Guest Post by Joseph Coelho
Kids love zombies! I don’t know why, maybe it’s the lure of the forbidden fruit, they hear they are drooling, disgusting rotten fiends that eat brains and think “I want some of that”.
I discovered this unsettling fact whilst working in schools as a poet engaging kids with literacy through creative means. The kids would want to talk to me about zombie films and tv shows and whilst I love horror it was always a conversation I’d have to quickly shut down. There wasn’t really anything around featuring zombies that was suitable for their age and so my mind got to ticking… What if I could write a story featuring a zombie for kids that was both playful with just the right amount of gruesome. And so, Zombierella was born.
Fairytales have always been a firm favourite of mine, I love their timeless quality and the fact that the originals tend to be a lot darker than the more sanitised versions we see and hear today. So, re-inventing Cinderella with a zombie twist felt perfect. The book is written in verse and I wrote it to sing off the page. I love playing with language so wanted to make sure there was a playfulness threaded throughout the book, not only to hopefully encourage children to read it out loud but also to counter the darker, spookier themes. It was really pleasing to find ways of assigning language to character so the evil “Fake” mother is described as being ceramic in her personality which opened the door for lines like “Chipped her mother”, as opposed to “said”, the often used bane of all writers, and allows for the mother to “glaze” out of the room. There are also many elements of rhyming song. The Fairy of Death for instance has a couple of ditties that she sings to Zombierella to give the all-important rules for her undead life. I must admit I had more than a little fun singing my heart out whilst penning these ditties.
Fairy tales are so often associated with princesses being saved by princes so in re-inventing the story I had a chance to put Zombierella in the driving seat, so she gets to enact revenge on her mean sisters in ways that only a zombie could imagine… like, you know, showing them her brains!!! All of which have been beautifully brought to life by Freya Hartas’ fantastically gruesome illustrations.
With there being so much content in the world right now we miss out on the wonderful gains to be had from knowing and enjoying shared narratives. This is something that the ancient Greeks took for granted, they could write a play full of references to their pantheon knowing that every little reference would be understood by the masses. We don’t have that as strongly now, but, thankfully we do still have fairy tales. I feel very lucky to be starting this new series as there are so many well-known fairy tales to draw on and subvert and I’m already rolling up my sleeves and getting ready to stitch together, mutate and allow to ferment some more, fairy tales gone bad!
Zombierella: Fairy tales Gone Bad illustrated by Freya Hartas was published on 3rd September 2020 by Walker Books.
Any opinions expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.