Mecum, Ryan. (2008). Zombie Haiku. Cincinnati, OH: HOW Books. ISBN 9781600610707.
Haiku is one of the least popular poetic forms (Vardell, 2006). After doing some of my own research I found that students generally stop liking to read around fourth or fifth grade when books have more pages and fewer pictures (Beers, 1998). Author Ryan Mecum has found the perfect way to not only get older children reading, but to also turn up the excitement about poetry and who doesn’t love zombies? When working on this review, I reached out to Mecum about his target audience and suggested age group. In his opinion, this book appeals to readers ages 13 and up. I think this book would even be appropriate for more mature, younger readers with an affinity for the undead. Perhaps 6th grade (age 11 or 12?) and up. While haiku may not be the most popular reading choice for this age group, the topic of this book is certainly interesting and popular enough to appeal to young people and stimulate their imaginations. After all, zombies are imaginary. The great thing about this book is that it gets children reading and learning. After talking with some preteens and teenagers about it, many hadn’t never even heard of haiku before, but all were interested in reading this book.
Zombie Haiku is written as a journal of an amateur poet who is bitten by an infected “person” and becomes a zombie. Despite the usual mindless zombie drive for brains, this guy is able to think and write about his life in the zombie plague. The journal also comes with photos and blood splatter on the pages which adds to the pleasurable yet disgusting obsession many people seem to have with zombies today. The book is arranged like a story and follows the natural progression of events, but is written in haiku. Like you’d expect with a personal diary, there is no table of contents or indices. Many reviews main critique of this book is that a zombie couldn’t possible write, snap photos, or compile a journal but this format is what makes this book so enjoyable.
Like more traditional haiku, Zombie Haiku follows the 5-7-5 syllable rhythm, but unlike traditional haiku they are not about the seasons or nature. The imagery that these little poetic gems conjure up in the mind of the reader have a strong emotional impact. Does the reader at times sympathize with the poet? Yes. Feel disgusted? Yes. Become amused? Yes. The language in and flow of these poems make it hard to believe that zombies aren’t the topic of more poetry. In the words of Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, zombies and haiku “seem to go together like zombies and brains”. Zombie Haiku’s author Ryan Mecum is also the author of Werewolf Haiku and Vampire Haiku and is known for his tweets also often written in haiku.
Toes are like grapes
with the same rush of flavor.
Same juices, same pop.
Can’t get enough of Zombie Haiku? Check out ZombieHaiku.com!
Beers, K. (1998). Choosing not to read: Understanding why some middle schoolers just say no. In Beers, K., and Samuels, B. G. (eds.). Into focus: Understanding and creating middle school readers. (pp. 37-63). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.