Tag Archive for The Case of the Mummy Mystery

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #317: “Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms!”

Sometimes a letter from a reader makes me pick up an old book, leaf through the pages. Often there’s a surprise. This one reminded of a song we used to sing long ago on the Adelphi Road of my childhood. 
Hello my name is Ali and ı am 10 years old, I read your book the mummy mystery and I want to give my opinion:
The book was great because they have to find the mummy mystery and they never heard any mummies in their neighborhood. My favorite character was joey because he was so brave and smart but he was a child and a detective he could find and clue for the missing things. Thats why I loved your book.
I replied . . . 

Thank you for your kind note. It is a gift to me — to hear what a reader like you thinks about one of my books. 
I’m glad that you enjoyed Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Mummy Mystery
As a little boy, my brothers used to sing that song to me: 
“Nobody likes me,
Everybody hates me,
Guess I’ll go eat worms.
First you peel the skin off,
then you chew the guts up,
Ooey-gooey woooorms!”
I always remembered that (gross) song. Years later, when it was time to write this book, I decided to put that song into it. That’s how writing often works for me. The small memories, the little events, the details of our lives help us compose the stories that make sense of our past. 
Keep reading!
James Preller
And Ali wrote back with a correction . . . 
I am so excited to receive a response back from you, I never thought I would get a reply from the author of the book I read! I am thrilled! 
I am really glad that you liked my opinion. I had some mistakes in the email I sent. My favorite character was Jigsaw but i accidentally wrote Joey.
Kind regards,

FAN MAIL #313: Feeling Great About These Sweet Messages from a Teacher in Terra Haute, Indiana

It’s a hard career, I’ve got to admit. Ups and downs and times when I’ve wanted to give up. But I received the sweetest email the other day from a special education teacher in Terre Haute, Indiana. There’s a bit of background about this particular group of readers that I won’t disclose here, other than to say that as a group they struggle with reading. Many of us do. According to the email, “None of them are very excited about reading as it is extremely difficult for them.”

Anyway, here’s an except of the first of two emails I received . . .

Dear Mr. Preller,


< snip >
I recently began reading some of your Jigsaw Jones books to them, and they LOVE them!  They have so enjoyed using the clues to make predictions and inferences.  We have used the stories to practice finding the main idea and details, problem and solution, and visualization. They are so engaged with these books they have begun checking them out of the library to read on their own. We recently finished The Case of the Mummy Mystery and they were so disappointed.  They said, “That can’t be the end, what about the mummy that walked through town on Halloween?  Who was the mummy?”  They were still talking about it the next day, so I took advantage of their engagement with a writing assignment.  They have written you a letter asking if you would consider writing another version of the book and they even included some ideas.
I want to thank you so much for giving my students the joy of reading.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see them so excited and engaged with a book. I will send you an email of their letter, but wanted to explain things first.  I also noticed that you do Zoom meetings with classes and was wondering if you could give me some more information on that? Thank you again for writing such engaging stories.
Mrs. J
I immediately wrote a response to the class (below) and we’re already planning for a little Zoom get-together just for the fun of it. I also wanted to share this email I received after my reply. Maybe other authors will be cheered to read it. Maybe teachers will see the value in making these connections.

Hello Mr. Preller,

I read your reply to the students today and they were beyond thrilled!!! They couldn’t believe that you actually took the time to respond to their letter.  As I read your explanation of the mummy, it was like little light bulbs went on above their heads.  One student said, “Oh…I get it. The

mummy wasn’t real, it was just a story.  So there weren’t any clues for Jigsaw to follow.” They were all very excited when you talked about them writing their own book. They couldn’t stop talking about their ideas – from the title to the plot! What struck me the most though, was when I read “Your friend, James Preller”.  One student asked, wonderingly, “He’s our FRIEND now?”  and another said, “Wow!  I always wanted to have a famous writer for a friend!”  You will never know how much that email meant to them…or to me.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making my students feel special, loved, and IMPORTANT.  Thank you for encouraging them to keep reading (and recommending books!)  I can’t wait for our Zoom meeting when they will have a chance to talk to you “in person”.  Until then, please know that you have made 6 children and 2 teachers very, VERY happy!!!

Mrs. J
And while we’re here, this is the long, rambling reply I sent:

Wow, you guys are tough!

But before I get into answering your comments and questions, a few things. I received the nicest letter from your teacher, Mrs. Johnson. You are so lucky to have a teacher like her —- someone who reads full books out loud, someone who really cares about you, someone who believes in you. 

Please, please, take a moment in your hearts and be grateful for that. We all need someone who believes in us.

I will get to your FANTASTIC IDEAS about future mummy stories. But first, a word in my own defense:

I’d give you a SPOILER ALERT, but since you already read the book, I guess I can’t exactly ruin the ending.

I appreciate that you are careful readers. If you go back to the story, you’ll see that all of the talk about the mummy was just that . . . talk. Stories, legends, and possibly exaggerations. Not necessarily the truth. It begins with Jigsaw’s older brothers, in Chapter 3, “The Legend of the Mummy,” telling Jigsaw a scary story. Is it true? Or are they just having fun scaring the pants off their little baby brother? Did they make it all up?

Fun fact: I am the youngest of 7 children, with 4 older brothers. Do you think they ever tried to scare me with made-up stories? 

I’m the little guy, surrounded by giants.

Oh yeah, they did!

Later, Ralphie Jordan repeats another mummy story that he heard. Is it true? Is it a fact? Maybe. But there’s no reliable witness we can trust. It’s just a story. Like, oh, all those legends we hear about Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. Is it really real? Personally, I have my doubts. No one knows for sure. 

Meanwhile, for Halloween, we see that Joey is dressed as a mummy. Is he the “real” mummy from the stories? No, it’s just Joey. So when Geetha see “the mummy,” it’s just good old Joey Pignattano. 

Was there a real, actual MUMMY walking in graveyards, pushing poor Earl Bartholemew?

Nobody knows. That’s for you to decide. The job that Jigsaw got hired to do was the make sure that Joey didn’t get cheated in the bet, and I think he earned that money.

Thanks for all your wild, smart, creative ideas. I’m impressed. I wish my brain worked that well! Forget me, you are the ones who should be writers! I had to laugh at your recurring comment, “you take it from here.” Ha, ha, ha. Everybody has work for me! 

Well, here’s an idea: YOU WRITE IT!

You have my official permission to write your own mystery. If you wish to include Jigsaw Jones, yes, please, go for it. Or invent your own character. If you are not an illustrator, maybe you could act out the mystery and take photos, telling the story that way.

(Note: If you do write a story —- together or individually —- please send it along. I’d love to STEAL YOUR IDEAS!)

Mostly, I just want to say how happy I am that you enjoyed my books. I have been a reader all my life. It’s not something that happens overnight. Slowly but surely, book after book, I became a more skilled and enthusiastic reader. It took time. And yes, reading will make you smarter and it will help you in school. It will help you in work, too. But most of all, reading has given me a lifetime of pleasure. It’s given me happiness. I couldn’t imagine life without good books to read, to enjoy, to learn from.

You are all doing great. Thank you for reading Jigsaw Jones. By the way, you might enjoy my “Scary Tales” books. I recommend Swamp Monster or I Scream, You Scream or Goodnight, Zombie or Nightmareland or One-Eyed Doll. Any of them, really, though I think Home Sweet Horror is the scariest and maybe not the best place to start. The books are not too hard to read and grades 3-5 love ‘em! No one gets hurt in those stories. But I do want readers to lean in on the edge of their seats, heart pounding. I love suspense. The doorknob slowly, slowly turns . . . 

Happy Halloween and please keep reading —- my books or any books at all!

Your friend & fellow reader, 

James Preller

Fan Mail Wednesday #78-80 (Thursday Edition)

My apologies — bloggy weirdness going on with my typeface below, but I’ve already spent too much time trying to fix it. The truth is, I’m not good at letting these things go (I like my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed). But, enough. Here’s a three-for-the-price-of-one deal!

Letter #78:

Dear Mr. Preller,

I am Miguel. I am in 4th grade. I like the Jigsaw Jones especially the Groaning Ghost because one part they said don’t eat the evidence and the end when they had a party. I have 3 brothers. 1 brother is in 1st grade the other two are four years old. What’s your favorite book you wrote? Do you like to play any sports other then baseball. How many books have you wrote? What new books are you writing in 2010? How many books are you writing in 2010-20ll? I hope you write more books of Jigsaw Jones.



I replied:

Dear Miguel,

Thanks for your letter. I’ve got you beat by one brother. Growing up, I was the youngest of seven children, five boys and two girls. We had the girls outnumbered! But you’ve got LITTLE brothers, whereas I specialized in the BIG ones. Jigsaw Jones is the youngest in his family because I know all about that. In your case, Miguel, you could write about being the oldest, and how the younger ones sometimes drive you crazy (wild guess).

When I was your age, I didn’t play many organized sports, but I constantly played DISORGANIZED ones! That’s the big difference between kids when I grew up (born in 1961, back in the waaay back) and kids today. I played pickup basketball behind the local elementary school, and we played tackle football almost every day until it snowed. Then we played some more. No adults standing around, no fancy equipment, nobody setting up teams, blowing whistles, or settling our disagreements for us. We had to work it all out for ourselves. It’s like a lost skill.

(Sorry if that makes me sound old, but I guess I kind of am.)

I have a new book coming out this summer, called Justin Fisher Declares War! It’s set in a 5th-grade classroom and involves a boy who attracts trouble. It’s pretty funny, I think, but that’s not really for me to decide. Very quick and easy to read.

I’d love to write another Jigsaw Jones book, but right now there are no plans for that. It’s up to my publisher. Fortunately, I wrote 40 of them, so there should be enough to keep you busy for a while!


Letter #79:

you are the best author in the world. I love your books more then ice cream. my name is natessa but people call me Tessa i am in second grade in illinois. maybe you can visit my school. love tessa

I replied:


Thanks for that great email. More than ice cream?! Really? Any flavor?

Wow, that’s something — I never dreamed of beating ice cream. But I have dreamed of eating ice cream!

I love to visit schools and talk to kids. Maybe someday I’ll meet you in Illinois!

In the meantime: read, think, feel, grow!


Letter #80:


My four year old was given the Jigsaw CD (via Wendy’s), The Case of the Mummy Mystery, and that got him hooked on all the books. He has the mummy book memorized, which is hilarious when we read it to him and make any ‘mistakes’ at all, he’ll correct us. I typically read the first couple words and let him finish the paragraph. He LOVES Jigsaw Jones and often calls his 1 year old brother ‘Theodore’ instead of his given name, Eli. He also calls me ‘Mila’ and says that he is ‘Joey’. Not sure why he’s Joey Pignatano and not Jigsaw, but you can’t decode the mind of a four year old, can you?

Just thought I’d send out my big thanks and congrats because these books are a big hit in our house and Ethan’s first ‘big boy’ book that he’ll sit the entire book through without concern for ‘no pictures’.

I particularly love that there are not any rude words in the book, name calling, or other random things that some authors think they need to pull the kids in. There are couple books we read that I have to change the words (idiot, stupid, that’s not fair, shut up, etc. are not cool in our house).

Love your work and excited to be picking up more books. Take care, love to your family.


I replied:

Dear Trinity:

Thank you for sharing that story. Your description of Ethan reminds me of when my middle child, Gavin, was in his Beatrice Potter stage. He was three or so and had a complete set of all the books. Used to carry them around everywhere, a challenge that required great effort. It was wonderful — a little nutty and eccentric, yes, but wonderful — and I loved the opportunity he gave me to read those books over and over again. Such lovely stories, true classics. I enjoyed discovering the lesser-known titles (to me, at least), but still remember The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies as my personal favorite.

We frequently played “Peter Rabbit.”

I’d be Mr. McGregor, chasing Gavin all around the house. Lisa would stand in as Peter’s mother. Maggie, Gavin’s younger sister by eighteen months, would want to play, too. Which led to this memorable exchange:

Me: “Okay, who do you want to be Maggie?”

Maggie: “Butter!”

Me: “What?”

Maggie (more insistent): “Butter!”

Me: “Butter?”

This went back and forth for a long while, to the point where we had linguists flown in from Princeton University, all to no avail. The house was in crisis. Maggie, frustrated and angry. Finally, we got it: Not butter — “Potter!”

She wanted to be Potter!

Thanks for reminding me of that story. As for the memorization, Gavin did the same with Peter Rabbit. I distinctly remember him reciting, almost word for word, the first 25-30 pages of that book. Three years old! Craziness. These kids are such sponges. I felt grateful for Beatrice Potter, that his young developing brain was filled with such incredible images and language.

I was happy to read your closing comments about the Jigsaw Jones series. My children were taught that words like stupid and fat were bad words. And truly, bad thoughts to have about other people (and “words” and “thought” are indelibly linked). So I made it a point to keep these words and therefore those thoughts out of the Jigsaw Jones books. And like you, I’ve often been disappointed by some of the (unnecessary) choices made in children’s books and movies in the hopes of bringing in that older, edgier audience. There’s time enough, later in life, for that stuff. I mean to say: I totally hear what you are saying and couldn’t agree more. I’m not trying to sit in judgment. It’s just that as writers we all have to make choices of what we want to put out into the world. And likewise, as parents, what we bring into our homes.

My best,