhead. Snow fell softly from the sky, like tiny white marshmallows. Life was good. And so was the hot chocolate.

Don’t you just want to go there? I do. Sitting by a fire, watching the snow, sipping hot chocolate? Sounds good to me. Maybe you could describe a place you’d like to be. A beach? A park, under a tree? Where is that special place? Can you picture it? How would you put that picture into words? What feelings does it give you? What do you smell?

I also loved the slang of snowboarding, the hipster lingo, with tricks named “McTwist” and “Switch 540 Backflip Indy Grab.” After doing more research, I learned the meaning of words like gnarly, wack, boost, bail, faceplant, pow-pow, rag-dolling, and more. It was especially fun writing Chapter One, when Jigsaw’s brothers try to teach him how to “talk cool.”

Thanks for your letter, my dear Isabella!


Hanging the Net

This weekend I got around to hanging the net.

Fortunately I had some help . . .

. . . but not much.

Have you figured it out yet?

Here’s another hint:

The view from inside the cage . . .

And from another angle.

That’s right . . . we’ve got a batting cage. How baseball-crazy is that? And no, it didn’t come with the house.

Sleeping in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Living in Delmar, NY, we’re about 75 miles from Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Beautiful little town in the middle of nowhere, with a gorgeous lake and a lost-in-time feel. The museum offers a program called “Extra Innings,” where groups may come to spend the night. So a group of 36 local children, most of them accompanied by an adult, arrived at the museum at 6:00. The kids played a baseball trivia game, then had a scavenger hunt that brought them all over the museum — which was empty except for us. At 8:30, they watched “The Sandlot” in a small theater, lights out at 11:00. Didn’t sleep so great, but it was a great experience for young and old alike.

Here’s a few snaps:

We all slept in the Gallery, where each Hall of Famer has his own plaque. While my favorite old-time players are Ted Williams and Christy Mathewson, we are Mets fans to the end, and there aren’t many Mets in the Hall of Fame. I believe the grand total is one. So we found Tom Seaver’s plaque and claimed our spot.

I enjoyed wandering around the near-empty museum, where I found a famous shoulder to lean on.

Here’s Gavin, just about ready for bed.

Maybe to most folks, that just seems like a bad night’s sleep. But we  counted ourselves lucky.

The Difference Between Dogs and Cats

This is one of those jokes that float around the internet, with one difference: This one is actually pretty funny.

Go figure.

How To Give a Cat a Pill

1.  Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat’s mouth. Gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in left arm. Repeat process.

3. Retrieve cat from bedroom.  Throw away soggy pill.

4. Take new pill from foil wrap. Cradle cat in left arm, holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.

5. Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.

6. Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees. Hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat’s throat vigorously.

7. Retrieve cat from curtain rail. Get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.

8. Wrap cat in large towel. Get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

9. Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans. Drink one beer to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse’s forearm. Remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

10. Retrieve cat from neighbor’s shed. Get another pill. Open another beer. Place cat in cupboard, and close door onto neck, to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

11.   Fetch screwdriver from garage. Put cupboard door back on hinges. Drink beer. Fetch bottle of whiskey. Pour shot, drink. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot.  Apply whiskey compress to cheek to disinfect. Toss back another shot. Throw away T-shirt  and fetch new one from bedroom.

12. Call fire department to retrieve damn cat from across the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.

13. Tie the little bleep’s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table. Find heavy-duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of steak. Be rough about it. Hold head vertically and pour two pints of water down throat to wash pill down.

14.  Consume remainder of whiskey. Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room. Sit quietly while doctor stitches forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new   table.

15. Arrange for SPCA to collect mutant cat from hell. Call local pet shop to inquire about hamsters.

How To Give A Dog A Pill

1. Wrap pill in bacon.

2. Toss it in the air.

Note: Thanks to Paul for passing this along.

Bloggy Blogness: Around the Horn

A few things:

* My Best Pal in the World Whom I Never Actually Met, Matthew Cordell, gets the “Random Illustrator” Feature over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. They do a first-rate job over there, always.

* The fabulous Brenda Bowen — most recently of Bowen Press — has dusted herself off and started a new blog, called Bunny Eat Bunny. Just a thought: Maybe Brenda should have named it Bunny Dust Bunny. Or not! Anyway, Brenda is in the process of reinventing herself (she’s like Madonna that way) and I know many of us are eager to see what’s next. In the meantime, Brenda’s blog is just a nice way to stay in touch, to see an active, insightful mind at work.

* For bright bursts of optimism, beauty and creativity, is there any place on the web better than Color Me Katie? It’s a visual site, very little reading, and always a pleasure and an inspiration.

* I’d say this spot has been my favorite children’s literature blog of late: consistently excellent.

* The first, early review of Bystander, due out in Fall of ’09 (Feiwel and Friends).