In this letter, I’m hearing from Joe, a friend of Vivaan, who had previously dressed as Jigsaw Jones for Halloween; together they enjoy my Jigsaw Jones books. It’s worth noting how helpful and supportive both parents have been in terms of encouraging reading and reaching out to an author. It began with a comment on my blog!
Dear James Preller,
A tough moment between Jigsaw and Mila tests their friendship.
My name is Joe and I am 6 years old. Vivaan, whose mother Shivika recently contacted you, is a good friend of mine. I am writing because I just read your book, The Case of the Hat Burglar, with my dad, who is helping compose this message. It was terrific, because of the drama — what a great story of betrayal and redemption. Very soon, I want to read more Jigsaw Jones books. Finally, I have a question — how did you get started writing books when you were growing up?
–I replied . . .
Thank you for your email.
Any friend of Vivaan Shah’s is a friend of mine!
I’m so glad you enjoyed The Case of the Hat Burglar. It’s the most recent Jigsaw Jones book, and in many ways it is my favorite. It’s the first time that Jigsaw and Mila ever had a problem with their friendship. I’ve always wanted to write something about that — how two really good friends can get into a fight, experience hurt feelings, and sadness, and then get through it somehow.
It seems like all of us go through it with our friends and family. What a relief when we come out the other side, happy and together once again.
I wrote books when I was your age. In fact, I still have one and made a video about it. Here’s the link that will get you there. I even have a Youtube channel of other videos, too. You might like them!
And, who knows, maybe I’ll be reading one of your books soon. If you do write one, please send me a copy or a manuscript or, at least, a picture of the cover.
But what will you write about?
Thanks for your kindness, and thanks to your super dad, too, who knows all the big words!
Both of you! I mean it, thanks for stopping by here of all places.
I don’t know if anyone cares or not — it’s never stopped me before! — but I’ve been slowly posting videos over at my Youtube channel. Maybe it’s helpful to some families and teachers during this time of closed schools and the uncertainty of online learning.
My apologies, I kind of take an everyman-downmarket approach to these videos. Nothing too spiffy, I’m afraid. I usually don’t even comb my hair. Hey, we’re in lockdown, folks. Just keeping it real.
Anyway, I’ve been honing my opening moments in these videos. Raising my game. This one, embedded below, is fairly ridiculous. My might enjoy it. I’m hoping that maybe some young readers will, too.
So, yeah, give it 30 seconds and then you’re good.
It might make you laugh.
Or shake your head with pity.
And if you are interested in the complete book — which is out of print, by the way — go to my Youtube channel, click here, subscribe, and start with the first video. I keep them at around 15 minutes each, so this book took five videos to complete.
Quick note on the “out of print” thing. I’ve written 42 Jigsaw Jones books. They all slowly, painfully went out of print. Then Macmillan stepped in and we’ve been bringing back new, revised, updated editions. If a reader enjoys this book, for example, there are 14 titles freshly available wherever good books are sold.
My best. I hope that you and everyone you care for remains healthy and happy as you all continue to protect the vulnerable. There are days when this isn’t so bad at all, others when it feels awful.
I posted a week ago about our collective struggle to find ways to do something meaningful, helpful, positive during this challenging time. As a children’s book author, my immediate goal has been to provide some online material that teachers and parents can share with young learners.
As of today, March 26, I’ve created six videos and posted them on my own Youtube channel (link below). I’ve also learned how to embed them here, also below. For me, that’s saying something.
But, as we’re finding in these days of physical distancing, a valuable way to connect.
Please feel free to share these videos with fellow teachers, media specialists, parents, students, children. If you have ideas or suggestions for future videos, I’ll be happy to respond to that. Thanks for what you are doing.
Stay smart, keep safe, and enjoy the moments we are given. In my house in upstate New York, we are hunkered down with two of our three children, Gavin (20) and Maggie (19), along with my midwife-wife, Lisa (no age given). Our oldest, Nick (26), is in his NYC
apartment, working online. We miss him terribly. Each night, we’ve been enjoying lovely family dinners. We’re rotating who cooks and (purportedly) who cleans. In many respects, it’s been a beautiful experience. Trying to hold onto those positive feelings. Not worrying, for now, about all the lost income, the stress about bills, all the money stuff. There will be time to recover from that. For now, we embrace the now.
I’ve included a brief description and target age level immediately below each video
THIS IS THE FIRST VIDEO I made, and the shortest, and it touches upon a theme I try to emphasize before every student I meet, regardless of age (though the delivery gets more sophisticated at middle schools): “You are unique. You have stories inside you that only you can tell.”
I MADE BOOKS WHEN I WAS a little kid. I sold them to my friends and neighbors. My mother saved one and I read it here. Kind of funny, I think. Hopefully this video inspires young people to make their own books. In the case above, I needed help with the words from my oldest brother, Neal. Ages 4-up.
FOR FANS OF JIGSAW JONES: Here I talk about what I was like as a kid — more of a spy than a true detective — and how I gave my favorite childhood toy to Jigsaw Jones. I read a scene from THE CASE OF THE BICYCLE BANDIT.
FOR GRADES 4-UP, JUST RIGHT FOR MIDDLE SCHOOLERS. THIS VIDEO LESSON centers around a writing tip first offered by Kurt Vonnegut Jr: make awful things happen to your leading characters! I discuss that idea and, to make the point, read two passages from BLOOD MOUNTAIN, my most recent middle-grade adventure novel and a 2019 Junior Library Guild Selection.
HERE’S ONE FOR THE YOUNGEST READERS, ages 3-up, where I read from WAKE ME IN SPRING. I also describe the creative process, the thinking, behind the story. And again, as always, I try to turn it back to the reader, to inspire their own creativity moving forward.
MY “SCARY TALES” BOOKS are often wildly popular on school visits. Though the books seem to hit that sweet spot of grades 3-5, I’ve met very young readers who are impervious to fear, second graders who love them, and also, by design, readers in uppers grades and middle school who have enjoyed this high-interest, low-reading level stories with the super cool artwork by Iacopo Bruno. For some, their first successful reading experience of a full-length book that is not heavily illustrated. Here I read from the first two chapters of GOODNIGHT, ZOMBIE.
I’LL CONTINUE TO POST MORE VIDEOS — including a full reading of “ZOMBIE” — as time allows. Please, by all means, feel free to share these videos far and wide. Obviously, if I hear positive reports, I’ll be encouraged to do more. Thanks for stopping by.