August 11, 2009

JUNIOR ZOMBIE WEEK: The Zombie Zone (Review)


The Zombie Zone

Written by Ron Roy
Illustrated by John Steven Gurney

Random House: 2005



3.5 / 5 zedheads

As the last book in Ron Roy's "A to Z Mysteries" series, The Zombie Zone introduces the series' protagonists (Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose) to a mystery in the heart of the Louisiana bayou. On vacation with Ruth Rose's grandmother, the intrepid junior investigators uncover stories from local villagers of a tall, silver-haired zombie they believe is digging up graves in the local cemetery. Sightings of a strange man in the cemetery seem to point toward the existence of a zombie, but other evidence seems to suggest the culprit is a human and none other than Jack, their adult friend and bayou guide. It's up to Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose to solve the mystery and piece together the conflicting evidence to solve the case before the village locals flee their homes for fear of living in a ZOMBIE ZONE!

The Zombie Zone is a substantial book for young readers, with 82 pages of text including a handful of inserted illustrations and full-page pictures. To its credit, it is a surprisingly well-plotted little mystery. Any fan of Scooby-Doo, however, can probably predict the end result, but the book does go out of its way to offer multiple possible solutions to the mystery. I imagine kids would have a fun time weighing the evidence and trying to guess for themselves as they read.

However, the characters of Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose don't seem very interesting to me. Granted, it's a kid's book and I'm an adult, but the characters felt flat and less like people and more like sieves through which the plot details are collected. Perhaps kids who have read the other books in the series might have more invested in the characters. Also on the flat side of things is the pencil-shaded art. It is fairly bland to look at. It serves to illustrate key points in the story, but creates little in terms of mood. It does, on the other hand, provide kids who might have a difficult time picturing the setting of the story with a visual example and a map of the location on which to imagine the events unfolding.

Despite the title, the zombie content and discussion of zombies is fairly minimal in this book, but it may provide an introduction of Voodoo-style zombies to children since we don't see Voodoo zombies in media much anymore.