Archive for May 25, 2016
I’ve been visiting schools lately as a guest author, speaking to grades K-8, traveling from Buffalo to Binghamton, Rochester to Wallkill, and places in between. Here’s a variety of images from those visits. Maybe this composite will offer an inkling of the “school visit” experience. I especially appreciate the posters and student artwork that’s created in anticipation of “the big day.” Feeling honored, grateful, and a little fried. (And, yes, still full from my first taste of “breakfast pizza” — it’s a Buffalo thing.) Thank you all for making these visits possible. I know that someday the phone won’t ring, there will be no invitations, no email queries. For now, during these good times, I feel privileged to be welcomed into so many schools, and to see those young faces, and to try to make each place I visit just a little bit better than it was the day before.
NOTE: I am reposting this because it’s that time of year for school librarians. Enjoy!
Her name is Alanna Almstead. She’s a librarian at Ichabod Crane in Valatie, NY. And at the end of each school year, Alanna faces the same vexing problem: Unreturned library books.
Because kids tend to forget. And some others, let’s hope, just fall in love with that book and can’t stand the thought of letting it go.
Alanna realized that the problem might be solved if she could only provide the proper motivation. Some sort of incentive. A carrot, so to speak.
But what could it be?
Here, I’ll let my friend Alanna explain it in her own words:
“The idea actually came about last June as my amazing aide, Lori, and I were discussing the shameful number of missing books at the end of the year. Always eager to see me make a fool of myself, I think the words “duct tape” first came out of her mouth.
Fast forward to May of this year. There I sat rambling at the end of a particularly fun library class about how important it was to return their books (we also give funny trophies to the five classes that return all of their books the fastest) when I suddenly blurted out that if the whole school brings their books back I would get taped to the wall. Yikes! Once that sort of thing gets said there is no taking it back, but no worries… It will never happen, I thought to myself.
I approached my principal, Suzanne Guntlow, after the fact. Suzanne is a wonderful supporter of the library and gave me her blessing, just in case the kids came through.
And come through they did! Although we fell short of the goal of all books returned school wide I am very happy with the results. In the end we had only 12 books still checked out in a building serving over 560 students. When the last third grader brought her book back I knew that I would have to make good on my promise.
And so, on the eve of the last day of school, I found myself making the rounds to several local stores to buy armfuls of duct tape. Variety seemed important, for some reason. When you’re nearly 6 feet tall and are faced with getting stuck to a wall you want the tape to work (and look pretty, of course!).
All of the third grade classes gathered on the last day of school to witness their reward for being so responsible. Afterwards I did hear a few students saying that it was the “best way to end the year.” (What does that say about what they really think of me, I wonder?!?).”
Final comment: I think it’s pretty obvious what they think of you, Alanna. Those kids think their school librarian is a hoot. Great job, great spirit. And a huge hat tip to that incredible aide, Lori, for hatching the idea. Note: Yes, there’s actually a brief video of the moment when they removed the foot stool from beneath Alanna’s feet and — what joy, what laughter — she stuck!
If you’ve never heard me on the radio, boy have I got a link for you. Listen to me, along with Mark Teague and Jennifer Clark, as we discuss the Hudson Children’s Book Festival on WAMC with Joe Donahue.
Jump on the link here and amaze your ears to the dulcet sounds of . . . nevermind!
Here’s one from the Sunshine State!
Dear Mr. Preller,
My name is Nicolas. I am 8 years old and I am in 3rd grade at ____ Elementary School in Miramar, FL. I am writing to tell you that I really liked The Case of The Sneaker Sneak. This is the third Jigsaw Jones book I have read because I really like Jigsaw Jones.
Jigsaw is a lot like me. He and I both like mysteries. We like to solve puzzles. I also like that Jigsaw plays sports. I play sports too. I play soccer, although I like to watch football like Jigsaw plays with his friends in the book. My family likes to watch and play football on Thanksgiving every year just like they do in the book. I could really picture myself playing with those kids. I think it is great how Mila and Jigsaw are always able to find clues to solve mysteries and help others.
One question I have for you is where do you come up with all the unique names of the characters in the book? Do you know people named Solofsky, Pignattano, or Copabianco? Do you have friends with nicknames like Bigs or Stringbean?
I really enjoy the Jigsaw Jones books and can’t wait to read the next one in my collection.
Thanks for your terrific letter. I am so glad that you are enjoying the series. I just wrote a new one, The Case from Outer Space, and it will be out in the Spring of 2017 — less than a year away! (You can click here to read a sample chapter. Or not! It’s a free world here at Jamespreller.com.)
I’ve never really thought about it before, but I guess you are right. I do put some unique names in the books. Joey Pignattano came directly from my love of the NY Mets. When I was your age, the Mets won a World Series in 1969, and one of their coaches was named Joe Pignatano. I changed his name slightly by adding an extra “t,” and that was that. Copabianco came from a girl I knew in college. It was just one of those long Italian names that musically rolls off the tongue. I did not know anyone named “Bigs” or “Stringbean,” but I did have a friend that we called “Wingnut” because of his large ears.
The books in the Jigsaw Jones series have been a little hard to find lately, because they are in the process of moving from one publisher (Scholastic) to another (Macmillan). Hopefully there will be more available next Spring, with all new covers. Look for them where fine books are sold.
Keep reading, Nicholas, and I’ll keep writing! And if you ever feel up to it, you might enjoy checking out my “Scary Tales” series. They are not much harder to read than Jigsaw, but you do have to be the sort of kid who likes creepy, suspenseful stories.
P.S. For a lot more background on The Case of the Sneaker Sneak, click here — you won’t regret it!