Apex teacher's novel is on Amazon's top 100 list for kid's sci-fi

APEX, N.C. (WTVD) -- Imagine waking up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

In a new youth novel called Once Bitten, for sale on Amazon, that's what happens to 12-year-old Tucker Graham.

Set in the author's hometown of Apex, the book is on Amazon's top 100 list for kid's sci-fi.

The author, fifth-grade teacher Chris Gilbert, is using the book as a way to encourage his students to read and learn.

The book's cover has a picture of a water tower that has the Town of Apex's slogan "The Peak of Good Living" painted on it.

But the word "good" is scrawled out and replaced with the word "no" since during a zombie attack there is a lot of "no living".

"I've always wanted to write a novel centered around a fifth- or a sixth-grader because that's what I've been teaching for 11 years. And so I just combined my two loves of zombies and Apex, North Carolina where I am born and raised," Gilbert said.

Gilbert teaches at Baucom Elementary.

"Tucker wakes up in the middle of the stranger's bed, and he's not really sure where he's at," he said of his book. "And so, the beginning of the book kind of centers around him going through town and trying to find his family and his friends."

Because in the face of a pandemic Gilbert is doing most of his teaching remotely, he found himself with extra time on his hands even before the summer break.

So in just two months, he banged out a draft and then enlisted college buddy Nolan Heath to be his co-author.

Gilbert is happy with the results.

"We've had some great success on Amazon," he said. "We sold over 500 copies in the first month. We even were in the top 80 in the children's sci-fi section."

But what makes him most happy about his venture is that his students are really into it.

"It's really cool to see them reading the novel that I wrote, and being able to go back and forth with the kids in the classroom virtually discussing the novel," Gilbert said.

And, he says, some of his students who might not normally be motivated learners have found a catalyst.

Gilbert says they're not only enjoying reading but also learning whether they realize it or not.

"For a fifth-grader to read it, it definitely challenges them and just with the strength of the vocabulary that was used in the book."
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