Friday, May 17, 2019

A Zombie Ate My Homework (Project Z #1)

Greenwald, Tommy. A Zombie Ate My Homework (Project Z #1)
May 14th 2019 by Scholastic Paperbacks
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When Norbus Clacknozzle escapes from a government holding facility, he doesn't remember much before the Kinders rescued him and took him home. Once in their house, they tell him that they feel the zombies kept in the facility are being mistreated, but they are going to take care of them. Their son, Lester, isn't thrilled with having a zombie in his house until a girl he likes fawns over Norbus when they are out shopping. The Kinders suggest to Norbus that he should have a different name, so he reluctantly accepts Arnold Z. Ombee as his new identity. He wears blue contact lenses to hide the tell-tale red line in his eyes, and claims that he is staying with the Kinders because his parents are traveling. He also has a host of health ailments that explain his pallor, intolerance to all food but jelly beans, and inability to particiapate in gym class. There are many students who are very mean to him because of his differences, but he is befriended by the upbeat Kiki as well as Evan. Evan had cancer as a child and has some lingering health issues because of this, and also has a prosthetic leg. Children are mean to him as well. It takes Arnold some time to acclimate himself to being in a human setting, and it doesn't help when the other children become suspicious about his background. It doesn't help when Arnold is threatened and starts to ooze foul zombie sweat, or when he delivers to zombie zing to ward off an attacker. When Arnold's secret comes out, will he be able to stay with the Kinders?
Strengths: I loved the discussion about wanting to be true to oneself but needing to change in order to be safe. Personal identity is a huge issue for middle grade readers, so Arnold's desire to remain true to his zombie self will resonate with readers. It's interesting to have a character be a survivor of childhood cancer; Evan is one of maybe three middle grade characters I can think of who have a prosthetic leg. I appreciated that because one of our cross country runners has one. The Kinders are good parents, and their motivation for taking in Arnold is a nice twist at the end. There is another book coming out in September 2019, Zombies are People, Too.
Weaknesses: There should have been more middle school romance. Greenwald is a past master of that in his Charlie Joe Jackson books, and very few authors rival him on this topic.I'm never a fan of quirky names, and there were some inconsistencies; Arnold doesn't quite understand the human world, but claims he can't throw a dodge ball very hard because his arm has been weakened by a recent flu shot.
What I really think: I just weeded Kevin Emerson's fantastic 2008 Oliver Nocturne series, which had a similar feel to it. Sadly, my students have been allowed to watch The Walking Dead, and when they want zombie books, they want a LOT more blood, gore and violence. Think Higson's The Enemy.  I would definitely purchase for an elementary school, but will pass for my library.

Don't feel bad, Mr. Greenwald. I didn't buy Sonnenblick's Dodger and Me, either.
Ms. Yingling

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