Tag Archive for Wake Me In Spring

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Sent to me by a friend . . . I wrote this book 19 years ago.

Some days are hard. Some days I don’t feel at all like a success. And other days I just want to give thanks, be grateful, and try not to be such an idiot. Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

Fan Mail Wednesday #148: Wake Me In Spring

Hello James,

I was wondering if you have a sequel to Wake Me In Spring. I think it would be a great book idea! I teach preschool to children with autism and they love this book. They ask me to read it everyday. It’s Spring, I think Bear needs to wake up!!! LOL.

Thanks,

Elizabeth

I replied:

Elizabeth,

I totally agree with you. I tried, really tried, to sell that idea to my publisher at that time, Scholastic. My editor was not at all interested in a sequel, however. The book sold more than one million copies, but she just didn’t want to see a follow-up. I wrote a couple of stories that I liked, but it was a losing battle. Those old manuscripts are lost somewhere, I suppose.

It’s a crazy business, endlessly disappointing, and I don’t claim to understand it. I just hope they keep the book in print.

Thanks for your kind words. I’m very proud of that little story — I think it has heart — and young readers still enjoy hearing it aloud on school visits. And I still love to share it with them.

JP

Fan Mail Wednesday #147: In Celebration of Children’s Artwork

Is there anything better than children’s artwork?

No, there isn’t. There is not.

As evidence to that proposition, I share with you some of the contents of a fat envelope I received from Mrs. Chinchar’s first grade class, after I had visited Lawrence Brook Elementary School, in East Brunswick, NJ. (I think.) I can’t include all the drawings and letters here, but I’m grateful for each one. Below, a few highlights . . .

Okay, my heart just melted.

In her letter, Skye wrote, “I love Spring.” I look at this picture and think, Skye loves life!

Ariana concluded her letter with a P.S. “I love love love writing too!”

Zafir drew a scene from his favorite book, A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade. Move over, Greg Ruth, there’s another illustrator in town . . .

This stubble-faced guy frightens me, frankly. I wouldn’t trust him. Hey, wait a minute — I think that’s me. I recognize the shirt.

Each piece of artwork came with a letter. Here’s one that came from Lucus, on the reverse side of the drawing above. I love hearing from fellow writers who share my love of books and reading. Keep up the great work, Lucas!

Last but not least, I received a spectacular drawing and letter from Alyssa, who really “liket” Hiccups for Elephant and concluded her letter in all caps with an explosion of exclamation marks:

“THANK YOU!!! I LOVE TO WRITE!!!!”

(Sorry, I couldn’t fit the entire, joyous piece on my scanner. It deserves a place on my office wall.)

Last comment: Obviously, Mrs. Chinchar is doing something very, very right in her classroom. Thank you for those beautiful, happy letters.

Fan Mail Wednesday #101

This lovely letter comes from Paige, and she even drew pictures of six little hamsters.

How lucky am I?

I replied:

Dear Paige:

Wow, you are a writer and an illustrator. That way you can do your own books and not have to share the money! When I do picture books, like Wake Me In Spring or A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade, I only get half because I’m not good enough to draw my own pictures.

Grrrrrr.

It’s a funny thing about that first Jigsaw Jones book. You are right, Mila is allergic to fur, so Jigsaw uses her as a hamster detector –- she sneezes when the hamster is near.

Illustration by R. W. Alley.

However, I soon realized that I had written myself into a corner. Do you know that expression? Maybe it would help if I showed you a picture . . .

Anyway, Jigsaw has a big, furry dog named Rags. I couldn’t have Mila sneezing all the time in every book! That would get pretty gross. If Mila was allergic to fur, she couldn’t be hanging out with Rags. So in a later book, I mentioned that Mila had new allergy medicine that worked really, really well. That way Mila and Rags could be friends.

Thanks for reading my books. Keep up the good work!

JP

P.S. This is the cover of Wake Me In Spring, a book I wrote more than 15 years ago. Jeffrey Scherer drew the illustrations — and I think he did an awesome job!

JUSTIN FISHER: Recommended for the Read-Aloud Classroom

Though I published my first book in 1986, it wasn’t until recently that I experienced book reviews. Despite a crazy assortment of books, plus forty titles in the Jigsaw Jones series, the books were never, to my knowledge, reviewed.

That’s the paperback world. I began to think my name was James “Critically Ignored” Preller. The consoling factor was the books were being read by their intended audience, with titles like Hiccups for Elephant and Wake Me In Spring selling more than one million copies (thanks to the might of Scholastic Book Clubs). Beats a review any day. And yet, and yet. There’s something about the validation that comes from a positive, industry-sanctioned review. I think I longed for somebody to say, “Okay, he’s in the club!”

Things changed when I entered the hardcover world in 2008 with Six Innings. Suddenly my work was deemed review-worthy. The coach tapped me on the shoulder; I grabbed my helmet and raced in from the sidelines: I was a playa!  I’ll admit it: the world of reviews represents a confusing, seemingly arbitrary process. While I’m grateful to each reviewer who spends time with one of my books, I’m still afraid to read most of them. Some reviews are perfunctory at best, even when they say decent things about a book. Other reviews are canny and insightful. The whole process feels like a crapshoot. Who are these reviewers, anyway? These strangers who can fill my head with praise or cut me off at the knees (example: for the generally well-received Mighty Casey, a book-lover for Kirkus Reviews snarked: “As a writer of verse, Preller, author of Six Innings, makes an excellent prose novelist.”)

Freaking ouch. I’ll never rhyme again!

And then there are rare reviews that are just incredible, because of the source. That’s how I feel about this latest blog review by Franki Sibberson for Justin Fisher Declares War!

I first learned of Franki when I became a fan of her blog, A Year of Reading, which I discovered on the blogroll over at Literate Lives. I figured that Franki was just another fabulous Ohio-based teacher who loved books (they seem to grow like mushrooms out there). Later I noticed Franki’s name referenced in Ralph Fletcher’s most excellent book, Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices.

I did a little research and soon learned that Franki was an accomplished author herself, co-authoring Beyond Leveled Books (with Karen Szymusiak and Lisa Koch), Still Learning to Read (Karen Szymusiak), Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop (again with Karen Szymusiak), and more.

Clearly, Franki knows and cares about teaching reading in the elementary school. She’s invested and dedicated. As a former school teacher told me over lunch earlier this week, “teaching is an act of hope.” My guess is that Franki would nod her head at that comment.

So I’m honored by Franki’s review of Justin Fisher Declares War! A book that has not gotten much attention to date.

Click here to read the review in full — and then be sure to bookmark Franki’s site, because it’s an inspiration and an education. Here’s an excerpt from the review (I confess that it amounts to more than half of Franki’s review, because I didn’t have the heart to cut any good parts):

I am a huge James Preller fan but this may be my favorite from his list. Most of my teaching life has been in grades 3, 4, and 5. I feel very at home in 4th and 5th grade classrooms. I love the age and James Preller must also love this age. He really understands them and the struggles they deal with. Over the years, I have learned what a huge transition this age is for kids. They go from being little kids, to being big kids and it is sometimes a little confusing.

In this book, we learn that since 3rd grade, Justin Fisher has been the class clown. He is always up to something. He has good friends but in 5th grade, that seems to be changing. His friends and classmates have had enough and are starting to keep their distance. For me, this book is about figuring things out. Things that are cute and funny when you are 8, are no longer cute and funny when you are 11. This is a hard lesson for kids and finding their place in the world gets trickier. But Justin finds his way, thanks to an amazing young teacher (one that clearly deserves a spot on 100 Cool Teachers in Children’s Lit!).

If I were in the classroom this year, this would probably be my first read aloud. The first read aloud has always been key and the choice is always a hard one but there are so man reasons that JUSTIN FISHER DECLARES WAR would make a great first read aloud.

<< snip >>

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Franki recently listed some recent raves for middle grade fiction — and I know I’ll be checking them out soon (if not reading every one, at least buying a few for my fourth-grade daughter, Maggie):

Out of My Mind by Susan Draper

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

Keeper by Kathi Appelt

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (already on my night table)

As Simple as It Seems by Sarah Weeks

Obviously, Franki really likes books with blue covers (goldfish and water optional).

And you know what else? She’s a huge James Preller fan!