Fan Mail Wednesday #199: “I Know You Don’t Know Me and I Don’t Know You Either.”

Art by Xavier.

Art by Xavier.


Dear Nation of Readers, it’s that time again: Fan Mail Wednesday! Sound the timbrels, start the fire, tonight we roast a wildebeest! Find an apple to stick in its snout!

Where’s my lute? Honey, have you seen my lute?

This letter comes from Xavier, the artist featured above, a young man who puts great labor into his letters. (Awesome job, Xavier!) Unfortunately, I’m having trouble with the gizmos and whirligigs on my trusty, old computer; I can’t seem to flip the image for easy reading. It usually works; today it doesn’t. Oh well. For those of you who don’t want a crick in the neck, I’ll transcribe Xavier’s letter below:

Dear James Preller,

I love your books. I know Mrs. Nancy too. Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Right now I am reading Scary Tales Home Sweet Horror. I know you don’t know me and I don’t know you either.

Sincerely, Xavier

12/19/14 P.S. I’ve read Scary Tales Goodnight Zombie.




Here’s the sideways original:


I replied:

Dear Xavier,

Thanks for your terrific letter. It’s very cool that we have a friend in common, “Mrs. Nancy.”

Don’t you just love librarians?

You did make me laugh when you wrote, “I know you don’t know me and I don’t know you either.”

But I’m not sure that’s entirely correct. Sure, we’ve never stood next to each other in the same place. But you sat down and read a book that I wrote. Then, amazingly, you read another book of mine. In a real and meaningful way, Xavier, I think that CONNECTS us for sure. We sort of do know each other.

9781250018915_p0_v1_s260x420That’s why I’m going to think of you as my friend for now on. And do you know what that is all about, Xavier? It’s the wonder of books. The mystery, the magic, the miracle, and the pure joy of reading (and writing) that brought us together. Books gave me you; I’m grateful for that.

As readers, we sit by ourselves, alone in a silent room, and by doing that solitary thing we connect with other people — across time and space! It’s amazing when you think about it.

I loved (loved, loved) that you included a one-page story on the back of your letter, “Attack of the Mutant Devil Dudes from Mars.” Sounds like a creepy one to me. Great drawings, too. I hope you keep going with that one.

Guess what? I never met “Mrs. Nancy” either. We connected because she read (and liked) something I wrote. Next time you visit the library, please give her a fierce hug for me. Tell her James Preller sent you!

My best,

James Preller 


  1. Nan Hoekstra says:

    You are a lovely man. Lovely.

  2. yvettecarol says:

    Awesome post, James. I’m sure you’ll be glad to know you made it into my file of ‘Great Quotes’ with that one. ‘As readers, we sit by ourselves, alone in a silent room, and by doing that solitary thing we connect with other people — across time and space! It’s amazing when you think about it.’ to be exact. That’s a great quote! You handled that in a way that might encourage a boy to go beyond what he might have done otherwise, and it will definitely encourage him to keep on reading. A man who reads, now there’s something worth nurturing 🙂

  3. Meg says:

    Dear Mr. Preller,
    I am friends with Xavier’s parents and they shared the news of this lovely reply on social media. I haven’t read your work and my little one has yet to master the alphabet (she’s 8 mos. old), but I am pretty sure we will start collecting your books in her fledgling library so we can read them together when she’s ready. I don’t think it’s important to like an artist personally in order to appreciate his or her work, but by golly, it sure doesn’t hurt!

    • jimmy says:

      Thanks, Meg. I’m grateful to receive letters from kids like Xavier and I try to reply authentically. I once printed up small brochures and later tried postcards, but it never felt right to me. If I was totally overwhelmed with letters, I’d have to do something. As it is, I’m only slightly overwhelmed, so I still with my “keeping it real” approach. BTW: If you want your daughter to get into Harvard, she’s really got to start buckling down on that alphabet! You might want to hire a tutor.

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