Monday, October 29, 2001

Kids link to favorite writer

By Valerie Christopher
Enquirer Contributor

        MOUNT HEALTHY — A New York author has dedicated his 16th book in a mystery series to a local teacher and her students after establishing a pen-pal relationship with them two years ago.

        James Preller, author of the Jigsaw Jones Mysteries, wrote an inscription in his latest book, The Case of the Sneaker Sneak, to Debby Nagel and her students at Assumption School.

        For Debby Nagel and all the wonderful kids she teaches. Thank you for the kindness and support. — J.P.

        Touched by the students' letters, a jigsaw-themed picture, and their devotion to reading, Mr. Preller did something he never does — he gave out his personal e-mail address so they could correspond.

        “I was especially touched that a teacher is using my books to tie into her classroom and curriculum,” Mr. Preller said. from his home in Glenmont, N.Y.

        Jigsaw Jones and his partner, Mila, are depicted as second-graders who solve mysteries for a dollar a day. The two tackle cases ranging from a “stinky science project” to a “marshmallow monster.”

        Mrs. Nagel said the e-mail relationship began after she purchased the first book in the series, The Case of Hermie the Missing Hamster, two years ago.

        She introduced it in September 2000 and her students were hooked.

        “My students practically give a standing ovation after reading one of his books,” Mrs. Nagel said. “The books always have an underlying kindness about them and the kids are really getting the message.”

        Mrs. Nagel sent the author a class picture in a frame shaped like a puzzle piece.

        Mr. Preller began e-mailing her class once a week.

        Students post their Jigsaw Jones book reviews on Assumption School's Web site (

        Mr. Preller said his next assignment for Mrs. Nagel's students is to suggest new character descriptions for subsequent books in the series.

        “It is a very safe, benign world in these books,” he said. “Where characters care about each other and there is value in that.”


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