Friday, October 25, 2013

Review - "Zombie Baseball Beatdown"

When the master of zombie movies, Mr. George A. Romero, started telling stories of the undead, they were laced with social commentary.  So the concept of sneaking some really deep ideas amidst the blood, gore and brains of the walking undead is nothing new.  Aiming all of this, carnage and intellectual debate alike, at middle graders, however, is something new, at least as far as I can tell.  That is part of what makes Paolo Bacigalupi’s Zombie Baseball Beatdown such a valuable book.  It’s gross (seriously, DO NOT even think about eating a hamburger during or even after), but it will make kids think.

It started as a normal day.  Rabi (short for Rabindranath), Miguel and Joe decide to sharpen their baseball skills in the park near the Milrow meat-packing plant.  Then the stink happens.  An “Ashy-barfy-rotten-meat-dead-cow-manure-sewer” stink.  Something at the plant has gone terribly wrong, and before they know it, the boys are fighting off zombie baseball coaches, running from zombie cows, fighting with bullies and trying to save the world.

Kids have a lot to deal with in their lives.  To paraphrase “2 Broke Girls” (something I never thought I’d write), “you’re stupid, you can’t reach stuff, it’s rough”.  Rabi, Miguel and Joe aren’t stupid, but they are kids, and they’re forced to deal with an avalanche of issues all at once.  Miguel’s family is being deported and he lives in fear of the ICE (U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement).  Rabi deals with casual racism (as does Miguel) and his horrific batting record.  Blonde-haired Joe doesn’t have the burden of worrying about being forced out of the country or accused of terrorism, which gives him freedoms his friends can’t enjoy, but as a semi-zombie-expert, he’s often on the front lines when facing the undead horde.

What Mr. Bacigalupi has done here is create a world where flesh-eating zombie cows may not be the most horrible thing in town.  This book really has it all.  It’s gross, funny, scary, thoughtful and challenging, but never feels as if it were trying too hard.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
2013, by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Preview copy provided by publisher for review

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