Frankie was a Big Fat Zombie Goldfish and somehow he’d hypnotized my best friend’s sister!’ Tom’s big brother is an Evil Scientist who wants to experiment on Tom’s new goldfish, Frankie. Can Tom save his fish from being dunked in radioactive gunge? Er, no. In an act of desperation Tom zaps Frankie with a battery, bringing him back to life! But there’s something weird about the new Frankie – he’s now a zombie goldfish with hypnotic powers, and he wants revenge . . . Tom has a difficult choice to make – save his evil brother, or save his fishy friend?
As a secondary school teacher my understanding of what makes a great book for primary aged children is fairly limited. Sure, I have read a good number of these, but I wouldn’t go as far as to claim to be any kind of expert on deciding what is good and what is not so good. Case in point, it was my nephew’s fifth birthday recently and I really did not know which books to buy him. I gave him a huge box set of Horrid Henry books for Christmas, and I know they went down really well, so I pretty much guessed and bought him some more books that his mum and dad will read to him, and that hopefully he will read himself as he develops the skills.
What I’m trying to say, in my usual rambling manner, is that books for this age group rarely appear on my radar before they are published, or before a copy arrives in the post from a generous publisher, but My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara was an equally big fat exception to this. My good friend Liz de Jager (ex of My Favourite Books fame) was raving about this book months before it was published, as she knows the author through SCBWI and I believe had read several early drafts of it. On several occasions Liz pretty much ordered me to make sure I got my hands on a copy, boldly claiming that it was extremely funny, and perfect for boys, and as pretty much everything Liz has ever recommended to me has turned out to be blinkin’ brilliant, I found myself waiting impatiently for its release. And yet again, Liz’s recommendation was spot on. My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish is one of the most enjoyable, funny and clever books I have read for this age group in a long time.
My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish follows the story of Tom, a boy with a particularly evil older brother called Mark. The day after Mark gets a chemistry set from his grandparents for his birthday he comes home with a goldfish, and Tom knows his brother well enough to fear for the safety of said goldfish. Tom manages to rescue the goldfish from his brother’s evil clutches, but is to late – the toxic chemical cocktail that Mark left the fish in seems to have finished him off. However, with the help pf his best friend Pradeep, Tom manages to revive the goldfish, but Frankie, as he is quickly christened, is now one of the walking swimming dead, and the combination of chemical sludge and electric shock has given him the power to mesmerise anyone who upsets him.
This book contains two exciting stories, both of them focusing on Tom and Pradeep’s desperate attempts to protect Frankie from Matt, and then later Pradeep’s equally evil older brother Sanj. When Matt and Sanj join forces in the second of the two stories, things start to look bleak not only for Frankie, but also every member of Tom’s school and eventually world domination. However, evil as they may be, Matt and Sanj are still fmaily, and so Tom and Pradeep also have to keep Frankie’s vicious streak under control, just to make sure he doesn’t go too far with his mesmerism.
The book is full of clever jokes and funny illustrations (by Marek Jagucki) which will keep kids entertained from beginning to end. However, for me, the stand out element of this book was the interplay between Tom and Pradeep. The two boys make a hilarious pair of geeky kids, with code words, secret hand gestures and planned escape routes from both of their houses. Any boy who has an older brother, whether he is evil or just occasionally a little but mean, will be able to identify with the pair of friends and will take great delight in rooting for them in their quest to defeat Matt and Sanj and save the world.
My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish is perfect for children (and boys in particular) who have just learned to read and want something that they can talk to their friends about. It is just as great for younger children when read to them by a parent. We need many more books like this – books that just might turn a child on to a lifetime love of books and reading. And the great news is that The Sea-quel is due out in July!
My thanks go to the lovely people at Macmillan for sending me a copy to review.
See the review online here.