Review & Blog Tour: Zombierella (Fairy Tales Gone Bad)

BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations

Book Title: Zombierella (available here)

Author: Joseph Coelho

Illustrator: Freya Hartas

Publisher: Walker Books

Publication Date: September 2020

Most Suitable for: KS2

Reviewer: Alison Leach

We love a fairy tale with a twist and so eagerly welcomed the arrival of this new illustrated middle-grade series from Joseph Coelho and Freya Hartas, with this first instalment placing a deviously dark twist on the Cinderella story.

In this version, Cinderella (so called because she wears a locket containing her deceased mother's ashes), lives with a 'fake' family made up of an evil step-mother and three beautiful and fake sisters. After losing both parents and her beloved horse Lumpkin, Cinderella feels very much alone in the world.

The town receives a visit from a royal prince with unusually gothic tastes, who brings with him three days of parties and the promise of betrothal to a potential suitor from the town. When Cinderella suffers a slip on the stairs, life as she knows it comes to an end and she returns in a haze of gory glory as Zombierella before proceeding to win the prince's heart for herself.

Coelho's treatment of the story is as delightfully amusing as it is deliciously dark. After years of Disneyfication and a 'softening up' of this well-known tale for a generation who often find their stories served up with a little more happily-ever-after and a little less goriness, this version takes a direct step in the colder and creepier direction that you might expect from Roald Dahl's fairy tales or the original Grimm stories. There's plenty to shock - from the cold and detached reporting of Cinderella's sudden death to the spooky insertion of pulled-out brains, loosened guts and severed limbs into a star-crossed rags-to-riches love story. There's an enjoyable streak of dark humour and plenty of wit in both the author's free verse and Freya Hartas' stylishly expressive black and white illustrations.

The story is framed by the voice of a librarian (fans of Coelho might expect nothing less) and leaves with the promise of more from the 'Fairy Tales Gone Bad' series - which I'm really looking forward to seeing unfold.

You can order Zombierella online or from your local bookshop.

Blog Tour

As part of the blog tour, the team at Walker invited us to share our ideas for twisted fairytales. There are so many twisted fairytales that we love already out there - so we thought we'd share five of our favourites:

  1. The Last Wolf by Mini Grey -This is a twist on the traditional Little Red Riding Hood story with a clear message about environmental sustainability. Available here.

  2. Red and the City by Marie Voigt - An award-nomination adaptation of the Red Riding Hood tale where Red journeys to Grandma’s house not through the woods but through the dangers of a modern city. Available here.

  3. Princess BMX by Marie BastingIf you are looking for a laugh-out-loud book that turns traditional tales on their heads with a thoroughly modern twist, then Princess BMX is the perfect chapter book for you to share with your lower KS2 class. Available here.

  4. Mr Wolf's Pancakes by Jan Fearnley- a dry-humoured, pancake-themed twist on the Little Red Hen story that includes a host of familiar fairy tale characters. Available here.

  5. Troll Stinks! by Jeanne Willis & Tony Ross - An amusing story exploring the topic of e-safety and cyberbullying with young children. Billy the Goat and his friend Cyril are playing with a phone when they decide to send mean messages to the troll living under the bridge... Available here.


You can order Zombierella online or from your local bookshop.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending us a review copy. For more about Zombierella, follow the other stops on the blog tour too.


Where next? > Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub

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