Tag Archive for James Preller photos

Thankful for a Thousand Different Reasons

I’m lucky in a thousand different ways. I realize that. And one of those ways is that I get invited to participate in children’s book festivals. Rochester, Chappaqua, Hudson, Princeton, Morristown, Thousand Islands, Warwick, all over. Best of all, sometimes I even get invited back.

The continuity becomes part of the experience for organizers, authors, and attendees. I used to think that people would get tired of seeing the same authors and illustrators sitting behind tables — it’s important to bring in fresh faces, diverse talent — but there’s a particular beauty to the familiarity. The kid who you saw last year, or two years ago, coming back for another book, another conversation. But this time reaching for a title that’s a little longer, a little older. Or maybe just completing a series, finding that last book for the autographed collection.

Last time in Chappaqua, a familiar face strode up to the table. A good-looking kid, clear-eyed, sturdy & athletic, still wearing soccer gear, still smiling. He knew me and I knew him. “You’re back!” I said. He grinned. There had been a few meetings over the years, now stretching out across the wide pandemic. I was grayer, he was taller. His mother asked, once again, for a photograph. And in turn I wondered if she had kept any of the old ones.

A week later, she sent these along with a brief note: “Below are the photos from the Chappaqua book fair that you requested. It was amazing to see you again, and I loved talking to you as always.”


Like I said, I’m a lucky guy.

P.S. Hey, my friend, if you ever do start that soccer blog, please let me know. I’d love to read your work for a change!

Author Visit Revisited: Action Sequence!

I was recently sent a whole mess of photos from a recent school visit, so here’s a sampling. Note: I sit for very young readers (very quiet and calm for the kindergartners), stand for everybody else.

Of course, the best shots are of the faces looking up at me — eager, excited, bored, inspired, amused — but it’s perhaps not my place to post too many faces on the internet. So I humbly give you a Jimmy Overdose.

All I can add is that I consider it a great honor and responsibility (sort of like Spidey Powers) to enter a school and speak before young audiences. It is also, mostly, a lot of fun. One of the best parts of my job. I try to make a positive impact. Share my enthusiasm for reading, writing, thinking, literacy, creativity . . . and hope that my visit helps create a few sparks.

Now is the best time to start planning school visits for new year. In 2018, I’ve already spent a week in Texas and a week in Ohio, in addition to my normal circuit in New York, New Jersey, etc.

I’m ready to hop on a plane to visit schools near you.

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Gone Camping: Smiles All Around!

Actually, we’ve just returned from our annual weekend camping trip to Forked Lake Campgrounds. There’s something so comforting and yet revelatory about tradition. You go back, do the same thing every year, more or less with the same people, but each time feels unique. Familiar, yet changed in small ways. A big part of that is our children, growing up before our eyes. The kid you used to watch like a hawk is now out on the kayak, muscles rippling.

This year school year our oldest will be a senior in Geneseo. He missed the trip, already gone. The middle child, Gavin, enters 10th grade; he’ll begin the year on the JV Volleyball team — a new sport for him. Our youngest, Maggie, just 13, enters 8th grade.

They are growing up.

Here’s a fun snap taken in Long Lake, outside of Hoss’s legendary (Triple-S’s!) store. That’s Gavin in the Cape Cod sweatshirt; Maggie, standing beside him, apple in hand; I’m up above in gray (shirt and hair), fondling the bear; and Lisa, my wife, is on the other side in the light-blue tee and vest. Those other folks? No idea how they got in there.


Four Old Family Photos

Busy day yesterday, as I drove down to CitiField (300 miles round trip) with Gavin and Nick to catch the Mets. My attendance record stands now at 0-3, and each game fairly abysmal. This is the price I pay, I tell myself, for being in attendance for Game 5 of the 1969 World Series, when the Amazin’s won it all and later went on The Ed Sullivan Show to sing, “The Impossible Dream.” Oh well, my boys were happy. It was a sweltering day, the sun beating down on our heads, and I spent more than $40 on water at the park.


Anyway, I wanted to post two photos yesterday for the holiday . . .

My father served in the Air Force. This photo was taken during his basic training in Tennessee, 1944. He wrote on the back of the photo, presumably sent to his parents in Queens, NY: “Here I am all dressed up. My hat is on cockeyed. Don’t I look independent?”

My brother Bill, the second oldest in the family, served in Vietnam. I figure this shot for somewhere in 1967-68. I remember when he was over the there, and the body counts on the nightly news, a little boy wondering, hoping. When he came home, I ran and jumped into his arms.

When you warm up the old scanner, it’s hard to stop. This is from my sister Barbara’s 8th-grade graduation from St. Frances de Chantel in Wantagh, NY. Back in in June, 1965, when the number one songs for the month were: “Help Me, Rhonda,” The Beach Boys; “Back in My Arms Again,” The Supremes; “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch),” The Four Tops; and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” The Byrds.

Music was really, really great when I was a kid. And it was about to get even better. (I think 1967 was the best year for music in the 20th century, since you asked.)

I used to be two years old. Go figure. This is from April, 1963, and I’m next to my sister Jean, age 5, going on 6. She was something with those straight bangs. On school visits, I’ll sometimes joke that there are no photos of me, because nobody bothers taking pictures of Kid #7. There’s truth in that, of course, but I’ve found some scattered old photos, too. Usually I’m standing next to somebody else, or a brother’s new car. These photos have become my small treasures.

Photo Dump: Three Days in Williamstown

I recently enjoyed a three-day visit to Williamstown, Massachusetts. I visited three schools: Lanesborough Elementary (where we forgot to take photos), Mount Greylock (grades 7-8), and Williamstown Elementary. It was particularly fun to interact with such a large range of grades and interests — from getting down on the reading rug with a small but hearty band of preschoolers to presenting in a large auditorium to seventh- and eighth-graders. The topics ranged from hiccuping elephants to baseball to childhood cancer, from second-grade detectives to middle school bullying. We were all over the place, right where I like to be.

This was the 14th year of the annual “Words Are Wonderful” Literacy Festival (please, educators, click on the link for more information and inspiration). Let me tell you, these fine folks know how to celebrate books, and language, and music, and children — and it’s all done with a lively, happy, infectious spirit. All I had to do was show up. Seriously, it was like they hit the home run themselves and told me to trot around the bases. Um, sure! Even better, I came away with these terrific photos (and more), thanks to my new friend, Jessica Dils. Special thanks must also go out to generous, kind Liz Costley, for providing me with a cozy place near town to rest and sleep. I needed it.

Some faces in the crowd.

This lovely book-lover sat next to me at lunch. And she ate like a rhinoceros.

I love this shot, it’s a classic stare-down.

It’s great when groups are small enough so we can interact. They ask questions and I tell ’em, “I have no idea. Next!”

I am holding one of my earliest known works, Tarzan’s Adventures, once available for only 12 cents.

We were all relieved when milk didn’t spurt out this girl’s nose. She laughed and laughed.

These guys formed their own reading group, and they all read Justin Fisher Declares War. We ate lunch together — and it was delicious.

At Mount Greylock, I did one big presentation in the auditorium, then worked with three different groups in a workshop setting. We all made lamps. No! I jabbered for a while, then they wrote. Enthusiastically, impressively, joyously. Really, these kids were great.

This boy was eager to share his extremely well-written piece about farts. He cracked himself up so much while reading it, he had to pause sometimes for air.

During a break, I chatted with super teacher, Liza Barrett. Liza puts in a lot of work every year to make the Words Are Wonderful literacy festival a success. In five minutes, I knew I was with a dedicated, caring, energetic, compassionate, fully committed teacher. Yet she treated me like I was the star. As if! Here’s to great teachers everywhere.

We slammed about 95 preschool and kindergarten kids into one small space while I desperately tried to keep them amused. Look at ’em. Tough crowd. Scary crowd. Fortunately, I carry extra duct tape — and used it on the more squirmy ones.

I liked this cool guy’s shirt. I offered him five bucks for it. No dice. It’s impressive when you meet a young guy who’ll look you in the eye and have a real conversation.

A quick snap after one of the workshops. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: How lucky am I?