August DuPont has spent his whole life inside a dilapidated house with his aunt Hydrangea. His lonely existence ends abruptly with the arrival of an invitation to meet an aunt—and cousins—he didn’t even know existed. When Aunt Orchid suggests that August attend school with his cousins, it’s a dream come true. But August has scarcely begun to celebrate his reversal of fortune when he is confronted by a small problem on his way home. So begins an adventure filled with a wild child, a zombie, a fabled white alligator, and an unimaginable family secret.
- Title: A Small Zombie Problem
- Series: Zombie Problems #1
- Author/Illustrator: K. G. Campbell
- Cover Artist: K. G. Campbell
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
- ISBN: 0553539558
- Publication Date: June 4, 2019
- For Ages: 8-12
- Category: Middle Grade
- Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.
I’d like to thank Knopf Books for Young Readers for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.
A Small Zombie Problem is a very serious and very silly tale about family, freedom, and zombies. The prose is genteel and sophisticated with tongue placed firmly in cheek, but it displays a great deal of empathy for its unfortunate main character. The narrative follows the misadventures of August DuPont, a young boy who attracts butterflies wherever he goes—which isn’t very far, since he hasn’t left his dilapidated house in his entire life thanks to his Aunt Hydrangea, a disgraced hot sauce heiress and the Miss Havisham of the bayou pageant circuit. When August receives an invitation to visit family he didn’t know he had, he sets off a chain of events involving zombies, undertakers, feral mystics, a giant white alligator, and a particularly memorable crawfish boil.
As you can see, this book is A Lot. I must admit that it took me a good quarter of the book to acclimate to the tone. At first I found it cloyingly twee—think of a self-conscious Southern-fried mashup of Tim Burton and Wes Anderson—but I eventually settled in and found myself enjoying it quite a bit. There’s more than a passing resemblance between this book and A Series of Unfortunate Events, which I do not care for at all, so I’m sure the similarity colored my perception at first. (That may come as quite a surprise, considering the general thrust of this blog. I’m just not a fan of art that is overly precious or impressed with itself, and A Series of Unfortunate Events has always struck me as being far too self-aware in its cleverness and quirkiness. I’ve tried to make it through the first book a few times and just couldn’t do it. On the bright side, if you’re a fan of that series you will likely love this book.)
Once I eased into the groove of A Small Zombie Problem, I found a story that was funny, suspenseful, wacky, touching, wise, and mildly disgusting, which is a marvelous combination for a kids’ book. It’s thrilling and inspiring when August stands up to his neurotic but kind-hearted Aunt Hydrangea and decides to “star in his own life”—braving the hordes of butterflies that follow him everywhere and the duplicitous relatives who toy with his emotions—so that he can make his own decisions and see what life has to offer outside of his lonely, crumbling house. August and his zombie companion grew on me a great deal over the course of this book, so I’m excited to read about their adventures in Book 2…plus, I really want to know what’s going on with that giant white alligator.
People will be talking about that crawfish boil for decades. I give this book 4 out of 5 coffins.