Author Archives: T. P. Jagger

A Retrospective MUFiversary

As I psyched up for another MUF post, I decided to take a glance back at my previous posts, hoping to find some form of inspiration awaiting me. Surprisingly, it actually worked. And it’s all because of how I name my computer files.

You see, whenever I hammer out a MUF post and save it to my computer, I name the file by starting with the year-month-day date. So when I went to sift through my old posts, the very first file caught my eye: “2012-7-20…”

July 2012. . . .

July 2015. . . .

This month is my triple MUFiversary!

I’m a bit of an expert on anniversaries. In fact, I’ve been forgetting them until the last minute for 20 years. (Though I made up for it just last month when my wife and I celebrated our 20th anniversary via some mutual de-bucket-listing and jumped out of an airplane while 13,000 feet above the ground. She made me go first. But I’ve forgiven her.)

Anyway, the important anniversaries don’t stop there! Digging still deeper into my anniversary theme, I realized this is the 5th year for MUF, which was launched in 2010. So . . . with my wife and me celebrating 20 years of marriage, MUF celebrating its 5th MUFiversary, and my personal celebration of three years of MUFhood, I decided to weave those three anniversaries together and see what I got.

The result? . . . A 20 year journey back through the world of children’s publishing, using a series of 5-year leaps, with each leap including three if-you-haven’t-read-these-you-really-need-to books.

5 YEARS AGO (2010):

  1. BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT by Rob Buyea. The story shifts between seven different narrators—each providing a unique voice and perspective as the story unfolds.
  2. OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper. The main character can’t walk. She can’t talk. But she has a brilliant mind that refuses to stay hidden.
  3. Moon Over ManifestMOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool. I don’t read much historical fiction—I’m more of a contemporary-fiction guy. But I made an exception for this debut historical novel. And I’m sure glad I did.

10 YEARS AGO (2005):

  1. THE PENULTIMATE PERIL by Lemony Snicket. The 12th (and penultimate) novel in the 13-book Series of Unfortunate Events. Who knew having the narrator constantly defining words for the reader could be so much fun?
  2. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE by J. K. Rowling. Another penultimate story that finally confirmed it—Severus Snape was clearly a bad guy. . . . Wasn’t he?
  3. The Lightning ThiefTHE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan. Yeah, another series book (but not the penultimate one). This middle-grade novel kicks off the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which my 13-year-old daughter has read approximately 23.5 million times.

15 YEARS AGO (2000):

  1. STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli. Not to brag or anything, but I’ve got a signed copy of Stargirl on my bookshelf. A. Signed. Copy. You may now be jealous. But don’t overdo it.
  2. Because of Winn-DixieBECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo. How could you not love a novel containing a large, ugly dog named after a grocery store?
  3. SCHOOLED by Gordon Korman. I had to include this book because it contains an opening paragraph that makes me want to keep reading every time:
    I was thirteen the first time I saw a police officer up close. He was arresting me for driving without a license. At the time, I didn’t even know what a license was. I wasn’t too clear on what being arrested meant either.

20 YEARS AGO (1995):

  1. WAYSIDE SCHOOL GETS A LITTLE STRANGER by Louis Sachar. The third and final chapter book in the rather wacky Wayside School series still makes for a terrifically fun read-aloud even a couple of decades after publication.
  2. THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. A powerful historical novel that you simply need to read. Because.
  3. Walk Two MoonsWALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech. Okay, I cheated. Walk Two Moons was actually published in 1994. But it won the Newbery Medal in 1995. Since it remains one of my favorite books of all time, I decided that was close enough.

Have a favorite, must-read book published in 1995, 2000, 2005, or 2010? Leave a comment and share the title!

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.

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.