Friday, July 3, 2009


Stephen Krensky
School library copy

I have really mixed emotions about this book, so I debated about whether or not to review it. I decided to go head and write the review because it does allow me to address some issues I have with much of the high interest nonfiction that is available.

I chose to read Zombies because, although I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and can tell you a lot about vampires, I know next to nothing about zombies. Since two of the books nominated for the middle school portion of the North Carolina Young Adult Book Awards deal with zombies (The Forest of Hands and Teeth and Zombie Blondes), I decided to learn a little about the creatures before I tackled these books. And I must say that I did learn a few things about zombies, things that will enable me to talk about them in a reasonably coherent fashion when I’m doing monster booktalks this October.

As I stated earlier, I did have issues with several aspects of this book. First of all, it really isn’t very well written. I understand that the reading level is fairly low (grade 5.7 according to the publisher’s website) but does easy-to-read have to mean poorly written? Many of the sentences are short and choppy and I don’t think the book as a whole flows very well.

The author also includes a section that summarizes a number of books and movies that have zombies. Whereas some of the books he mentions are appropriate for the target age range (grades 4-7), others were written with more of an older young adult to adult audience (such as Frank Herbert’s Dune series and Piers Anthony’s Xanth series). Also, many of the movies that mentions (for example, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and 28 Days Later) are R-rated and thus inappropriate for the book’s age range.

My final issue with the book is one that is true for many of the high interest books that are available today. I don’t care for the book’s page layout – I find it confusing. Miscellaneous fact boxes and picture captions that don’t directly deal with the topic on the page interrupt the narrative. For example, in the introduction to voodoo section, there is a picture of a man, presumably in Haiti, riding a pony. The caption reads, “Haiti was once covered by a lush, tropical rain forest. European settlers cut most of the trees to make way for farms.” Now what does that have to do with voodoo or zombies?

Will I booktalk this book? Probably, because it is one of only two nonfiction books I have about zombies. Will students like it? Yes, because they will be interested in the topic. Would I purchase it again now that I have read it? Honestly, I don’t know. It does fill a niche in my library, but I just wish it were a better book.

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