I suspect that Valentine’s Day, with all its pink and hearts, glitter and love, can be a bit frilly at times for some school-aged boys. And I’ll take a stab in the dark and say I don’t think my friend with three sons is checking out “Pinkalicious: Pink of Hearts” on her trip to the library this week.
For those looking for less gooey Valentine’s Day reading material, I offer you “Zombie in Love,” written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Scott Campbell. Keeping with my previous post about Valentine’s Day books, this one avoids actual mention of the holiday, and it’s been a frequently-requested, year-round staple on our bookshelf since my sister, Lindsay, gave it to one of the girls last February.
Mortimer is a zombie who, aside from the company of his zombie dog and plentiful parasites, is quite lonely and hoping to find the love of his life in time for the Cupid’s Ball. DiPucchio and Campbell offer a playful interaction between text and picture, chronicling in word Mortimer’s earnest efforts to win the ladies over but revealing in image just how wrong he’s getting it.
After enduring one failure after another, Mortimer places an add in the newspaper:
Does Mortimer’s carefully crafted prose sound familiar? It brings to mind a little ditty about a letter in the personals you may have heard before:
If you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight in the dunes of the cape
Then I’m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me and escape.
DiPucchio combines a great sense of humor with a witty talent for playing with words. The Cupid’s Ball attendees are “well… having a ball,” and Mildred (Mortimer’s long-sought love) is described as “drop-dead gorgeous.” The couple drives off into the moonlight in a “his and hearse,” dragging tin cans with labels like “cran-brainy juice,” “baked brains,” “Dead Bull” and “Mountain Tomb.”
Artist Scott Campbell punches of the humor and oddity with his quirky illustrations. I particularly love Mortimer’s ever-present companions, a band of friendly worms who can be spotted playing catch, in the midst of a game of poker, working out and donning bowties. They remind me of Oscar the Grouch’s pet worm, Slimey.
My girls, on the other hand, love Campbell’s depiction of Mortimer’s winning smile:
And it’s apparent that Mortimer’s met his match when we see Mildred smile “like this:”
Eloise and Charlotte take the opportunity to do their best zombie-smile impressions at this point in the book. Based on their affection for the book, it comes as no surprise that it was a finalist for the 2012 Children’s Choice Book Awards.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Children’s Choice Book Awards, it’s a joint project of the International Reading Association and the Children’s Book Council in which publishers submit hundred of titles to be evaluated and voted on by more than 10,000 children. Throughout the school year, five review teams, located in different regions of the United States, work with their local classroom teachers and school librarians to incorporate the books into classroom activities. The most popular titles, as voted on by children whose teachers are involved in the project, are chosen as the finalists. Winners are announced in the various age categories, and it’s a great place to look for great book inspiration, because kids sure know how to pick ‘em. (This year’s Children’s Choice winner is “Nighttime Ninja.”)