Fan Mail Wednesday #155: Cri-key!

Here’s one from Connecticut, asking about one of my favorite books in the Jigsaw Jones series (which, once again, seems to be out of print).

I’m grateful to all the classroom teachers and librarians who have helped keep these books alive for young readers, long after my has publisher lost interest. Even so, I still get letters almost every day from children to whom these books are new, and beloved. Thank you!

To be honest, that’s part of what I’m doing here. Not only sharing answers to fan mail, but also this: trying to document something I did — this thing I made — that has come and perhaps gone. Because even though time marches on, and so on and so forth, I am sad to see these books go.

I replied:

Dear Justin:

I’m glad you read The Case of the Bear Scare. It’s one of my favorites.

I loosely modeled the character of Lightning Lou after a real person, the great Steve Irwan, known on television as “The “Crocodile Hunter.”

Lighting Lou’s visit to Jigsaw’s school inadvertently inspires a new mystery.

Steve Irwan was Australian, full of life and funny expressions. He used to be very popular, but he died tragically while filming his television show, pierced in the heart by a venomous stingray. It was sad when he died, just a few years after Bear Scare came out.

I had to learn a lot about bears to write that book. I read books and, finally, picked up the phone and called an expert. He was a nice man, named Lou Berchielli, and he was the one who told me that roaming bears will often eat from bird feeders. Ah-ha, I thought. Now I had an idea for an important clue in my story.

Yes, it was definitely gross when Lou stuck his finger in the poop –- er, bear scat – but he realized that it was a trick. “Shonky business,” the Australian called it. And he even gave Jigsaw the final clue, related to the phony bear poop, he needed to solve the mystery.

Lightning Lou eyed me closely. “You’re a detective, right?”

I nodded.

“It’s been nice to meet you, mate,” he said. Then Lightning Lou did a curious thing. He rubbed his belly and said, “I’d love a blueberry muffin right about now. Too bad blueberries aren’t in season.”

He gave me a long, slow wink. Then he walked away.

Thanks for your kind letter,

James Preller

In this amazing must-see clip, Steve Irwan’s poised 7-year-old daughter pays moving tribute to her father . . .

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