Jagger is an author, editor, and teacher. He has over 25 years of teaching experience, doing everything from teaching elementary students how to write to teaching teachers how to teach writing. He helps writers write and teachers teach through his 3-Minute Writing Teacher series of how-to creative writing videos, and his free readers' theater scripts for elementary and middle school classrooms. He also has a 10-lesson creative writing course on Curious.com, which provides a series of interactive, video-based lessons and loads of supplemental materials. His debut middle-grade novel, Hide and Geek (Book 1), is scheduled for release by Random House Children's Books in January 2022.
Shoshonna Roberts of Maggie Mae’s Kids Bookshop in Gresham, Oregon served on the panel that selected Jagger’s book for Indies Introduce. Roberts called it “the perfect middle grade book for fans of mystery and puzzles,” and said, “While reading the book, you will want to be part of friend group, The GEEKs, as they go through town on a treasure hunt to solve the puzzles left by the famous puzzle maker, Maxine, in order to save their town. This book is filled with heart, dynamic friendship, and you won’t be able to put it down.”
Shoshonna Roberts: Hide and Geek is a wonderful mystery filled with puzzles and problem solving. Were you inspired by any mystery books or authors from your own childhood?
T.P. Jagger: Growing up, I loved the Encyclopedia Brown series, and I can also still remember buying Harriet the Spy at my elementary school’s book fair then having that novel quickly become one of my childhood favorites. In Hide and Geek, the GEEKs do their own bit of Encyclopedia Brown-like sleuthing, and Gina always has her notebook on hand to record her thoughts and observations — a trait that may feel somewhat familiar to fans of Harriet the Spy!
SR: As an aspiring journalist, Gina spends a lot of time observing in the background. As a writer, do you find yourself spending a lot of time observing the world around you?
TPJ: Absolutely! I tend to be a sit-in-the-back-row kind of guy, which allows me to observe everything going on around me. And — like Gina — I often carry a notebook with me. Of course, unlike Gina, I’m not hunting for scoops for the newspaper; I just want to be prepared in case I see or hear anything that may find its way into a story someday. Back when my kids were in elementary and middle school, I gathered some real gems while chaperoning class field trips!
SR: The GEEKs friend group has many different personalities and backgrounds. Was this important for you to portray in the book, and why?
TPJ: Yes, it was definitely important to me for the GEEKs to represent a diverse cast of characters. For me, there were two main motivations behind this.
First, from a story-writing perspective, the GEEKs’ differences sometimes lead to disagreements and trouble, but those same differences also help them form a great team. Without those differences, I don’t think the GEEKs would be nearly as interesting or entertaining. (I confess to especially having a lot of fun with Elena’s character, whose personality is probably furthest from my own!)
Second, not only are the GEEKs’ differences designed to create a more interesting story, there’s also the basic fact that each of us is different and unique. There’s no one else who’s quite like you . . . there’s no one else who’s quite like me . . . and there’s no one else who’s quite like each of the readers who will pick up my book. Like the GEEKs, we each have our own unique blend of skills and personality and background. Those differences make life interesting, and I hope my book helps celebrate that, while also allowing readers to catch at least a tiny glimpse of themselves somewhere in the diverse cast.
SR: The town of Elmwood feels like more than just location, it’s almost another character in the story as you get to know it through the puzzles. Was this intentional?
TPJ: I’m so glad you brought that up! When I write, I always want the setting to matter, so I’m thrilled you felt the fictitious town of Elmwood, New Hampshire seemed almost like another character. If I write a story that could be plucked up and plopped down into a different setting without affecting the storyline, it’s a sure sign I need to work harder to develop the setting. With Elmwood, it was a challenge to create a unique yet believable town . . . especially since I’ve never actually been to New Hampshire! However, I have lived in and around small towns at various points in my life, so those experiences — coupled with plenty of research and imagination — helped me create a setting that I hoped would be fun and interesting and — as you mentioned — almost character-like.
SR: While reading your book, I fell in love with Gina, Edgar, Elena, and Kevin. My name starts with an S, so is it possible for me to join the group and officially make it the GEEKS?
TPJ: Well, Shoshonna, if the four GEEKs decide to expand their ranks and become the GEEKS, Gina’s dog Sauce may have first dibs on the S. However, I’ll put your name down for consideration, just in case Sauce is too busy sleeping and declines the opportunity. (A fresh-off-the-grill hamburger might also be enough to bribe Sauce into surrendering his claim on the S.)
Hide and Geek by T. P. Jagger (Random House Books for Young Readers, 9780593377932, Hardcover Middle Grade, $16.99) On Sale: 1/4/2022.
Find out more about the author at tpjagger.com.
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