EmmaMarie Hunneyball's Reviews > Tales Told Under the Covers: Zombie Girl Invasion & Other Stories

Tales Told Under the Covers by De Kenyon
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Oct 30, 11

Read from October 22 to 30, 2011

** spoiler alert **
These are stories where the kids are in charge. The cohesive family unit is important, but the kids are the ones who are empowered to save the world. The adults are largely helpless. Astra's Dad is physically helpless, he's been injured and can't work, which forces his daughter to take matters into her own hands. Neil's parents don't know the right way to kill zombies. Cat's parents are frozen with horror as the Sushi monster attacks and Marina's parents are eaten by Nibbles the giant rabbit. These children can walk into a world of the unknown and come up with a way to win. probably the best example of this is Connor, who is absorbed into a world of robots and works out how to win their war. De's characters are flawed, vivid and real. They are gutsy, intelligent and brave. I loved every one of them.

Scary stories for children abound in cliches around what makes something scary. I loved the way De turned these cliches on their heads. The zombies aren't scary: Neil isn't afraid of them, he hates them; and the resurrected class pet isn't scary, it tries to help Dawn and Sampson. In "Which is Bigger, the Moon or an Elephant? And Other Stupid Questions" De explores fear, the nature of scary things and what actually makes them scary. The atmosphere of tension as the children create their costumes is palpable. And in "A Picture is Worth 1000 Chomps" digital pictures on a laptop come to life in terrifying fashion, gobbling up everything in sight before being thwarted. De explores and subverts the conventions of fear, with the result that some of her stories are genuinely scary, whilst others are rib-ticklingly funny.

For her themes De pulls on a range of traditions and genre conventions. "Sushi Monster" and "Bunny Attack" are delightfully B-Movie-esque; whilst "Class Pet" tackles urban myths around ghosts and murdered pets, and "Zombie Girl Invasion" batters the Zombie Apocalypse. It is fantastic to see some aspects of adult genre fiction in there, handily bridging the gap between children's fiction and grown-up fiction, whilst leaving room for reinterpretation.

"The Society of Secret Cats" and "the Last Voyage of the Mermaid" touch on more serious themes: the first story deals with the perennial problem of the child, being trapped in nightmares, and the latter is a truly touching tale of an old man recapturing the imagination of his youth. Imagination is a theme that runs through all of the stories: exploring the effect imagination has on resolving problems and the trouble imagination gets you into. In a couple of cases I felt there was a delicious ambiguity about whether the events were "real" or "imaginary", but in true Lewis Carroll style, the two are interchangeable.

This a fast-paced collection of tightly-plotted stories which any child will read with frightened glee.
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