Tag Archive for preller jigsaw jones

Here are 6 Videos I Made for Teachers and Homeschoolers to Share with Young Readers

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.

Technology: ick.

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.

Here’s a link to my Youtube Channel.

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.

Nice Article Based on My Recent School Visit to Fair Lawn, NY

A local reporter, Tracey Putrino, sat in for one of my presentations during a recent school visit to Fair Lawn, New Jersey. The school itself was spectacular, warm and clean and bursting with pride, one of the sweetest elementary schools I’ve ever had the honor to visit.

I’ve said it a hundred times: Authors don’t do school visits; schools do author visits. And this was one school, friends and neighbors, that did it up right.

My thanks goes out to the entire school, including Leo the Janitor! Thanks, also, to Tracey Putrino, who did a really nice job on the article.

NOTE: I took photos with my bewildering phone, various decorations and learning activities that each class created in anticipation of my visit. The school looked so welcoming and awesome. Unfortunately, every photo appears upside down when I try to post here — and I can’t figure out how to fix it. Grrrrr.

Here’s the article (for the link, to prove I’m not making this up, click here):


A children’s author encouraged students at Westmoreland Elementary School in Fair Lawn to use what makes them unique as inspiration in their own writing.

Students at Westmoreland Elementary School in Fair Lawn were eager to ask children's author James Preller their questions during his visit to the school on April 12.

Students at Westmoreland Elementary School in Fair Lawn were eager to ask children’s author James Preller their questions during his visit to the school on April 12.

“Enjoy what he has to share,” said Principal Christy Dell’Aglio as she introduced James Preller during his visit to the school on April 12.

Preller of Delmar, N.Y., has written more than 80 children’s books including about 40 as part of the “Jigsaw Jones” mystery series.

Using the uniqueness of fingerprints as an example, the author told students to consider what makes them unique because no one else has their parents, siblings or experiences.

“Begin with your life,” he said.

Preller has done the same with his stories and characters. Whether it came from being the youngest of seven children, his love of baseball or his memories of his grandmother, he said those experiences can lead to ideas.

“Where do you get ideas?” he asked the group of second- and third-graders during one of the three presentations he did during the visit.

From their head, feelings, observing what happens around them, books and things that happen to them and their friends were some of the answers.

Preller said an idea is just “a little seed” that can grow. He urged students to make lists and keep writing journals to jot down ideas that could later become stories.

As an example from one of his books, he said he was listening to the radio when he heard one of the announcers say, “You can’t hide broccoli in a glass of milk.” The line stuck with him and ended up in a scene with Jigsaw Jones when his friend, Joey, stays over for dinner in “The Case of the Million Dollar Mystery.” He read the passage to students as Jigsaw’s father asked him to finish his glass of milk than was beginning to turn green from the broccoli.

“A writer’s two most important words are what if?,” said Preller, noting if they ask that question and follow the path it can lead to a story.

The writer told students it is never too early for them to make their own books. He showed them an example of one of his earliest works that he wrote and illustrated about Tarzan. While he was not much of a reader as a child, Preller said he did love baseball and always checked out the box scores and read the sports section of the newspaper.

“My love of sports made me a reader,” the writer said.

His Jigsaw Jones book, “The Case of the Bear Scare,” came from reading newspaper articles about bears showing up in neighborhoods.

As the father of three, his experiences with his children have also sparked ideas. When his daughter asked him he had ever heard the story of Bloody Mary, the story about a ghost who appears in a mirror became a scene that he read to students from one of his newest books. It is part of a new series called “Scary Tales” that will be released this summer.

Fan Mail #159: Featuring Free Artwork!

Gander at this beauty from Canada . . .

It came with a short, sweet note from Megan:

Dear James Preller,

I love your books “Jigsaw Jones,” I love the mystery. My favourite part is how Jigsaw does not know who did it. Every time I read a book I just can’t put it down. I have read a lot of books but I love yours the best.

Yours truly,


I replied:


Thank you for your incredible artwork. I can remember that scene from the book, when poor Ralphie discovers that his bicycle is gone. You did a great job.

I’ve been puzzling over the zip code you wrote on the envelope, and even tried looking it up on the internet (very confusing, these Canadian rules about zip codes), so I’m not entirely confident that you are reading this right now. I tried, how I tried!

I’m glad you are reader. And grateful for that kindest, sweetest of phrases, “I love yours the best.” Oh my, that makes me smile.

Yours very truly . . . as ever . . .


Fan Mail Wednesday #116

Hey, I think I’ve got one!

I replied:

Dear Brennig,

Thanks for your letter. You are my first Brennig, though I should mention that I’ve received letters from 37 Brendans and 6 Brendens.

I have to agree with you, The Case of the Buried Treasure is, overall, one of my favorite Jigsaw Jones books. It was my first “Super Special” and I think I gave it my A+ effort. I haven’t read it in many years, but I do remember the opening sentence:

It all started when the little round thing-a-ma-whosie fell off the whatsit on Bigs Maloney’s chair.

I smiled when I got toward the end of your letter, and you wrote, “I read the whole thing.” For someone your age, that’s a huge accomplishment. If you can read my book, now imagine how many more books you can read all by yourself. Watch out world, here comes Brennig!

Thanks for including a Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope. Your autograph is in the mail!