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There’s no denying it, the zombie mania is still huge but are we ready to see them in children’s picture books? As with vampires and werewolves, it has been heavily debated as to whether zombies are based on fact or fiction so there’s a possibility we could be promoting a real scary character opposed to a fictional one. Zombies are not a new phenomenon by any means. In 1929 the book “The Magic Island” by William Seabrook was largely responsible for their manifestation into western culture where he delves into their link with the dark history of voodoo practices in Haiti. They since slowly cropped up in horror movies such as “White Zombie” directed by Victor Halperin in 1932 and DC Comics “Green Lantern” as the villain known as Solomon Grundy in 1944 but it wasn’t until George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” hit the big screens in 1968 that zombies became the mainstream flesh-eating living dead we know today (although Romero didn’t actually call them zombies it was the fans themselves). Zombie mania has since evolved and there are indeed a number of children’s books in the YA and 9-11 age range but are these really the type of characters we want to depict in young children’s picture books as being loveable?
I have to admit I am not a fan of zombies; I just don’t see the point of them. I think it’s their lack of function that gnaws at me. I like my scary characters to have a purpose and an agenda like a shape-shifting, terrorizing werewolf but zombies by their very nature don’t really do anything just wander around aimlessly in a semi-dead state. They’re laughable, not scary; they don’t do anything of interest, merely a very good job at irritating me! So much so I was mortified when the producers of the magnificent “Game of Thrones” introduced zombies to the plot. It was like someone had burst my imagination bubble by stretching the story just that little bit too far for it to remain believable to me. Although how I could quite happily accept dragons into the plot as a perfectly natural occurrence but not zombies, is beyond me! In fact come to think of it, we’ve all seen plenty of children’s picture books about dragons and we also have Winnie the Witch (author Valerie Thomas; illustrator Korky Paul) and Mona the Vampire (authors Sonia Holleyman & Hiawyn Oram) for example so why not have Colin the Zombie! In comparison to a manipulative spell casting witch or controlling blood sucking vampire, a zombie could probably be considered a more harmless character for a children’s picture book (aside from their human devouring antics of course!). Obviously Winnie and Mona are perfect examples of how to make the character more “friendly” for the purpose and both have been executed in very clever ways. Yet how has this transition from a terrifying, monstrous character into an adorable, lovable one become acceptable? This cuddly version suggests they could possibly even make a good friend for your child yet there’s no escaping they still represent that violent, terrifying monster guaranteed to give any young child nightmares, particularly if the tales of Haiti are anything to go by they may possibly be in danger of being turned into one! These characters are heading a long way from Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit!
The truth is that attitudes have changed significantly since Beatrix Potter’s time. Our children today are probably more familiar with Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids than Peter Rabbit! If a zombie picture book was done in the right way I see no reason why it couldn’t be considered amusing and maybe even serve to keep any potential nightmares at bay. So of course it’s acceptable nowadays. After all it would be like banning Halloween if it wasn’t!
I don’t currently have any intentions of writing a picture book about zombies but who knows maybe gormless Colin could be a future big hit! In the meantime I found a couple of light-hearted Zombie picture books already on the market for any little zombie fans out there and a chilling article on the history of zombies for any brave adults.
Would you buy a zombie picture book?
Zombie-Kids by Julia Dweck (author) & Mark Draisey (illustrator).
Zombie in Love by Kelly S. Dipucchio (author) & Scott Campbell (illustrator).