If you want to truly build relationships with your students and make a deep connection with them, then reading aloud a chapter book will unquestionably create an incredible bond. Oh, how I remember the readings of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, and James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl as a fifth grade teacher.
The readings were so magical, but the deep discussions throughout and afterward were the most powerful endeavors. You can bond with your students in such a powerful way. Even the students who kept their heads down with a hoodie guarding their facial features will bring something to the discussion out of the blue to blow everyone away. Reading chapter books aloud is definitely a relationship builder.
I have another novel to add to the mix of great ones. It is fresh, modern, and funny. It strives to build human connections through a magical adventure. Students are instantly hooked. Plus, there is a bonus. It is by an Australian author who delights children in America with her use of Australian dialect that your students can’t help but enjoy.
The novel, Gregory and the Grimbockle, arrived quietly in my library a couple of years ago, but the huge splash it has made with my students and myself ever since is very impressive. We simply can’t get enough. I am so thrilled this little gem made its way into my collection of supreme children’s literature.
The story begins with a 10-year-old boy named Gregory. Gregory is one of those children who seem to fall in the cracks, doesn’t have any friends, his family doesn’t pay much attention to him unless to provoke him, a true loner, one without hope, and a boy merely living a day-to-day existence.
That is until a Grimbockle mysteriously arrives in the middle of the night, entering Gregory’s world from all places: a cracked mole just underneath Gregory’s nose. Yes, a cracked mole. Ew! Kids either gasp or are intrigued by the grossness.
Don’t worry, the brilliance of Melanie Schubert’s writing pulls you in so quickly that you don’t even wonder if this new and exciting world she has created is real or not. You just want to hop on to the story and ride the waves, or the exoodles, as the Grimbockle calls them.
What are exoodles, you may ask? The things that connect us to each other, the things the Grimbockle and the Bockles take care of for us, the things that make us human, why we care for each other, and love each other. Talk about building relationships.
The writing is so captivating my students were instantly worrying about the relationships of the characters in the book, exclaiming why can’t the characters see that their relationships need to be restored!
With that, this chapter book, Gregory and the Grimbockle, will truly give your students a way to visualize the connections they make with each other and how each person is so important to others.
For a long time after I read this wonderful book to my students, the kiddos started noticing the connections they have with each other, especially the relationships in their family they normally would not think much about.
Not only did I feel this was such a wonderful story, but National Geographic did as well. Gregory and the Grimbockle was featured on their website. Don’t take my word for it, click below and check it out for yourself. There are interviews, coloring pages, and a word search.
This is the tale of Gregory and the Grimbockle.
Gregory is a young boy of ten who thinks he must be the most unfortunate boy who ever lived. He barely has any friends and is the object of jokes and jabs from his, often disagreeable, sister. If that isn’t bad enough, poor young Gregory has recently developed an enormous and most peculiarly shaped mole beneath his nose.
Imagine Gregory’s surprise when he finds out that his mole is not just a mole, but is actually a humpy crumpy portal of skin that hides a creature called the Grimbockle.
What is the Grimbockle? A very fine question, indeed.
The Grimbockle is just one of the many strange little creatures called Bockles tending to the mysterious threads that connect all humans from one to the other. It is a very important job, and one that has long been carried out with incredible secrecy. That is before this one particular night and a most extraordinary turn of events.
Thus begins a most peculiar sort of adventure where Gregory learns all about the creatures called Bockles and the mysterious threads called exoodles that connect us all to one another.
The illustrations woven throughout this novel are extraordinary. I love when novels include that perfect element of just enough drawings throughout to pull the reader in, opening up another world without overwhelming the reader’s imagination. Abigail Kraft did an amazing job with this feat.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Schubert. As a librarian, I am still overwhelmed each time I can communicate with an author and see ins and outs of their lives in their novels.
#1 Interview Question and Answer:
Tami: When I wrote the book Radiator the Snowman, I was walking through a gift shop and saw a sad little snowman with the longest hat ever. I knew I instantly wanted to write his story. How did you come by the idea to create a story about Gregory and especially the adorable Grimbockle?
Schubert: Aw! I love that image of the sad little snowman 💘 The idea for Gregory and the Grimbockle came from the mysterious phenomenon I observed, that often, if I was particularly sad, or thinking of a specific person that person would call or message! A healthy diet of fantasy books growing up, meant I couldn’t help but imagine the secret reason why. The image of invisible threads that connected people was kind of always in my head. At some point the Bockles just decided to glide on winged cockroach steeds into the picture!
#2 Interview Question and Answer:
Tami: Are you planning on creating a series?
Schubert: I actually did have a second book that I started drafting titled Greta and the Grimbockle. But I was a very new writer when I won the competition to have Gregory and the Grimbockle published. When my publisher and I parted ways, I felt overwhelmed and had no idea what I wanted to do with it all! But recently the performing arts company I write for asked if I would write a play for the company based on G&G! It might be just the kick in the pants I need to get the book available for sale again myself.
#3 Interview Question and Answer
Tami: What would you like to say to any student that would like to pursue writing further?
Schubert: I would say…don’t wait for anyone’s permission to chase your dreams. The things that call to you often do so for a reason. But also, if you want to pursue writing professionally, know it is both one of the most difficult but rewarding things to break into. It might take the better part of a decade for you to get where you imagine you’d like to be with book one. You might fail more times than you ever thought you should, but if it’s in your bones, you should never ignore it–those failures by another name are just learning.
Another thing I will say in big bold caps is, LEARN YOUR INDUSTRY! Writing is a job like any other. There may be no specific “rules” but there is a general thrumming pulse. I don’t know exactly how else to explain that 😆, but if you aren’t doing your research and staying up to date with the current market you might find yourself on the outskirts of it all. A lot of this is learned naturally when you network, network, network! Get online, make some writer friends! My writing community has been life changing for me.
#4 Interview Question and Answer
Tami: Are you planning on writing any more children’s books, particularly for upper elementary and middle school students?
Schubert: Right now I’m actually working on an Adult Romcom with Fantasy elements–in a way it’s not so different to what I was writing with Grimbockle. Worlds and creatures of magic hidden within our own. But I love writing YA and middle grade too, so I’m sure I’ll return to that space again at some point. I actually have several picture book texts somewhere too, so I guess I officially write all categories 😆 but really, I just write whichever characters are screaming the loudest at that particular time. Some books and characters demand to be written–like your snow man–A wise writer would never ignore them.
While my students and I read her book each year, we love to follow her on Instagram and discuss the things occurring in her life. One of the wonderful things about social media is that students can see into the lives of authors, illustrators, and others pertinent to their lives.
Schubert’s Writing Buddy:
One of the best things about this was unexpected. My students instantly fell in love with Schubert’s doggie, Goose. Goose is her writing buddy, constantly at her side through thick and thin. A lot of my students have enjoyed pictures of Goose at the beach, patiently waiting for Schubert to finish her writing assignments for the day, making friends with other doggies, or waiting for someone to share ice cream with her during her many outings.
Want to learn more about Mrs. Schubert, please visit her website.
Hats off to Schubert. I am definitely looking for more works from her wonderful imagination. If Roald Dahl was still here, he would be a huge fan of Schubert as well. Again, can’t wait for more!
If you would like a book that creates an extraordinary world for kids while at the same time convinces the reader that this could easily be real, well, Gregory and the Grimbockle, is the perfect one to read. My students couldn’t get enough and were so sad when it came to an end. They are already asking me to purchase her next writing masterpiece.