Tuesday, October 20, 2009
My Rotten Life (Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie)
Written by: David Lubar
Recommended Ages: 8-12
If you like books that make you laugh out loud AND feel empathy for what the main character is going through, then look no further than My Rotten Life: Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie. Kids will identify with Nathan's plight from the first page until the last, as they devour the book to see what happens next.
Nathan is a fifth-grader who is having a bad day. Actually, it starts out as a bad day and only gets worse. First, the girl of his dreams--Shawna Lanchester--humiliates him in front of the entire cafeteria by publicly announcing that she's not inviting him to her annual Halloween party. Later on in gym class, he is the last person to be picked for a team. To add insult to injury, he comes in dead last in the mile run. Finally, he publicly humiliates himself at a video game so that all the kids start calling him a "vidiot." All of these things sound about as bad as it can get for a ten-year-old who is more than aware of where he falls in the social hierarchy of fifth grade.
After school, a new girl in town-Abigail-tells him that her uncle (a mad scientist) is working on a cure to get rid of bad feelings. She thinks that after Nathan's rotten day he would be the perfect subject. So off they go to the lab, only to have the serum mistakenly spilled all over him. And wouldn't you know it, Nathan begins to turn into a zombie.
The book continues with some amusing stories of what happens while one is slowly turning into a half-dead zombie. And quite honestly, life is somewhat better for Nathan. He can't feel pain, so he excels at sports because his asthma doesn't kick in. He doesn't need sleep, so he stays up all night secretly playing video games (and gets good at them). Nonetheless, he knows he doesn't want to live his life as a zombie, so he and his friends, Abigail and Mookie, go in search for a cure.
Along the way, you are drawn into the life of fifth-graders, complete with the popular group, the skaters, the nerds and the jocks. Kids will identify (and laugh) as these hierarchies are exposed and poked fun of. The true meaning of friendship is also explored in a totally convincing, yet fun, fifth-grade way. Finally, Nathan's home life is portrayed realistically: Mom is loving, if not a little neurotic, and video games are not allowed: "Mom thought games were too violent. Dad thought they were a bad investment."
My Rotten Life is written in a lively, very readable style. From the first sentence to the last, readers will be drawn in. Here's the first paragraph:
"It's no fun having your heart ripped from your body, slammed to the floor, and stomped into a puddle of quivering red mush. It's even less fun when it happens three times in one afternoon."
If you have a child for whom reading is not their first choice for an activity, try My Rotten Life. The slightly gross humor and easy-to-read text are sure to reel them in. On the other hand, if you have a child who loves to read, they'll probably read My Rotten Life in an afternoon (laughing all the while). Plus, the last paragraph hints that there's more to come:
"Other than that, things are pretty much normal for the only zombie in Belgosi Upper Elementary. Or, at least, they were normal until the secret agent from BUM showed up. But that's another story."
BookNosher Activity: There's a Reader's Guide at the end of the book to enhance My Rotten Life. Check it out! There are some really interesting individual and classroom activities for teachers and parents to turn this fun read, into something educational.