The Story: Zombie in Love, by Kelly DiPucchio (illustrated by Scott Campbell), is a children’s story about a lovesick zombie named Mortimer who has tried everything he can think of to get a date. But nothing seems to work as all of the ladies just run away from him in disgust. So one day before the big Valentine’s Day dance, Mortimer puts a personal ad in his local newspaper to see if he can finally find his soul mate. But will he succeed, or will his chances for finding true love be as dead as a doornail?
Zombie in Love has to be the cutest zombie story ever written, and I know how odd that sounds (or reads, I should say). This is a picture book, so the story is quite basic and isn’t very long but it is utterly charming. Horror character-based stories for kids aren’t new (I remember liking the Little Dracula books when I was young as well as the “Count Duckula” cartoon show). But the trick is to take characters generally associated with blood, decay, gore, and scares and make them kid-friendly and safe for young eyes while not betraying what makes them creepy.
Zombie in Love does exactly that. Mortimer is falling apart (literally) but he’s rendered with a spirit of humor, not horror. He’s a zombie, to be sure, but he’s not “The Walking Dead” sort of Undead, so kudos to Campbell for his clever execution (no pun intended) that doesn’t purposely try to be gross or scary. I also love how DiPucchio incorporated a zombie character into everyday settings yet draws a line of distinction between the Living world and the Undead world, which has its own versions of Living things (such as dating books and dating sites). I suppose a subtle message here would be to be yourself (as Mortimer lives his undead life on his own terms) but this isn’t front and center; instead, Zombie in Love is a sweet tale that shows how true love happens when we least expect it.
Even though this book is clearly for very young children due to its brevity and vocabulary, I think DiPucchio did a great job honing in on a single plot line and sticking with it. She doesn’t insult kids with simplicity in either the plot or her prose, nor does she bash them over the head with cliched messages about social issues or personal growth. It also doesn’t try to be too dark and heavy, so don’t expect a Coraline-level of creepiness here. Instead, Zombie in Love is meant to amuse but isn’t demeaning to read, even for adults. Plus the ending is perfectly satisfying and sweet without being saccharine.
Language – None.
Violence – None. Some panels show Mortimer’s limbs falling off but these are strictly for laughs and rendered without blood or gore. Young children who are easily scared might not like the whole zombie concept, but I sense most kids will be okay with it.
Sexual Material – None.
How can you not find such a darling zombie charming? Mortimer is just so cute and sweet! I could hug him right now…only it might make his arms fall off, so I better not. Zombie in Love is perfect for Halloween, so gather the kiddies around and cuddle up for a fun, sweet, quick read. Who says zombies can’t have soul mates?