Author Archives: T. P. Jagger

Four Middle-grade Novels for Earth Day (or Any Day)

Just last month, in honor of the original Earth Day (March 21st. Who knew?…), Laurie J. Edwards provided both a glimpse into the history of Earth Day and a terrific list of Earth Day-themed books. So, now that we’ve arrived at the current Earth Day (NOTE: If you’re not reading this post on April 22nd, just pretend, okay? . . .), I’d like to offer four additional middle-grade novels that might fit your reading list as you celebrate the one and only planet we have to call home.

Flush by Carl Hiaasen

Casino boat. Toilets. Raw sewage. What more could you possibly need to know?

One White DolphinOne White Dolphin by Gill Lewis

There’s a reef in peril from dredging. Then a baby albino dolphin gets caught in an old fishing net, setting off a series of events that may change everything.

Something Stinks! by Gail Hedrick

For seventh-grader Emily Sanders, the mystery begins with some dead fish washing ashore on her uncle and aunt’s farm. But when Emily chooses to investigate, she doesn’t just lose friends—she also makes enemies.

Night of the Spadefoot ToadsNight of the Spadefoot Toads by Bill Harley

When fifth-grader Ben Moroney’s family moves from Arizona to Massachusetts, Ben has to leave behind the desert home and environment he loves. Then his new fifth-grade science teacher, Mrs. Tibbets, introduces him to the endangered spadefoot toad, and Ben finds something he cares about. Then the toads’ habitat is threatened, and Ben’s impulsive act to save it may instead lead to losses Ben never intended.

Do you have a favorite middle-grade novel that fits this Earth Day list? Feel free to leave a comment and post the title and author below!


T. P. Jagger The 3-Minute Writing TeacherAlong with his MUF posts, T. P. Jagger can be found at www.tpjagger.com, where he provides brief how-to writing-tip videos as The 3-Minute Writing Teacher plus original readers’ theatre scripts for middle-grade teachers. He also has a 10-lesson, video-based creative writing course available at Curious.com.

Five Books for Middle-Grade Music Lovers

If you like music and you like middle-grade books, what should you do? Well, the following five books would be a good place to start:

Hiding Out at the Pancake PalaceHiding Out at the Pancake Palace by Nan Marino

Eleven-year-old Elvis Ruby was a musical prodigy expected to be crowned the next winner of Tween Star. Then he froze on national TV. Now, he’s in hiding.


A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias dreams of having a baby grand piano and playing in Carnegie Hall. What she gets is a Perfectone D-60 that comes with free organ lessons and a golden oldies songbook.


The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Thirteen-year-old Moxie Roosevelt Kipper is tired of being ordinary, and she views her arrival at boarding school as the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself, trying to hide her piano-playing talent in the process.


The Brilliant World of Tom GatesThe Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon

When a fifth grader has his own band called Dog Zombies, you know you’re in for some laughs. (A great book for Diary of a Wimpy Kid lovers.)


Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

Okay. I confess. This book falls into the YA category. But I liked it too much not to include it. Straight-A classical cellist has to share a school music room with trouble-making guitarist. Told through a blend of narrative, notes, songs, and texts.


Have you read a good middle-grade with a harmonica-playing grandpa or a trumpet-toting 10-year-old? A young girl with the voice of an angel? Some other connection to the world of music? Feel free to post the title of a music-based middle-grade that fits with this list!


T. P. Jagger The 3-Minute Writing TeacherAlong with his MUF posts, T. P. Jagger can be found at www.tpjagger.com, where he provides brief how-to writing-tip videos as The 3-Minute Writing Teacher plus original readers’ theatre scripts for middle-grade teachers. He also has a 10-lesson, video-based creative writing course available at Curious.com.

To Write or Not to Write, That Is the Question

For the record, I am a very brave man. This is not just because I floss before bedtime and sometimes intentionally consume leafy green vegetables. No, it’s much more than that. My bravery blossoms from a single, bold writerly act. Some would call it courageous. Others daring or even heroic.

I would call it quitting.

Yes, after writing the first page of a story, I stopped. Totally up and abandoned the manuscript. Then, with equal doses of valor and cold-blooded resolve, I started to . . .

Outline.

[Cue gasps, groans, and eerie music.]

I am not an outliner. Every other story I’ve ever written has been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants affair. At some point in the writing process I might skip ahead and write the ending to help guide the middle of my story, but planning each scene from the get-go? . . . Are you kidding me?!?!?!

Here’s a list of six things that made me change my ways (at least this one time):

  1. My last 50,000-word story underwent a ton of drafts, a couple with super-major plot revisions that required loads of rewriting as I uncovered new elements of my story on the fly. I liked the final results, but the process of getting there was painful. By creating a bare-bones outline for my newest story (a few sentences per chapter), I uncovered some surprises for myself before I had an entire plot to go back and overhaul.
  2. Revising a few sentences is easier than revamping a 50,000-word manuscript.
  3. I’m a slow writer. I’m an even slower reviser. Less time revising = more time writing.
  4. For a plot to push forward, I know every scene needs conflict and/or suspense to keep the reader engaged. By outlining, I ensured that each chapter was built around some form of tension, which provides the fuel for my story’s problem to keep chugging along on the road to the resolution.
  5. The outline also helped me look at the big picture of the story’s plot, making sure that the overall level of tension steadily increased scene-to-scene, pushing toward the resolution and climax.
  6. I figured outlining is like Brussels sprouts—it might not be that enjoyable at the time, but it’ll probably be good for me in the end.

My outlined story? It’s moving right along and feels way easier to write than anything I’ve ever written before. Will my plot change from my original outline as I progress? Undoubtedly. But it’s sure been nice to have a basic roadmap for the writing journey ahead.

Want a bit more perspective? MUFs own Linda Johns presented “The Case for Outlining” a few months back. Or do you have your own outlining versus seat-of-the-pants-writing viewpoint to share? Post your comments below.


T. P. Jagger The 3-Minute Writing TeacherAlong with his MUF posts, T. P. Jagger can be found at www.tpjagger.com, where he provides brief how-to writing-tip videos as The 3-Minute Writing Teacher plus original readers’ theatre scripts for middle-grade teachers.