I am an unapologetic fan of zombie movies. I know, I’m a librarian so I should love film adaptations of Jane Austen books, and pine over Shakespeare’s plays, but I don’t. I love bad movies–movies so bad, that they’re good. If you know anything about the modern zombie genre (it encompasses movies, video games, graphic novels and books,) then you probably know the name George A. Romero.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Romero essentially created the modern zombie. Most writers, game developers and screenwriters follow the rules Romero created with his iconic classic, Night of the Living Dead. In the Newsflesh series by Mira Grant, an entire generation of children are named for him: Georges, Georgias and Georgettes are the norm.
But what does any of this have to do with books?? Well, have I got a surprise for you! Twenty years ago a publisher from Belgium asked Romero to write a children’s book. Romero jumped at the chance — after being typecast as “the zombie guy” in Hollywood.
The Little World if Humongo Bongo is an illustrated story about a humongous creature named Bongo. Bongo is tired of waiting for something to happen and so he decides to travel to the edge of the woods he lives in with his friend, Pongo. Bongo meets a new type of creature, tiny as ants called the Peanuts. They are scared of him, and then they worship him and eventually, they resent and attack him.
We find out in the story that Pongo, had a similar experience with the Peanuts before Bongo hatched from his egg. Bongo faces the grim choice of destroying the Peanuts or allowing them to take whatever they want. In the end, he realizes that Pongo was right, they should stay within their own Wood and wait for the next thing to happen.
I loved this book. I’m ecstatic that it is finally being published in English. Romero’s story and illustrations — he studied art in college — make his themes of tolerance and intolerance easily understood. He also brings to mind the issue of overpopulation. These seem like complex issues for children, but they understand a lot more than we give them credit for.
I found the book making me think of our own overuse and abuse of our home planet. Bongo’s explorations of the three parts of his planet made me think of mankind’s aspirations to colonize space. I hope we take tolerance with us and find it in return as we explore the vastness of space.
So, before you pass a book by because of who the author is or because of their latest scandal, think twice and hopefully grow as a reader and a fan.
Other unexpected authors of children’s books:
- Madonna – I really loved Mr. Peabody’s Apples
- Jason Siegel – I have his Nightmares series at school
- Neil Patrick Harris – besides being an actor, he’s a magician and has started writing a middle grade magic-themed series
- Sarah Ferguson – I have quite a few picture books by the former Duchess of York
- Rob Reiner – love his book Tell Me a Scary Story…but not too scary
- Steve Martin
- Brooke Shields
- Keith Richards
- Derek Jeter
- John Travolta
- Tori Spelling
- Whoopie Goldberg
I could go on for ages! But I’ll stop, ’cause I want you to read a book instead.