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The Grimmelings

By Rachael King

Reviewed by Helen Gearing

From the author of Red Rocks, winner of the Esther Glen Medal in 2013, The Grimmelings is a beautiful and eerie middle grade mystery which transports Gaelic folklore into the stunning New Zealand Aotearoa landscape.
Thirteen-year-old Ella lives on a property outside a small, lakeside town with her mum, sister, and Scottish granny. Ella’s greatest joy is riding her pony and helping out with the family business – giving tourists horseback rides around the spectacular countryside.
The family are outsiders within their own community, however, and have been ostracised since a string of family tragedies many years earlier. When Ella impulsively curses a classmate who has been bullying her sister, she is astonished and conflicted when the boy disappears that same afternoon.
Shortly after the boy’s disappearance, Ella sees a mysterious black stallion. When, in the coming days, the stallion begins following Ella and her pony, Ella is equally mesmerised and unsettled by its presence. As other strange events start threatening her family’s livelihood, and ultimately the entire community, Ella begins suspecting that something otherworldly – something from her granny’s mysterious past in Scotland – is at work.
A highlight of The Grimmelings is the insight into Gaelic language through Granny’s habit of slipping notes with definitions of Gaelic words into Ella’s pockets. These notes also frequently serve as portends of new challenges to come (for example, cragfast: unable to go forward or back; a difficult decision with no positive outcome).
The Grimmelings is a lyrical, disquieting story of multi-generational hauntings, and a mediation on family secrets and the stories we tell to explain the inexplicable. With an increasingly oppressive atmosphere reminiscent of Wuthering Heights, this story will appeal to confident readers 11 years and older who can manage occasional shifts in point of view and who like their horse stories with a hefty dose of the uncanny.
Teacher’s Notes
Allen & Unwin Children’s 2024
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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