Written and illustrated by Stan Yan
Published by Squid Works/Mascot Books
When I was young, I was afraid that there were monsters living in my closet or under the stairs in the basement. Every shadow out of the corner of my eye was a terrifying ghost. Every creak of the house was something wicked crawling through the walls. No matter how many times my parents told me it wasn’t real, I was still scared of the things haunting my imagination at night. Of course I wasn’t the only one. We all go through a phase like this. A child’s imagination is a limitless thing.
Stan Yan’s son began to go through it at age three, plagued by the zombie caricatures Stan made as an artist. When he found out his son was afraid, Stan decided to do something about it. Thus, There’s a Zombie in the Basement was born, a story about a young boy (Milo) with an overactive imagination who could hardly sleep for fear of monsters. His parents could hardly sleep as well because he would wake them when he was scared. Eventually they told him a story about the monsters to help ease his fears and put him to sleep. The whole idea of this story is to help parents talk to their children about their fears and help assuage them.
The art in There’s a Zombie in the Basement is a great mix of styles. The heavy line work gives it that classic children’s book appearance, combined with watercolor-esque backgrounds. Zombies aren’t the only creatures in the book, with Sasquatch, a ghost, a reaper, a creepy pair of twins, and more also making an appearance. All of the monsters are illustrated in a way that makes them approachable, yet interesting to look at. As an adult reading this book, I loved the small details, like the frame of the bed drawn to resemble a skeleton and bat wings. Children will most likely appreciate the silly characters like the juggling shark or the drooling cow about to be abducted by an alien.
As far as the story goes, it’s very basic. We learn what Milo’s fears are and how he wakes his parents up when he’s very frightened. After he wakes them for a third time, his father has the idea to concoct a story to soothe Milo. He tells him that the monsters are friends just having a party in the basement, but now it’s getting late so they will all be going to bed. Little Milo feels better when he realizes that all the frightening things he’s imagined don’t have to be scary, and he finally goes to sleep.
It’s hard to say whether this story will make children feel better about their fears or give them even more things to be scared of. It’s a question that will most likely come down to the individual child. If they’re already scared of something featured in this book, then it would be a perfect way to begin a conversation about that fear.
For parents that are horror fans, especially those who have items or whole collections related to the genre, There’s a Zombie in the Basement would be a great addition to their children’s libraries. This book will help convince them that there’s nothing to be afraid of, even daddy’s bust of a Walking Dead zombie. If your children are not afraid of monsters in the basement, they’ll probably still enjoy seeing the creatures illustrated in this book. After all, it’s not very often that you find a horror-related children’s book.
Whether you’re looking for a way to talk to kids about fears or not, There’s a Zombie in the Basement is still a delightful read. The art and subject are unique, while still having that typical children’s book feel. The colors are soothing, and hell, the zombie is cute!