________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 25. . . .March 4th, 2011.


The Zombie Chasers.

John Kloepfer. Illustrated by Steve Wolfhard.
New York, NY: Harper (Distributed in Canada by HarperCollins Canada), 2010.
205 pp., hardcover, $17.50.
ISBN 978-0-06-185304-3.

Subject Headings:
Phoenix (Ariz.)-Fiction.
Horror stories.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Beth Maddigan.

*** /4



Just as he was about to slide the door open, a pale gray fist pounded against the glass, cracking it into the shape of a spiderweb. Clutched in the hand was a limp, lifeless rabbit. Madison covered her mouth, heaving a little, her eyes bugging out.

A swift wind carried a dark cloud across the moon, and the bunny squasher’s silhouette came into full view. His bloody, mangled arm glistened bright red. His torn black Burton T-shirt revealed a massive chest wound, ripe with rot, and his Etnies were destroyed. The zombie teen gripped a skateboard with his other decaying hand.

“It’s Danny! One of the Zimmers!” Zack exclaimed in a shocked whisper, gazing directly into his neighbor’s cold, vacant eyes. Pale, sagging skin drooped from the twin’s face. His jaw jutted out a bit, and his upper lip was raised, revealing his yellow incisors. Zack and Madison watched through the shattered glass as the Zimmer raised the dead bunny to his open mouth and bit into its middle, spouting blood up onto his wretched face.

Disgusting and gross… but in a good way. Zombie lore has wide appeal and stomach-churning affection for many. But, it hasn’t been a major trend in children’s books. Some zombie-themed offerings have stumbled into popular children’s series – The Zombie Zone was Ron Roy’s culminating alphabet novel in the “A-Z Mysteries” series, and Andy Griffiths brought some intergalactic undead into the atmosphere with Zombie Butts from Uranus – but a true zombie-survival series has been missing from preteen apocalypse horror. Maybe its time has come.

     In this cliff-hanging first novel by John Kloepfer, Zack Clarke finds himself teamed up with his older sister’s best friend Madison. Together, they navigate their Phoenix neighborhood filled with slow-moving, quick-oozing, recently undead. They pick up Zack’s best friend, Rice, who joins the exodus with a head full of Internet Zombie knowledge and some untested resistance theories.

     The Zombie Chasers is a novel that respects a child’s ability to handle the full-blown zombie experience: disengaged limbs, cannibalism, infectious bodily fluids, and the relentless pursuit of the hungry undead. Some children are engaged by graphic humour, and this novel delivers for those children. The straightforward plot line and relatable characters make it a quick read. The visual clues provided by the graphic imagery will help those that need it with comprehension elements.

     internal artOntario native Steve Wolfhard created the cartoons that allow the reader to visualize the Phoenix zombie carnage. The illustrations are literal graphic representations of the descriptive text. They are accurate to the finest drippy detail with every small geyser of black juice, every drop of purple drool, and every streak of infectious blood. Wolfhard knew his subject matter well and was able to render it with humour, terror and believability – not an easy mix in a children’s novel. In addition, the layout and positioning of cartoon to textual element provide visual comprehension. The cartoons appear on the pages in which their creatures star. This detail, often overlooked, will be appreciated by readers.

     The Zombie Chasers builds a solid foundation for a series that will find its terror-loving, scatalogically fearless young fans. The book is sophisticated enough to have appeal for older readers that would benefit from the simple plot and emphasis on action, humour and gore. Readers will be able to suspend their disbelief and delight in the terrifying journey because of the novel’s internal consistency. However, the jarring cliffhanger ending will be difficult for less mature readers. Unless they have their hands on the sequel, they will not be satisfied with the ending of this book. That alone makes it difficult to give wholesale praise to this fun, scary, beautifully illustrated novel.


Beth Maddigan is a children’s librarian and instructor in St. John’s, NL.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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