Zombierella by Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas

Cover of Zombierella. Green cover with gold leaves and bigs, a black girl with curly hair in a leaf dress. She is standing between a ghost cat and ghost dog, and two headstones. One headstone reads Joseph Coelho and the other reads illustrated by Freya Hartas.

Title: Fairy Tales Gone Bad: Zombierella

Author: Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Freya Hartas

Genre: Fantasy, Humour

Publisher: Walker Books

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $18.99

Synopsis: The first in a funny, deliciously dark, three-part series of twisted classics, written in verse by award-winning poet Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas.

A yellow moon hangs in a satin sky the night Cinderella, barefoot and in hand-me-downs, slips at the top of the stairs … and dies. But not for long. The Shadow of Death arrives to breathe life back into her bones and, for three nights only, Cinderella goes forth as ZOMBIERELLA. With her skin as cold as ice and her faithful horse Lumpkin back by her side, can she seek revenge on her three cruel, fake sisters, once and for all? Crawl out of the grave and step into your mushroom carriage for this haunting and humorous adventure of the undead girl searching for her happily ever after.

  • This is Joseph Coelho’s debut middle-grade novel.
  • Joseph Coelho won the 2015 CLPE Children’s Poetry Award, is the presenter of BBC’s Teach Poetry and features in Discovery Education’s Poetry Curriculum.
  • Freya Hartas illustrated the 2012 Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning book, Dark Lord: Teenage Years.

~*~

Fairy tales have always been retold, from the days they were oral tales, to when they were first recorded by collectors such as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, to contemporary retellings in literature – Kate Forsyth, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, and many others, or in television and film, such as the television show Once Upon A Time. Each retelling brings something new to the stories that we have all grown up with in some way.

Cinderella is one of the most well-known fairy tales, that has many traditional iterations, and is also the subject of manty retellings over the years. The most recent one that I have come across is Zombierella, the first in a three-part series by Joseph Coelho, turning fairy tales on their heads completely, and calling the series Fairy Tales Gone Bad.

The essence of the Cinderella tale, a young girl living with her evil stepfamily, is here, but with a difference: Cindrella does not meet her fairy godmother, she meets the Shadow of Death. In the traditional tale, Cinderella has three nights as a zombie to charm the visiting prince, who is hiding a secret of his own, and get revenge on her fake family? Will she find a happily ever after?

This hilarious book is told in verses, some that rhyme, and some that don’t. It uses the traditions of fairy tales and the grotesque of children’s literature by authors like Roald Dahl (though not quite as over the top as Dahl), and creates a fun adventure that is diverse, unique and traditional at the same time. Joseph and Freya have created a beautifully diverse tale, marrying their prose and illustrations seamlessly. Freya’s illustrations enhance Joseph’s story and give new life to the Cinderella fairy tale.

Bringing in zombies gives a new angle to this old story, and the execution is exquisitely done, ensuring that all readers, no matter their age, will be wholly engaged and entertained as they read. It is also the kind of book that can be savoured, or devoured. I read it in one sitting and found it a wonderful example of reception studies and the act of retelling traditional or classic tales and stories. The beauty of these tales is that they can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and for a myriad of audiences. This new series is one of those examples of how well it works, and the power of illustrating diversity and its role in literature and popular culture.

I’m looking forward to what comes next – there are so many fairy tales to play with, and so many avenues to go down – so many possibilities! I love fairy tales and the retellings – each retelling brings something new to the tale and tradition of fairy tales. Will there be a happy ending for Zombierella? You’ll just have to read and find out!

An excellent middle grade book that all ages can enjoy.

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