Review: Zombierella by Joseph Coelho and Freya Hartas

on Middle Grade
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Zombierella by Joseoh Coelho and Freya Hartas
Published by Walker Books Australia
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A copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher


A yellow moon hangs in a satin sky the night Cinderella, barefoot and in hand-me-downs, slips at the top of the stairs … and dies. But not for long. The Shadow of Death arrives to breathe life back into her bones and, for three nights only, Cinderella goes forth as ZOMBIERELLA. With her skin as cold as ice and her faithful horse Lumpkin back by her side, can she seek revenge on her three cruel, fake sisters, once and for all? Crawl out of the grave and step into your mushroom carriage for this haunting and humorous adventure of the undead girl searching for her happily ever after.


Zombierella, the first book in a new series, Fairy Tales Gone Bad, is written by Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas. It’s an illustrated verse novel that retells the story of Cinderella for a middle-grade audience. Both illustrations and writing are fabulous,  interacting perfectly to create a spookily joyful read.

I adore fairytale retellings (my honours thesis on Rapunzel retellings). When I heard about the Fairy Tales Gone Bad series, I was very excited to see what the first book would be like. The series’ concept is that old fairy tale stories have gone bad at the back of a library, the way food might if left at the back of the pantry. In Zombierella, this results in a twisted story of gory details, a vampire prince and Cinderella emerging each night of the ball as a zombie.

I don’t really think you can call it dark, due to it being full to the brim with humour. I like how the book draws on the grim nature of original fairytales, yet keeps it entertaining. While quite gruesome, the story isn’t scary, and Coelho clearly understands and respects that many kids have a strong interest in gory, and often disgusting, details. It reminded me of the TV show Freaky Stories from when I was a kid.

I particularly liked that the story is told in poetry. I love a verse novel and think there should be more available for kids.  I think poetry is an underrated way to tell stories. The verses are clever, funny, and quite delightful, despite often being pretty gross. The book’s presentation, matching the illustrations with verses creates a light and fun atmosphere and makes a great reading experience. There is a real warmth to the story, despite how cold and lifeless (literally) the characters are.

I really like the librarian’s introduction to the story,  setting up the concept of fairy tales gone bad. I am keen to see what fairy tale Coelho picks up next.  Zombierella is a fun and gruesome read, perfect for kids who like things a little spooky and enjoy a unique take of a well-known story.

You can find Joseph Coelho online via his website or instragram.

You can find Freya Hartas online via her website or on twitter or instagram.