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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: family, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 1,753
26. All in a blur

Nine years, can you believe it?

Wonderboy and Rilla, June 2006

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birthdayrilla09

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27. PS Mum, this is for you – Mother’s Day picture book reviews

Unconditional love, tolerance and understanding; all qualities most mothers possess in spades. They warrant gratitude every single day, not just on Mother’s Day. So this year, before you load up mum with a bed full of toast crumbs and good intentions snuggle up to her with one of your favourite ‘I love you’ reads. Here […]

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28. Writing Day and Night!

Check out Michigan author, Ruth McNally Barshaw and a peek at our family literacy night!

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29. The Family Under the Bridge (1958)

The Family Under the Bridge. Natalie Savage Carlson. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1958/1989. HarperCollins. 123 pages.

Once there was an old hobo named Armand who wouldn't have lived anywhere but in Paris. So that is where he lived. Everything that he owned could be pushed around in an old baby buggy without any hood, so he had no worries about rents or burglars. All the ragged clothing he owned was on his back, so he didn't need to bother with trunks or dry-cleaners. It was easy for him to move from  one hidey-hole to another so that is what he was doing one late member in December.

Have you read The Family Under the Bridge?! Why did no one tell me how WONDERFUL it was? I read it and absolutely loved it.

The Family Under the Bridge is set in Paris in December. (So it would be perfect to read around Christmas or New Year's Day). Armand is the hero. As he prepares for winter, he makes plans to go and live under "his" bridge. When he arrives, he discovers that there is a family already living there. At first, he thought he would leave immediately and go find another bridge to live under. But. He lets himself be talked into staying. The family includes two little girls and a little boy and their mother.
"It looks to me like you've already found a new place," said Armand, "and it's my old place. You've put me out of my home just like that landlady did to you."
Suzy was apologetic. She moved the pushcart over and measured Armand with one eye closed. Then she carefully drew a long rectangle on the concrete with a piece of soft coal.
"That's your room," she said. "You can live with us." On second thought, she scrawled a small checkered square at the foot of the rectangle. "There's a window," she said gravely, "so you can look out and see the river."
Armand grumbled to himself and pulled his coat tighter across his chest as if to hide his heart. Oh, this starling was a dangerous one. He'd better move on. Paris was full of bridges, the way the Seine meandered through it. No trouble finding another one. But as he started away, the girl ran over and clutched him by his torn sleeve.
"Please stay," she begged. "We'll pretend you're our grandfather."
Armand snorted. "Little one," he said, "next to a millionaire a grandfather is the last thing I hope to be." But even as he grumbled, he began unpacking his belongings. (11-12)
He claims he doesn't have a heart, and doesn't want a family. But a family is soon what they become...especially when the authorities learn about the children living under the bridge... Can Armand save them all and prevent the family from being split up?!

As I said, I loved, loved, loved this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. A Monday snapshot

eeyore14

 

Small child straddling two barstools, running toy cars up and down the high counter. Another child sprawled on floor, drawing a picture. A third hovering by the cedar chest at the far end of the sofa, at loose ends. A leggy teenager spidering sideways in the comfy armchair. A perfectly typical scene of mild morning chaos.

I curl up in my rocking chair with House at Pooh Corner. The younger set hasn’t heard it yet, in that way that shocks me. They are six, almost nine, and eleven, for Pete’s sake! How could such a thing have happened? Answer: SO. MANY. BOOKS. With no fanfare, I open it and start reading.

The child on the floor flashes a starry grin and scoots closer, her pencils rolling under my feet. The child at loose ends looks up, ears perked. The small one zooming his cars around seems not to notice, but all the engines appear to have undergone sudden tuneups: their roars diminish to silky purrs.

It takes me a minute to find Pooh’s voice. It’s been a few years, after all. Piglet is easy and Eeyore—this revelation would no doubt astonish him—is a delight. It’s snowing, tiddley pom, but at least there hasn’t been an earthquake.

The cars have abandoned the counter and are crossing a bridge of air toward the Hundred Acre Wood. The teenager’s limbs have been transferred to the sofa. The no-longer-hovering child has claimed ownership of the big brown armchair. Nobody knows, tiddley pom, how cold my toes are growing. The postman rattles the lid of the mailbox, delivering the day’s contingent of recyclables. Pooh’s voice has settled down, and the wind must have blown Eeyore’s house over the wood because there it is, just as good as ever, and better in places.

It’s a beautiful house, tiddley pom.

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31. Family Hug


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32. The Kidtastic Giveaway

More April surprises have arrived.  We have joined forces with some other great children’s book authors for a big giveaway.  During April 5th – April 9th you can download the kindle version of our book, The Pig Princess from Amazon for FREE.

Pig cover

And since we think pigs rule we want to let you know about Scott Gordon’s children’s book, Pigtastic which is also FREE on Amazon during this period.

Pigtastic

We saved the best for last.  You can enter to win a 3DS XL and a game of your choice.

ENTER HERE.: a Rafflecopter giveaway


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33. We’re Bugging Out!

beecover

Super excited to announce that our Bee Bully is being featured in Bookbub today and is only $.99 for a limited time.  To celebrate we have some free gifts to tell you about.  From April 1st – April 5th you can download our latest release, Caterpillar Shoes, absolutely free from Amazon.  Check out what’s troubling Patches the caterpillar and the silly decision she makes to live her life to the full.  There are some interesting caterpillar facts in the back of this book.

 

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I’ve also got more surprises to share.  My friend, Laura Yirak, is also giving away a copy of her delightful bee book, Bumble Babees during this same period.

 

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Scott Gordon has another treat for you. His book, The Most Beautiful Flower will be FREE April 2-April 6.  This book is only $.99 on April 1st.  Don’t you just love spring!  Enjoy these goodies while they last.

the-most-beautiful-flower


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34. Happy Birthday to my Mom!



Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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35. #660 – Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart by Jennifer Adams & Ron Stucki

cover babylit first steps book

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Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart
Sequel to Edgar Gets Ready For Bed
Written by Jennifer Adams
Illustrated by Ron Stucki
Gibbs Smith           9/20/2014
978-1-4236-3766-0
32 pages           Age 4 to 8
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Edgar is dreadfully nervous.. The rambunctious raven knocked over his mother’s prized stone sculpture. But even the influence of his sister, Lenore, threatening to tattle can’t keep Edgar from trying to hide his misdeed.”

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Review

Mom leaves her two little ravens alone for a short while with paper and crayons to occupy them. Little boys being little boys, Edgar—inspired by The Raven— decides to make paper airplanes and throws them at Lenore. Lenore hides. Edgar runs after her with another plane, knocks into a table, and accidentally breaking a statue.

“Look what you did! I’m telling mom when she gets home.”

Sisters can be such difficult creatures. Edgar, hoping mom won’t notice, tries to hide the broken piece. A little mouse suggests under a floorboard and then in a drawer. Finally, while hearing Lenore repeat her I’m-going-to-tell mantra, Edgar and the mouse try to fix the statue—as its eyes look fearfully at the mouse’s offering of tape.

gss pdf 1The illustrations, are black and white with red highlights and light purple backgrounds. This gives the feeling one is peaking in on the raven’s home as the scenes unfold. The story, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, uses a statue—head bust—of Poe, who watches over the children, his eyes darting here and there, providing additional humor for those that notice. The illustrations are very good, though near the end, when the ravens speak their mouths no longer open as they do earlier. Certainly only a small detail and one children may not notice.

When mom returns, Lenore is ready to tell on Edgar, who, with the helpful mouse, has been pacing ever since “fixing” the statue of Poe. Mom stops Lenore short, admonishing her not to tattle. She asks Edgar,

“Edgar, do you have something to tell me?”

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Edgar tearfully apologizes. Mom reminds the young raven how much she loves him; a sweet ending to a typical brother-sister afternoon. Children will laugh at the two ravens, while parents will immediately recognize the tattle-tell from their own lives or that of their children. Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart is a beautifully illustrated story told succinctly in dialogue. It should be another hit in Gibbs Smith’s line of literary-based BabyLit® children’s books. (BabyLit® First Step book)

EDGAR AND THE TATTLE-TALE HEART. Text copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Adams. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Ron Stucki. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Gibbs Smith, UT.

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Purchase Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryGibb Smith.

Read more about Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart HERE.
Meet the author, Jennifer Adams, at her website:  http://jennifer-adams.com/
Meet the illustrator, Ron Stucki, at creativehotlist: http://www.creativehotlist.com/Individuals/details/200567 
Find more BabyLit® at the Gibbs Smith website: www.gibbs-smith.com
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Edgar Gets Ready For Bed2amazonx

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Edgar Gets Ready for Bed: A BabyLit® First Steps Picture book

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Series Tagged: BabyLit®, BabyLit® First Step book, Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart, family, gibbs smith, Jennifer Adams, relationships. Edgar Allen Poe, Ron Stucki, siblings, tattle telling

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36. #659 – Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox & Stephanie Graegin

9780803740914_medium_Peace_is_an_Offering

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Peace is an Offering

Written by Annette LeBox
Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Dial Books for Young Readers         3/10/2015
978-0-8037-4091-4
40 pages          Age 3 to 5

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“Peace is an offering.
A muffin or a peach.
A birthday invitation.
A trip to the beach.

“Follow these neighborhood children as they find love in everyday things—in sunlight shining through leaves and cookies shared with friends—and learn that peace is all around, if you just look for it.”

Review

Peace is an Offering contains a strong message about what the abstract concept of peace means for the young (and old): helping one another, being kind, joining together, and enjoying all aspects of life with respect to your family, friends, and neighbors. Peace does not need to be overcomplicated or forced. Peace is the accumulation of all the small, meaningful acts we do each day.

“Will you stay with me?
Will you be my friend?
Will you listen to my story
till the very end?”

The children in this large neighborhood, make, find, and (most importantly), show kindness to each other every day in simple heartfelt ways. The poem is beautifully written and illustrated. Children will easily understand each deftly visualized line or verse of the poem. Multicultural children interact with each other, families spend time together, and friends stay close.

peace is an offering 1

What is not to love about Peace is an Offering? Nothing, though the spread alluding to 911 seems unnecessary. The verse feels out of place, as does the illustration, which deviates from the light, airy, everyday life depicted on the other spreads (see two examples here). but for those who lost a loved one or friend, the spread may provide comfort. Peace is an Offering is a gratifying read; uplifting and inspiring young and old alike. The author finishes the poem by offering advice to children.

So offer a cookie,
Walk away from a fight.
Comfort a friend
Through the long, dark night.

I loved every aspect of every spread. The poetry speaks to the heart. Pencil and watercolor illustrations have those details I rave about. Simply said, Peace is an Offering is a joy to read.

PEACE IS AN OFFERING. Text copyright © 2015 by Annette LeBox. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Stephanie Graegin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Penguin Random House, NY.
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Purchase Peace is an Offering at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPenguin Random House.
Learn more about Peace is an Offering HERE.

Meet the author, Annette LeBox, at her website:  http://annettelebox.com/
Meet the illustrator, Stephanie Graegin, at her website:  http://graegin.com/
Find more picture books at Dial Books for Young Readers website:  http://www.penguin.com/meet/publishers/dialbooksforyoungreaders/

Dial Books for Young Readers is an imprint of Penguin Random House.  http://www.penguin.com/children/

Last Chance! VOTE for YOUR FAVORITE BEST BOOK for 2014 HERE.

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Last Chance! VOTE for YOUR FAVORITE BEST BOOK for 2014 HERE.


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Poetry Tagged: acceptance, Annette LeBox, Dial Books for Young Readers, family, friends, love, multicultural, peace, Peace is an Offering, Penguin Random House, relationships, Stephanie Graegin

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37. on being a late bloomer

This is the hashtag I used on Instagram -- #teachinghongkong2015 -- to document in photos my trip to Hong Kong this month. You can find photos of the trip there, and even more on Facebook, here, along with a few thoughts about teaching writing to students who are learning to be fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese.

 We mainly focused on personal narrative and moments we could add color and flavor and texture to, characters we could create from those moments -- and how to make them come alive on the page -- and then we moved into fiction with them.

We used several mentor texts, including FREEDOM SUMMER, LOVE RUBY LAVENDER, and EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS.

I learned to write by reading like a writer, modeling my writing on what I admired, then making it mine, so that's how I teach. I turn my life into stories. I understand how I do it. I have broken it down to the foundations of how it works, and it's always a stretch and a pleasure to share it with young writers and their teachers.

I am a writer who teaches, and to that end, I will always be a writer first. I have developed my teaching over the past twenty years by teaching in classrooms, from K through college, and I know that what I have to offer is substantial, meaningful, useful, and offers a lasting toolbox partner for teachers and their young writers to use for years to come.

And yet.

I am thinking about who I am today, as Jim and I return home to spring in Atlanta -- we left in a February snowstorm. This ruminating always happens after I am thrust for a sustained time into an unfamiliar environment, where I am constantly thinking on my feet, meeting new people in new cultures, learning new customs and traditions (and food!) and discovering how people make meaning in their lives.

Traveling, especially internationally, invites me to rethink everything. Invites me to make meaning. It reminds me of my young life, when, as a teenager, I became a mother, and a wife to a boy I did not know, and moved to a place I did not understand, with no support, with people and customs I could not comprehend, and with fear and isolation so complete it would take me years to assimilate and integrate and create meaning from it.

So I am thinking.

I want to chronicle some of that thinking here on the blog. I'm going to play with short posts about what I'm discovering, and just see where it leads me. I can feel myself entering a time of change. I'm working on a sort of manifesto for my sixties. God. I grew up in the sixties, and now I *am* sixty. 61. Talk about a late bloomer.

I raised a family first. I was homeless first. I was lost, first. I had to find ways to stabilize my life and my children's lives, first. I had to live some, first. Make sense of some things. Find my way into my life. Do a whole lot of different things with my life and teach myself how to do... pretty much everything. It would take me time to learn how to help myself, so I could help someone else.. I taught myself how to write so I could tell my stories and find home, belonging, safety, meaning, love.

My first book was published the year I turned 48. I went back to school that year and got my credentials to teach -- I'd been teaching informally for years without them. I became suddenly single that year. My heart was broken. I wrote EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS in response to that loss.

By the time I turned fifty, I had lost not only the long-years marriage, but my mother and my father and my siblings and my home of 25 years and my hometown. My youngest of four graduated and left home for college. I moved to Atlanta. The dog died. My editor of 12 years was fired. My publishing house was decimated.

The bitter was tempered by the sweet. I had created a support system by that time, and my friends became my family. They held the space for me, held me up until I could stand on my feet again. I met my husband, Jim. We had a three year long-distance relationship, a three year Atlanta relationship, and then we married. My books did well in the world, even though my life was so chaotic for a time, I couldn't always appreciate it or participate in the book community that celebrated all of it. Much of my life was a blur.

Little by little, though, I came back from a devastating time of loss. My children grew up and began to blossom. I began to create a home, here in Atlanta, a family home, a home for friends, a home for my own heart to rest in once again.

It took me a long, long time to do this. I was scared, and once again lost, even in the midst of the sweetness. But I kept writing. I kept teaching. I kept on trying. I have been emerging from that difficult place, once again forging an identity and discovering who I am. Making meaning. It's a process. Life long.

I am happy to be here. I love my life. I know how lucky I am.

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38. Caterpillar Shoes

Caterpiller-cover_AM

Happy World Poetry Day!  We’ve been busy working on our latest children’s picture book, Caterpillar Shoes.  This story is about a colorful caterpillar named Patches.  She’s an energetic caterpillar trying to decide what activities to do.  In the end, she doesn’t put any limits on herself and lives her life to the full.  This is our twelfth children’s book and we are so excited for it’s release.  Stay tuned here to learn about upcoming promotions for this book and others.

Th only limit to a paintbrush and a blank canvas is your imagination.

 


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39. NEWSFLASH: Notoriously Tough Book Critic Praises THE FALL!

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NEWS ITEM: The notoriously cantankerous critic, 89-year-old Ann Preller, recently declared that THE FALL (September, 2015) was James Preller’s “best book yet.” She went on to say that she feels sure it will be a national bestseller, and that the author looks nice in that green sweater, but should really call more often.

 

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40. Kindle Direct Publishing

Here is a nice write up KDP did on my in their latest newsletter.  So cool!

Your Voice

KDP Author Angela Muse

Muse, Angela 2014

Angela Muse, author of The Bee Bully, shares her experience with Kindle Direct Publishing.
“I wrote my very first children’s book in 2009 as a gift to my two young children. If not for my son and KDP, my experience as an author would have ended right there. One day in 2011, he asked me why I wasn’t publishing any more children’s books, and I didn’t have a good answer. The stories were there. In fact, I’d written several that were just gathering dust in my closet. The platform for indie publishing was there. Amazon had launched KDP, and many authors were finding success. Of course, those voices that keep us from following our dreams began to mount in my head. What if people can’t find my stories? What if people do find my stories and they hate them? What if I can’t find a good illustrator that I can afford? After quashing all those voices, I decided to go nuts…literally.

“While collecting acorns with my children in the fall of 2011, I created a story entitled The Nutt Family: An Acorny Adventure and decided that this would be my next release. I found a brilliant illustrator in Poland, held my breath, and hit the publish button. In 2012, my journey as an independent author began by publishing more titles including The Bee BullyThe Pig Princess, and Suzy Snowflake.

“When I first started, I didn’t have a clue about where to find good illustrators, how to get book reviews, and most importantly, how to effectively market my books. In the beginning, I researched and networked with other authors to gather as much data as I could to help me in all these areas. The biggest hurdle was the marketing. I tried many different techniques, but one of the most effective was utilizing the free promotion days in KDP Select. Once my books were free, there were lots of websites and social media outlets that were willing to promote them. I also tried to focus on my audience as much as possible. For the most part, I write children’s picture books, but the children are not the ones who will purchase them. I focused on the parents and finding blogs and sites specific to that audience who would want to promote or feature my books.

“I wasn’t one of those people who sought out an agent for my work and tried to go the traditional route. With KDP, I have a golden opportunity to go at this myself and do things my own way. I can set my own goals and deadlines. I can market my books in the manner I choose. I can decide my price structure. I have full control.

“Did I make mistakes along the way? You bet, but I also learned a lot in making those mistakes. I found support from many great authors who were also forging ahead in the indie publishing world, and we were all doing this together. It felt like we were all out in this big ocean trying to catch oysters, each of us looking for our own pearls.

“It’s been almost three years since I began this journey, and I’m so grateful to KDP and the KDP Select program for giving indie authors a chance, that not long ago, we never would have had. I wouldn’t have received fan mail from preschool aged children who enjoyed my stories if not for KDP. One of my goals as a children’s author is to get kids to read. KDP allows me to publish quality children’s picture books to help me accomplish that goal. The smiles and giggles from the kids who read my books are just the icing on my indie publishing cake.”

 


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41. Baby announcement!



Baby announcement!



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42. Every Day After, by Laura Golden | Book Review

This book will appeal to middle grade readers who like spunky protagonists, are dealing with difficult family situations, and who like learning about earlier eras in America, (in this case the depression in the 1930s).

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43. Open Letter to AJ Preller, GM of the San Diego Padres

 

The name AJ Preller been in the news quite a bit lately, ever since he was named General Manager of the San Diego Padres. I’ve gotten a kick out of that, since AJ Preller was also my father’s name. Doing a bit of research, I learned that both of our families lived in Long Island. I thought about and decided, why not? So I sent him this letter:

 

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Dear AJ Preller,

I’m writing because I think we may have a connection. Don’t worry, I’m not seeking anything (I’m a diehard Mets fan). We both love baseball and we might be related.

Fred W. Preller

Fred W. Preller

My family, like yours, came from Long Island. My father’s name was Alan Jay Preller. His father was Fred W. Preller, from Queens Village, NY, where he was a NY State Assemblyman for 22 years. He briefly ascended to Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. I think if there’s a gossamer-thread connection between us, it might be there, since it’s my understanding that Fred was part of a large family. In later life, Grandpa had a summer place in Smithtown, Long Island. I don’t know; I’m not a student of family ancestry. The first time I saw a color television was in Grandpa’s Queens Village home. He was watching the Yankees and the grass was sooo green.

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Through his political work, Grandpa even had a baseball field named after him –- Preller Fields (later named the “Padavan-Preller Complex” sometime after Grandpa passed away) -– which is on Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, NY. Photo, above.

paperback-cover-six-innings-203x300Anyway, I’m a children’s book author and my deep love for the game led me to write this book, SIX INNINGS, an ALA Notable, which I now send along to you.

As you know, Preller is not a common name here in the United States – though it pops up in Argentina and South Africa, curiously. I always get a kick out of reading my father’s name -– your name -– in the sports pages. AJ Preller! My long-lost cuz!

Carry on and good luck with your Padres. I think you’ve done a great job so far, similar to what Omar Minaya accomplished in his first year with the Mets, seeking to make a moribund franchise newly relevant.

Good luck, my best, and play ball!

James Preller

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44. Photo: {My Crazy Family By Marriage}

crazy-family

We may be crazy, but MY GOSH we have fun!


Filed under: Photos

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45. One of My Favorite Moments in the “Jigsaw Jones” Series . . . A Small Tribute to My Late Brother

Illustration by Jamie Smith from Jigsaw Jones #10: The Case of the Ghostwriter. This is one of my favorite illustrations from the entire series for reasons explained below. Jamie gave me the original artwork -- for free, here, take it -- and now I hang it on my office wall, and it always makes me think of my brother. Every day.

Illustration by Jamie Smith from Jigsaw Jones #10: The Case of the Ghostwriter. This is one of my favorite illustrations from the entire series for reasons explained below. Jamie gave me the original artwork — for free, here, take it — and now I hang it on my office wall, and it always makes me think of my brother. Every day.

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In what I hope will be a recurring feature on an irregular schedule, I thought I’d try to convey some of the background to each of my Jigsaw Jones titles.

And in no particular order.

The Case of the Ghostwriter has a lot of cool little things in it that most readers might miss.

I dedicated this book to Frank Hodge, a near-celebrity local bookseller on Lark Street in Albany, who is known and beloved by many area teachers and librarians. He’s one of Albany’s living treasures. When I moved to the area from Brooklyn, in 1990, Frank’s store, Hodge-Podge Books, was right around the corner. Of course, I stopped in and we became friends. I actually put Frank in this story: a guy named Frank owns a store called Hedgehog Books. I even included his cat, Crisis. Jigsaw and Mila visit Frank’s store in the hopes of tracking down a mysterious author.

Chapter Eight begins:

Hedgehog Books was a cozy little store. Our parents had been taking Mila and me since we were little. My mom said that Frank’s favorite thing was to bring books and kids together.

In the story, there’s a series of popular books — The Creep Show series — loosely modeled on R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps.” Mila has been eating them up, reading titles such as Green Wet Slime and Teenage Zombie from Mars. The author’s name on the cover, a pen name, is R.V. King. (Ho-ho.) There’s a rumor that he’s coming to visit room 201 for the “Author’s Tea.” Who can the Mystery Author be? I bet you can guess.

For me, the part I’m proudest of in this book is Chapter Seven, “My Middle Name,” a tribute to my oldest brother, Neal, who passed away in 1993, a few months after my first son, Nicholas, was born.

Ms. Gleason has the students reading family stories in class, Abuela by Arthur Dorros and The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Pollaco. The students, including Jigsaw and Mila, are asked to write their own family stories.

To research his family stories, Jigsaw interrupts his parents while they are playing chess. “Now’s not a good time,” his father replies. “I’m trying to destroy your dear mother.” (I always liked that line.)

At bed that night, Jigsaw and his father have a heart to heart. Mr. Jones tells Jigsaw about his middle name, Andrew, who was Jigsaw’s uncle. Now this part is totally true, because my son’s middle name is Neal, after his uncle.

“And he died,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “Andrew died.” I heard the air leave my father’s lips. The sound of a deep sigh.

I put my head on his shoulder. “Why did you name me after him?”

They talk some more:

That’s when I noticed it. The water in his eyes. A single tear, then another, slid down his cheek. My father was crying. I’d never seen him cry before. It made me nervous.

“Don’t be sad, Dad.” I hugged him with both arms, tight.

He wiped the tears away with the back of his sleeve.

He sniffed hard and smiled.

“I’m not sad, Jigsaw,” he said. “It’s just that I remember little things that happened. Little things Andrew said or did. And I’ll always miss him.”

“Can you tell me?” I asked. “About the little things?”

My father checked his watch. “Not tonight, son. It’s late already. But I will tomorrow, promise.”

“Good night, Dad,” I said. “I’m sorry you’re sad.”

“Don’t be sorry,” he said. “That’s life, I guess. Sometimes we lose the good ones. Good night, Theodore Andrew Jones. Sleep tight.”

Then he shut the door.

I’d never attempt to read that chapter aloud to a group. I can never read it  without remembering, without crying. I guess in that scene, I’m Jigsaw’s dad — and my son, Nicholas Neal Preller, stands in for Jigsaw, trying to learn about an uncle, my brother, whom he never had the chance to meet.

———–

NOTE: I originally posted this in 2009.

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46. No slamming

Today’s happy list is three keeper moments from my boys.

1. Huck, wistfully: “I wish no one in this family would have more birthdays. I like everyone the way we are.”

2. A story my friend Patti told me. Last Friday afternoon, Patti organized a wonderful St. Valentine’s Day party in the park for the kids in our homeschooling group. It fell during my work time, so Patti offered to keep an eye on Huck and Rilla for me so they could attend the party. So nice! Today she told me that in the thick of the festivities, Huck came up to her with a pine cone. “This is for you,” he said, “because that’s how much I love you.”

So basically this kid just has me melting all over the place these days. And I know how he feels—I wouldn’t mind having a six-year-old around at all times.

3. Wonderboy has a recurring kind of email he likes to send to family and close friends, describing what he wants to be when he grows up. Sometimes it’s a teacher or a “pet shop man” or a UPS driver. Today it was a librarian. As always, he included a long and detailed list of holiday hours—you wouldn’t believe how many holidays his library has special hours of operation for. After the list come the ground rules. If you want to visit his branch, here’s what you should know:

1. Please do not talk on the phone as you come in.
2. Do not run.
3. No yelling.
4. Please check out book.
5. Please return your library book as you are done.
6. No gum.
7. No slamming.
8. No child should be bringing toys.
9. Please bring your key and library card.
10. Use the computer if you want.
11. As it closing time, just quietly leave.
12. No iPod or iPad or Computer, or DS or WII.
13. Bring a bag if you have so many books.
14. Bring a bag if you return so much.
15. Please Park somewhere near the library.
16. Please lock your car if someone gonna steal it.
17. No animal noises.
18. No hitting and eating books.
19. No ripping books.
20. No crashing.

Got that? You’d all better behave yourselves.

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47. Exorcising the Past: A Reading & Talk

Marie Mockett's childhood notebook

On March 5, Marie Mutsuki Mockett and I will be reading and talking about exorcising the past (all meanings of exorcise possible) at McNally Jackson at 6 p.m.

Marie’s wonderful new book, Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye, is about death and grief and family and ghosts and so much more. She’ll read from it, and I’ll read from the working introduction to my book on the science and superstition of ancestry, and then we’ll talk about all of that and take questions and comments from you. Hope to see you there!

This image is from one of Marie’s childhood notebooks; she shared it with the Asian American Writers’ Workshop when they visited her writing studio.

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48. Morning Snapshot

dandelion

Rose, stretched out on Beanie’s bunk reading Paradise Lost. Beside her, the bluebook she writes compositions in for the Spanish class she’s taking the community college, and a battered paperback copy of The Wizard of Earthsea.

Beanie, sitting on Rilla’s unmade* bed, drawing a sketch of Rose. Beside her, her Journey North Mystery Class chart.

Rilla and Huck in a corner of the living room, in the midst of a litter of Legos, deep in some complex game. Their tones are urgent, their faces serious. Vast, capricious forces are afflicting a host of small plastic people with a series of grave disasters. Rilla shoots a glance at her fellow demigod, brow furrowed.

“Nobody likes my jokes,” grumps the smaller deity. From the kitchen, I chuckle.

“Ha!” amends Huck. “At least Mom appreciates them.”

Wonderboy’s at school, Jane’s away at college, Scott’s in the back room writing a comic book, and me? I’m just soaking it all in.

***

*Recently overheard, Rose to Rilla and Huck: “Listen, there’s something you should understand about Mom. If she sees you’re in the middle of a really good make-believe game, she will never interrupt you to make you do your chores.”

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49. True story

Swiped from Scott’s Facebook:

My wife looks skeptically at the gorgonzola. “How can you tell if that’s still good or not?” the 14-year-old asks.

“I don’t know,” Lissa says. “It’s moldy and it smells like feet, so it’s probably okay.”

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50. Photo

JP w: kids

Quick snap from our recent visit to Mass Moca in North Adams, MA. It’s always good to get to a museum just to let it fill you up.

This here is Maggie, 14, proudly wearing her new “Kale” sweatshirt. To the right, that’s Gavin, 15, who basically does not approve of photographs. I’m nearly six feet tall, but Gavin is quickly closing the gap.

My oldest son, Nicholas, is not in this photo because he’s a senior in college at Geneseo, NY.

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