Tag Archive for Jigsaw Jones Musical

COMINGS & GOINGS: The Rochester Children’s Book Festival, November 16th

I’ve always heard great things about the Rochester Children’s Book Festival, but never got invited. I tried to weasel an invitation a few years back (clever Cynthia DeFelice reference), but that went nowhere. Finally, at last, I wore ’em down. Good thing, too, because I’m hoping to promote my SCARY TALES series as well as, you know, meet some kindred, book-loving spirits. So if you are near the area — a teacher, a librarian, or merely a stalker — please stop by and say hello.

Some of the many authors & illustrators who’ll be there: MJ & Herm Auch, Julie Berry, Michael Buckley, Peter Catalanotto, Bruce Coville, Cynthia DeFelice, Jeff Mack, Daniel Mahoney, Matt McElligott, Linda Sue Park, Matt Phelan, Robin Pulver, Jane Yolen, Paul O. Zelinsky, and more.

Holy crap! What a list of luminaries! My knees are sweating already. I better pack a clean shirt.

I’m looking forward to it, with thanks to my publisher, the kind folks at Macmillan, for putting me up with a family of Armenian immigrants at a nearby trailer park for the weekend. I just hope they remember to roll out the red carpet. Remember, I’ll only eat the blue M & M’s.

Happily, the event places me in close proximity to my oldest son, Nick, who attends Geneseo College. And by “attends” I mean, I certainly hope so!

Over Halloween, he and some friends decided to go as “Dads.” I functioned in an advisory capacity, the content of which he politely ignored. My big idea was to get a Darth Vader helmet and cape, then pull on one of those t-shirts that reads: “WORLD’S GREATEST DAD!”

Because, you know, irony!

Anyway, check it out. Nick is the one in shorts, pulled up white socks, bad mustache, and “Lucky Dad” hat. Hysterical, right?

Lastly, hey, if you happen to be in Elmira, NY, on November 6th, or Richmond, VA, on November 13, you can catch a lively, fast-paced musical based on my book, Jigsaw Jones #12: The Case of the Class Clown.

I did get to see it a few years ago, with a knot of dread in my stomach, and came away relieved and impressed. Everyone involved did a great job and, to be honest, the story is sweet, too.

Here’s the info on Richmond, VA (where, coincidentally, I’ll be visiting middle schools in early December, mostly giving my patented “Bystander/Anti-Bullying/Author ” presentation. Anyway, the info I promised:

Families, elementary schools and preschools are encouraged to make reservations soon for performances of a children’s show.

A 55-minute performance of “Jigsaw Jones and the Case of the Class Clown” will be performed at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at Civic Hall Performing Arts Center in Richmond.

The show is based on a children’s mystery series written by James Preller. Theodore “Jigsaw” Jones and his friend, Mila, are investigating who’s playing practical jokes. It includes music and humor.

“Jigsaw Jones” is presented by Arts Power, a professional theater company touring the nation.

Admission is $2 per student because a grant from the Stamm Koechlein Family Foundation is helping offset the cost for Civic Hall’s Proudly Presenting Series educational programming.

Teachers and chaperones are admitted free.

For Elmira, click here or call: 607-733-5639 x248 (and tell ’em Jimmy sent ya!)

JIGSAW JONES, The Musical: Appearing On Long Island, Suffolk County Community College, October 5

QUICK INFO for Long Island-based fans of “Jigsaw Jones”  . . .

The Lively Arts Series at Suffolk County Community College will present Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Class Clown in the Van Nostrand Theatre on the Michael J. Grant Campus in Brentwood on Sunday, October 5, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Athena Lorenzo has been slimed and she doesn’t think it’s very funny. Someone in Ms. Gleason’s class is playing practical jokes. Theodore “Jigsaw” Jones claims to be the very first detective in the whole school. It’s up to Jigsaw and his friend Mila to investigate the sliming and track down the class clown. Brimming with music and charm, this show is perfect for students in grades 1-4.

General Admission is $8.00; senior citizens and SCCC faculty pay $7.00. SCCC students with current I.D. are entitled to one FREE ticket. For more information, please call the Van Nostrand Box Office at 631-851-6589 or visitwww.sunysuffolk.edu/spotlight.

For more background, here’s a link to an old post written after I attended the show back in 2010. I actually thought it was pretty entertaining and heartfelt. Thumbs up. Both of ’em!

Fan Mail Wednesday #94

Dear Mr. Preller,

I’m sorry to trouble you with this, but how come I can’t find boxed sets of Jigsaw Jones? They seem to be unavailable — has Scholastic stopped making them?

My son and I are fans of your series and I am recommending it to all of our neighbors as the best-written series for kids in this age group I have found. (Since I’m an editor of grown-up books, they even think I know what I’m talking about.)

Please ask your agent to get after Scholastic to make those sets available. I’d love to get the complete set for my son. Would love some small sets too, at a reasonable price — say a set of four for $14.95 — to give as birthday presents.

There’s a marketing idea — Jigsaw Jones birthday parties, complete with sleuthing activities and a webpage where guests could sign up to give a book each. That would be a gift to parents, too, who would like to cut down on all the crap their kids get for birthdays.

Are any of your books under various pen names written for adults? Please let me know if ever you write something you’d want W.W. Norton to consider . . .

All best wishes,


I replied:

Dear A_______:

Thank you for your kind letter.

Sadly, the folks at Scholastic do not share your enthusiasm for the Jigsaw Jones series. It believe they’ve stopped making the boxed sets completely, and I’m sure they haven’t promoted the series in trade for several years. Little fish in a big pond, I guess. The marketing decision seems to be to allow the series to die on the vine. Even today, I still can’t think about it without feeling disheartened, discouraged, disappointed.

All the dis- words.

Photo taken from the touring Jigsaw Jones Musical, produced by ArtsPower.

I do suggest that you contact Scholastic Book Clubs at a toll-free number, 1-800-724-6527. They are often receptive to customer requests, and will try to do everything possible to be helpful. Some of those boxed sets must be lying around somewhere.

I have not yet attempted a book for adults. Perhaps one day.

I very much appreciate your kind words. And I agree: the books are well-written! Perhaps I needed to include more farts.

Cheers, and thanks again,


Jigsaw Jones, The Musical: Both Thumbs, Way Up

I want to share a few photos and give my belated reaction to seeing the musical, Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Class Clown. From left to right in the above photo: Benjamin K. Glaser (Jigsaw Jones), Jill Kurzner (Helen/Athena), Johnny Deem (Ralphie), Claire Duncan (Mila), James Preller, and my two special guests, Elizabeth and Maggie (in fake nose). The stage manager, Trey Johnson, snapped the photo.

First of all, I’m not built for this kind of thing. And lately I’ve come to see myself in this way: I was one of those kids who hated the idea of embarrassing himself in public, caused by a sorry combination of fear, shyness, and overall uptightness. My answer, of course, was to NOT do things — especially if they involved trying anything new. Don’t go off the high dive in the town pool, don’t try out for a school play, don’t dance in public, and on and on. That is partly why, I tell kids, I became a writer. There are no witnesses. You work alone. And you only share what you choose to share (you try to edit out the belly flops and pratfalls).

So I went to this show, put on by ArtsPower, was a degree of dread. What if I hated it? What if no one shows up? It was out of my hands.

I arrived early at the Egg performing arts center in Albany . . .

. . . bringing along a small but crucial sampling of the target audience, my daughter Maggie and her friend Elizabeth. I had arranged to meet the cast before the show, catch a sound check, and settle into our seats.

I immediately liked the cast of four young thespians. They were enthusiastic and energetic, and acted genuinely pleased to meet me. Wait. Come to think of it, they were actors. Highly skilled actors. Maybe they weren’t pleased to meet me after all!

I sat through the show . . . and loved it. From the adaptation, to the stage set, to the songs, to the performances, it was extremely well done. Special appreciation goes to Greg Gunning, who adapted the book and penned the lyrics. Greg and I spoke on the phone, he listened patiently to my comments and (very few) suggestions. Richard DeRosa wrote the music, which was lively and upbeat (I want the soundtrack!). I watched in that theater feeling just so thankful, and happy, and proud of what I’d done, and what they had done to make my little six-thousand word story come to life in a totally different way. There it was up on stage — breathing. Greg streamlined and improved upon the story, expertly trimming down the cast of characters while bringing the book’s main themes into sharper focus, and each actor gave an appealing, fresh-faced, thoroughly professional performance.

For me, it was a quietly stirring, emotional experience. I can’t really explain it except to say that I felt it: Wow, I put this story out into the world; it came from me. And I thought, You know, this is actually good work. It has heart and wit and kindness . . . and I can hum to it!

I recommend this show without reservation.

(Yipes! What is happening with my hair in this photo? Do I really walk around like that?)

I should add that it’s an absolute honor to have my book selected for theatrical interpretation by the folks at ArtsPower. Out of all the books available, they picked mine, the twelth in a series of forty titles. Amazing. Thank you very much, Gary Blackman, executive producer.

If anyone is interested in booking a show, please know that it will be touring through 2011. Here’s the info you need to get started.

Fan Mail Wednesday #63-64

Big day, lot to do — have to write, write, write! — and listen to this over and over again. So let’s pull a couple of letters out of the hopper to see what’s what.

Here’s one from Chesterfield, MO:

Dear James Preller,

I like your books a lot. It is very fun to read. My favorite book from you is The Case of the Class Clown. It is my favorite because it has a lot of  cool stuff. I am writing to you because you have fantastic books. How do you get your ideas? How do you make a book? Is it fun to be an author? Do you have to show someone your books to get it published and for you to be famous? I really want all your books because they are good. I would love for you to write back.

From, Ritik

My reply:

Dear Ritik:

Thank you for your wonderful letter. It came on the perfect day, right when I needed it. I’m glad that you think there’s “cool stuff” in my book. I try to jam in as much cool stuff as possible, actually. Hey, I have exciting news about the Class Clown — it’s been turned into a musical by the ArtsPower Touring Company! Can you imagine that? Jigsaw Jones and Mila, singing on stage, and solving mysteries, too!

You asked a lot of great questions, so let’s get to ’em.

1) Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, but mostly from things I’ve experienced (seen, heard, done, or felt) in ordinary life. But as a writer, I try to remind myself of this: “It’s not that hard. Just make something up!

2) When it comes to creating a book, the author is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s a team effort, including editors, artists, art directors, printers, truck drivers, and more. In terms of the writing, it all starts in a quiet room, when a writer sits down determined to DO IT.

3) Is it fun? Sometimes, not always. But on days when I get letters like yours, Ritik, it is definitely rewarding.

4) Most books are produced by a publisher, a company that makes books. Writers from all over will usually send them manuscripts — typed versions of the story on plain white paper — and the publishers will read them all to select their favorites. Only a very few manuscripts get made into books. So I’ve been very, very lucky.

Thanks for reading my books, and for writing to me!


Letter #64:

Dear Mr. Preller,

You are one of my favorite authors! I am nine years old and in fourth grade. I have one brother and one sister. I have always wanted your autograph! I was wondering if it was fine with you if I sent you a piece of paper in the mail for you to sign. It’s OK if you don’t want to.

Your Friend,

My answer:


Sure, happy to sign whatever you send me. Here’s an idea: You could break a leg and show up at my house wearing  a cast — I could sign that!

On second thought, probably not a great idea. You could include a book, maybe? A napkin? Whatever!

Warning: I have the worst handwriting, a lefty scribble. I should have practiced as a kid, but I had no idea that anybody would ever want my autograph. It still shocks me when people ask for it. My autograph? Really? Is this some kind of mistake? Do you think I’m Lois Lowry?

I would very much appreciate it if you included an SASE. Do you know what that is? It’s an acronym for “Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope.” It’s an old courtesy that seems to have been largely forgotten these days (grumble, grumble). That way, it doesn’t cost me extra money to answer your letter. Unfortunately, the expense of stamps and envelopes adds up. I wish I say that the money was nothing to me, that I had a spare room full of cash, but, alas, it’s not so. That would be the other author: Rowling, J.K.

My address: 12 Brookside Drive, Delmar, NY, 12054.

Many thanks for reading my books.