Tuesday, February 28, 2012

James Preller Author Visit: An Amazing Day

We hosted James Preller at our school on Friday for a K-5 Author Visit. It was a great day to be the librarian at Riverside. A great day for kids and teachers!

James Preller has many books and I love all of them.  One of my favorites is JUSTIN FISHER DECLARES WAR. I think it was when I read this book that I realized how well Preller understands kids at this age.  What I learned today, is that he understands kids and people of all ages.  It is a gift and his writing shows that.

James Preller had every group of students engaged, thinking and laughing. He told stories of his life and stories of his writing. He told us about his family and he shared his first ever book with us.  He talked to us about the ways in which his real life plays into his writing by sharing specific examples.

As a K-5 librarian, it is sometimes difficult to find an author who really meets the needs of all K-5 students. James Preller certainly does. He has books for all ages and he has an amazing rapport with students of all ages. The Kindergarten classes had a ball and the older kids left saying, "Wow, that was great."

We really kept the visit simple and about reading and Preller's books. All of the kids in the school knew James Preller's work and I love the fact that they can grow up with his books. Our primary kids had a great time with A Pirate's Guide to First Grade. Talking in pirate talk is really pretty fun and kids had a ball with that. But the book is about school and literacy and lots of things so the book was a great anchor before his visit. During his visit, our 1st grade classes wore construction paper pirate hats. They were amused and had a fun time listening to his reading of the story in their hats (which was much, much better than mine--I guess I need to learn to talk from the back of my neck or something or other that Preller advised.). (If you do not know about Construction Paper Crayons, they were quite a hit for a few classes who decorated their hats. Thanks to our wonderful art teacher for sharing this great new type of crayon!)

We had lots of classes read Jigsaw Jones and I am sure they will all be checked out for the rest of the school year.  I believe strongly in series books for transitional readers and this is a perfect beginning mystery series. Now that the students have some insights into Jigsaw, they'll read them a little differently.

With our older kids, James shared some of his work around Six Innings and Bystander.  Our 5th graders just finished Bystander and were interested in all he had to say about bullying and being a bystander, about standing up instead of staying silent.

I bought many copies of each of Jimmy's books for our library. I imagine they will all be checked out tomorrow. I imagine they will be checked out all year as our students look for the books they know a bit more about.

The author visit was one of the best for lots of reasons.  James Preller is genuine. He is a great guy and very sincere. He let kids know who he was as a person and as a writer. And I think this visit really had an impact on their lives as readers. For our students, meeting James Preller was about meeting a rock star.  But it was also about reading and books and understanding the life of a writer better. The day was a joyful one and I would highly recommend James Preller as an author visit for elementary and middle school students. It was really a perfect day.

James Preller visited Bailey Elementary School a few years ago and Bill has been raving about the visit ever since. I can see why.

(I interviewed James Preller a few months ago for a Choice Literacy podcast. You can find that podcast here.)


  1. I'm so glad the visit went well. I couldn't agree with you more - his connection to his inner child really helps him to connect to the students. His visit was wonderful, and it was all about the writing. A perfect day for kids!

  2. I agree, Franki! James Preller visited our school the day before he was at yours. He was down-to-earth and genuine. It was a great visit from a great author who understands kids!

  3. Thank you, I'm so glad I got to meet you and that the day went well. Your approval means a lot to me. And yes, we had . . . FUN.

    We have certain set lines that we use over and over, the ones that always work -- that get the laugh, or inspire the thought, or express the feeling. One this trip, I started saying, toward the end, "Would it be okay if I told you a little story about my dog that had no educational value whatsoever? Just for fun?" And every time, they shouted, "Yes!"

    There's a lesson in that somewhere. Those kids, still teaching me what's going on.

    Thanks, Franki.

    1. You also came to my school; Remember Hoboken Charter SChool, BTW, A few months after your visit the school burned down


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