Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review - Zombie Makers


Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead

By: Rebecca L. Johnson
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761386339
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: December 2012

Everyone knows that zombies aren’t really real and the only time you see them are in movies. Bzzzz! Wrong. Everyone who isn’t in the know is dead wrong because there are real creatures who “can take over the bodies and brains of innocent creatures.” Yes, for real! This book discusses several “zombie makers,” gives us nicknames, tells us about their unfortunate victims, and where and how they turn their victims into zombies. These unfortunate zombie victims even live in North America and undoubtedly you know who they are and have seen them. This book does remind you to remember and think about zombie makers because “they’re closer than you think.”

Take for example the common housefly. We’ve all seen them and swatted at them hoping they’ll leave us alone. The Fungus Entomophthora muscae, otherwise known as the “Fly Enslaver,” seeks out the fly to enslave it. E. muscae is parasitic and is a fungus that invades the body of the fly and turns it into a zombie. It then “spreads through the fly’s body, feeding on its organs and tissues.” Eventually the fly is so impacted, even its thought processes change and it becomes a slave of E. muscae and does its bidding. The zombie fly begins to walk, heading toward a clump of grass. How and why does this happen? Once you read this book you’ll find out all about the process.

This is an amazing book about “nature’s zombie maker’s” and their unfortunate victims. This is definitely a high-interest book that will interest many young people, reluctant readers notwithstanding. The book gives off an aura of creepy, but exciting, something that the reader will be immediately drawn to. Even the table of contents with chapters entitled “Can We Eat the Babysitter?” are alluring. The book covers houseflies, carpenter ants, crickets, cockroaches, moth caterpillars, specific mammals, giant gliding ants, amber snails, rats and other warm-blooded animals, including people, and gives an historical overview of why and how zombie makers invade their victims.

Each chapter, after discussing what happens to the zombie victim, gives the “Science Behind the Story.” The layout is bright, vibrant, and has numerous full-color photographs. Some of the photographs do have that gross factor that kids love. For example, we can see a guinea worm (Dracunculus medinesis) emerging from the calf of a patient. In spite of the creep factor that zombies impart young readers, there is a lot of good solid science in these pages. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book, film, and website resources to explore.

Quill says: If you have a youngster who loves "gross," and is into science, this is one book you should put on your list! It is a Junior Literary Guild Selection.