Gregory and the Grimbockle – Melanie Schubert

Illustrations – Abigail Kraft

There’s nothing adults want to do more than to wipe the smudge below 10 year old Gregory’s left nostril, but it’s not a smudge at all. It’s actually a mole and is about the only extraordinary thing about Gregory, who has hardly any friends and quite tenuous relationships with his mother, father and older sister, Marjory. That is, until the night he meets Grimbockle, a Bockle, riding his trusty steed cockroach, and his life is never the same.

Bockles fix the invisible (to hoo-mans) threads that connect people called exoodles. When relationships are strong then so are their exoodles. When they’re not, exoodles get thinner and fray. Grimbockle is on the maintenance team and through the course of the book Gregory’s eyes are opened in a way no human has ever experienced before.

Children will really enjoy the friendship between Gregory and Grimbockle and their expeditions on the Exoodle Expressway to fix exoodles. The various paint buckets that Grimbockle uses throughout the book reminded me of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Melanie Schubert has almost certainly been a big fan of Dahl growing up.

The quirky way the Bockles speak almost felt as though I was listening to Dahl’s BFG. I found some of their speech annoying, mostly the constant use of “I is”. If I wasn’t as familiar with the language Roald Dahl used I probably would have found it cute but each time I read “hoo-mans” I kept hearing the BFG calling Sophie a “human bean”, and anything that reminds me of Mr Dahl is never going to be able to compete. I know it’s not a fair playing field but no one will ever be able to out-Dahl Roald for me.

I loved the message of the exoodles and I really loved that children are empowered in this book. They’re taught that there are things they can do to improve the quality of the exoodles in their own lives. For both children and adults I felt the image of threads that grow stronger or weaker with our actions was powerful and memorable.

During the reading of this book I had a slump and was having trouble concentrating for a few days. Today after a hug and some kind words from a friend I could visualise my exoodles getting stronger and afterwards I was able to concentrate again and finish this book. It seems appropriate that this is the book I was reading when this happened.

It has me thinking about my own exoodles, which ones need fixing and what I can do to help mend them. I expect any reader will feel the same and while it sounds so simple, a smile, a hug, a note or some kind words really can make the world of difference.

My favourite character in this book was Gregory’s neighbour, old Ethel, whose mission in life seems to be pouncing in front of him as he walks past and trying to pull the mole off his face. I really liked Abigail Kraft’s illustrations. While the description of the Bockles was lovely to read, Abigail’s illustrations brought them to life in a lighthearted way. This book even has its own soundtrack by Jared Kraft that you can download.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, New Wrinkle Publishing and Independent Book Publishers Association for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ten-year-old Gregory is about to find out that the enormous mole stuck straight beneath his nose is not just a mole, but is actually a humpy crumpy portal of skin that hides a creature called the Grimbockle.

What’s more? 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 tonight.