Tag Archive for Secret Codes in Jigsaw Jones

Fan Mail Wednesday #99 (Friday Edition)

Wow, I am so busy I can’t believe it. I am still revising my new YA, going on school visits, brainstorming-slash-scribbling a first draft for a new MG novel (so excited about this one!), planning Skype visits, and, yes, reading and trying to answer fan mail. Very, very time-consuming.

I’ve also been slogging along with my new blog project, Fathers Read. I’ve been getting some fabulous, wonderful, incredible photos and now have a pretty impressive array. While I’m eager to get this new blog up and running, some minor technical difficulties have slowed me down. I’m shooting for early December.

In the meantime, check out this spectacular letter from a third-grader named Kate:

Dear James Preller,

I am a big fan of your Jigsaw Jones books. I even asked my friend if she wanted to be detectives in the color code at first she did not know what a color code was but then I told her what it is. My favorite Jigsaw Jones book is The Case of the Class Clown! I have probably read more than ten jigsaw jones books. Because the jigsaw jones books are so cool and when I read them it feels like I am in the book just watching it all. And because the words that you use are so clear that they paint very clear and very nice pictures in my head. I have a question where do you get all you ideas from? Did you ever want to be a detective when you were little or did someone else in your family want to? Please write back.

Your fan,


I replied:

Thanks for that beautiful note. I began to melt when you described how the words “paint very clear and very nice pictures” in your head. You have a gift for words, Kate. Keep on writing.

I think all good writers dream of achieving something like that, where the reader can see the story, like a movie playing inside your head. And we do that, I think, by writing clearly and directly and by using specific details. When we “show, don’t tell.” It’s something I work at very hard, though I don’t pretend to be some amazing, fantastic writer. I learn something new every day and try my best, always.

Hey, did you know that Class Clown is now a touring musical? With songs and everything! How crazy is that?! I don’t know where you live, but if you go here you can find out the current tour schedule.

My ideas come from a run-down, ramshackle store in Rutherford, New Jersey. Twice a year I travel by emu to . . .

No, not really.

Much of my writing springs from my life and my family experiences. I grew up the youngest of seven children, and now I have three children of my own. You know, it’s funny. I once imagined that writers had these amazing lives, full of adventure and exotic places. But I’ve learned that the real adventure is what goes on inside your head, and in the rumblings of your heart, and that we can write about the most ordinary details and somehow connect with thousands and thousands of readers.

And, okay, sure — sometimes I just MAKE THINGS UP!

I’m glad you liked the color code. What’s great about that code is that it’s so easy to invent new codes based on the same idea. Here’s a “clothes code” (just invented on the spot):

lazy frog socks your scarf email

photo pages silly underwear message black

pants made bag pizza puzzle troop

bird hat me underwater elbow mittens

super slim burp shirt happy bling!

I was never a detective like Jigsaw, though I spied on my brothers quite often and became very good at snooping around for presents during the holidays.

By the time Christmas came, I had usually discovered each of my presents — hidden in closets and under beds — and that always make the actual Christmas Day a little bit of a disappointment. I already knew what I was going to get!

My best,


P.S. Kate, you might be curious to see a video I made, where I answered a different piece of fan mail. Nice sweater, don’t you think?

Fan Mail Wednesday #58 (Thursday Edition)

Let’s do it!

Dear Mr. Preller,
The Jigsaw Jones Mystery’s that you wrote are100,000,000% Awesome! I want to be a mystery book writer too. It’s so cool that Jigsaw and his partner Mila solve the crime really, really well! I’ve even started my all new crime mystery service and I have codes. How do you write so well?

Your #1 fan, Catherine Holt.

P.S. If you ever see a book called ” Inventions”, That’s my book!

I replied:

Dear Catherine,

YIPPEE! My Number One Fan! That’s so awesome! Where have you been hiding? Last week I heard from my #54,237th fan (he was lukewarm, at best; okay, actually, he was my cousin and wanted to borrow money). Believe me, it was not nearly as thrilling as hearing from my . . . Number . . . One . . . Fan.

Hold on while I jump around and celebrate.

Okay, whew, I’m back.

Seriously, Catherine, thanks for the compliment. It makes me happy. I can’t believe that you’ve got your own Mystery Service. Is there a lot of crime where you live? Maybe you should move to a safer neighborhood.

I made a note of your name, Catherine Holt. And let me tell you, that’s a great name for a writer. A strong name. Catherine Holt, author. No, wait. Catherine Holt, bestselling author. There you go.

I’ll look for your name when I’m in bookstores, and one day I’ll pick up one of your books from the shelves. I’ll remember this letter, and think, “Wow, my number one fan . . . she really did it!”

And I’ll write you a nice letter. Maybe even become your #1 fan.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, Catherine Holt, and good luck in school next year!

My best,


PS: Here’s two quick codes for you. The first is an alternate letter code, the second is an IPPY code.



If you can solve them, put the answers in the comments section. If not, I’ll wait a week and put them in myself.

Fan Mail Wednesday #43 (Monday Edition)

I spent time last night writing a post on a different topic, but then hit a snag that made it “unpublishable.” So I decided to answer this overdue letter instead. That’s right, a special Monday edition of Fan Mail Wednesday!

Dear: Mr. Preller

My name is Benjamin. I am 6 years old and in grade one.  I am doing a project on secret codes. I have read some of your Jigsaw Jones mystery books and would like to know all of the secret codes that you use in your stories.

How do they work? How do you decide what codes to use in your books?  Where did  you come up with the idea to use secret codes and how did you get the idea to do the ones you use?

My favorite book is The Case of the Spooky Sleepover.

I like the secret codes you use in your books, a lot.

From Benjamin

I replied:

Dear Benjamin,

Thanks a lot for your note. Or let me try that in code:


Did you figure it out? I used a Weather Code. The only words that mattered were the ones that came right after a weather word. So to solve the secret message, just circle all the weather words. Then underline all the words that come next. The underlined words — or the words that come immediately after a “weather word” — make up your secret message.

What’s fun about the Weather Code is that you can easily change it to make up new codes in the same manner. A Baseball Code. A Color Code. An Animal Code. Whatever you want.

As a kid, I definitely thought that codes were awesome. So when I started this series, I knew I had to include a new code in every book. I’ve used many different codes, including Substitution Codes, Space Codes, Up and Down Codes, Alternate Letter Codes, Telephone Codes, IPPY codes, Vowel Codes — even Pig Latin.

Today as a writer, I love codes because they offer clever ways of playing with language. I think readers learn by puzzling over codes. You have to use Brain Power.

Benjamin, I could talk about codes forever. I’ve built a small collection of different books about codes and I keep them on a nearby shelf. I read through them to find a code that seems right for Jigsaw. That’s part of the research I do for my job, and I love it. Even better, I discovered that after I learned a few codes, that I could make up my own. And you can, too!

IPPY Codes are also fun. All you have to do is add the letters IP after every consonant in each word. So the word DOG becomes DIPOGIP and SLIME becomes SIPLIPIMIPE. Of course, it’s important to know a consonant from a vowel — but I bet you do.


To learn all the codes I’ve used, I’m afraid you’ll have to read all my books. Oh, the misery! Or, hey, wait: You could buy the book, Jigsaw Jones’ Detective Tips. It doesn’t include every code I’ve ever used, but it will help you think, look, and act like a top detective.

Okay, here’s another code. It’s called a Zigzag Code. You have to start at the top left, read down, then up in a zigzag, then down, in a zigzag pattern. The tricky part is that there are no spaces between each word, so you have extra work to do.

C  N  O  S  L  E   Y  Y  T  R  C  D

A  Y  U  O  V  M  M S  E  Y  O  E

Space Codes are also easy to write (but harder to solve). All the words are spelled correctly and in the right order, but the spaces are in the wrong places. When you write the message, just put the spaces in weird places.