Friday, March 8, 2013
a good book.
Gravediggers: Mountain of Bones
Author: Christopher Krovatin
Age Range: 10-14
Cover Score: ***
Overall Score: ***
Beware of the zombie apocalypse! Zombies are taking over the world and a tiny part of me is content to be along for the ride. I think my real foray into the genre started when I read The Forest of Hands and Teeth when it first came out a few years ago. (Though I may or may not have participated in a few late night viewings of The Evil Dead movies in college.) I saw this movie a couple of weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it (though it's obviously not your traditional zombie tale.) And I'm more than a little excited to watch Brad Pitt take on the masses in this movie this summer. But I'm not a giant fan of gore so I much prefer to read about the undead than to watch them writhe and stumble about on screen.
Kids of course want to jump on the bandwagon of whatever trend happens to be enticing their older brothers and sisters but there are very few true paranormal and quality (sorry RL Stine) horror books for middle readers (and obviously even less for the young crowd.) So I was thrilled to come across this book in our library's new orders recently.
A school group is headed to the wilds of Montana for their Homeroom Earth experience, learning all about wilderness and survival. Little do they know that in a few short hours they'll be literally running for their lives.
Three of the kids are lured into the forest following a huge buck and are soon lost. At first they don't panic. Kendra, the brain, has a map and compass and knows she can figure out a way back. PJ has a backpack full of food and other supplies thanks to his paranoid parents while Ian has more than enough confidence for the three of them. But the woods hold a deadly secret. Groups of campers and wanderers have been disappearing for years. Last year's Homeroom Earth was cancelled because the Pine City Dancers vanished the year before...or so the urban legend says.
First they hear noises, then the compass stops working and then there's the feeling of being watched. They seek shelter in an abandoned cabin only to find that the basement is filled with bones and a diary belonging to one of the lost dancers. It's no legend after all and their paranoia in the woods wasn't their imagination. The forest is 'alive' with the un-dead!
Things get even stranger when they run into an old woman who claims to be the Warden set to protect the land and keep the zombies in check but the kids have unwittingly broken her charms and she can no longer do it alone. They band together to survive and protect the rest of their friends who are still at camp and oblivious. There is a satisfying, and age appropriately positive ending but we also have the kids being marked as 'gravediggers', zombie killers who help keep the balance but were disbanded years ago, which foreshadows the promise of a sequel.
This is exactly the kind of book that would have had me reading under the covers with a flashlight as a kid. And the the kind of book that would have had me sleeping with that flashlight for the next week in an effort to keep the nightmares at bay. It's creepy and atmospheric. There's gore (I mean there is rotting flesh and walking dead and all) but it's not too over the top and while there's a good deal of peril there's not much in the way of actual violence so you can feel pretty comfortable in handing it off to most kids.
Looking for more kid-friendly zombie fare? Try Zombiekins, Zombie in Love, or Paranorman. Have a slightly older crowd? Give Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Rot and Ruin or I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It a go. (I can't vouch for the quality of these last two as I haven't read them myself, but they are on my TBR list so if anyone else has read them let me know if I should bump them up to the top!)