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Fairytales Gone Bad

Written by Joseph Coelho & Illustrated by Freya Hartas

Published by Walker books – 3rd September 2020

Zombierella is the first in a deliciously dark, three part series of twisted classics.

I gasped, grimaced and gagged my way through the rotten tale of Zombierella and when I wasn’t doing one of the aforementioned I howled with laughter!

For older primary children, the tale of Cinderella as they know it is way past it’s sell-by date. So with severed limbs, skeletons, coffins, corpses and perished pets, not to mention all sorts of other deadly and disgusting changes to the story, Zombierella is ‘Cinderella ‘gone-off’ -nicely rotted and ready to be relished once more.

Fairy Tales Gone Bad is such a clever concept. At the beginning of the book we meet ‘The Librarian’ who is the keeper of ‘decrepit stories, ragged legends and putrid parables.’ The format reminded me of ‘Tales from the Crypt’ as The Librarian joins us for the Epilogue and Prologue, a bit like the Crypt-keeper in the television show. He sets the scene for the forth-coming festering and forgotten tale.

A pale and interesting prince arrives in the town of Grimmsville. With a need to feed he prepares to host three balls at the haunted mansion on the hill- three nights to hopefully find his next victim… ahem, I mean princess!

Although very beautiful, with braids to die for, Cinderella’s FAKE sisters are utterly unpleasant and make the house as mucky as they can to ensure she cannot go to the ball. With the house in such a mess, Cinderella slips at the top of the stairs and the shadow of death is waiting for her at the bottom. I won’t tell you what Cinderella slips on to cause her to fall to her death – I’ll leave that nasty little surprise for you to discover for yourself when you read the story – but it will have you heaving!

Cinderella goes forth as Zombierella. She digs up her beloved horse from his grave in the garden and gallops off to the ball where Dancehall music is pulsing – there are so many awesome Afro-Carribean twists throughout the book. Over three nights, the tale follows the familiar pattern and Zombierella gets closer to bewitching her prince. She also exacts her revenge on each of her three FAKE sisters in the most gruesome style. But just when you think they’ll ‘all live horribly ever after,’ the clock strikes midnight and Zombierella flees the ball. The handsome prince must track-down and identify the body of his zombie bride-to-be in the most unusually horrific of ways.

Freya Hartas’ illustrations are so engaging, that teachers will need their visualisers at the ready. The pacey verses of Zombierella make this a highly entertaining class read that can be devoured quickly – it was absolutely made to be read aloud. This is a book I feel would equally work extremely well in a guided reading group as the children would be able to really savour the illustrations close-up and there is authorial choices and shades of meaning to discuss in spades. The short chapters make it a manageable guided text. With Halloween on the horizon, this could be a great alternative to sweet treats and costumes for parents wanting to indulge their ‘tweens’ in the festivities at the awkward in-between stage before they are ready for full horror.

I can’t wait to find out which Fairy Tales Gone Bad are ‘rattling their chains and creaking their spines’ on the forgotten bookshelf waiting to be discovered next. I’m hoping the hints from ‘The Librarian’ at the beginning of this book turn out to be future tiles. If they are, we could be wiping off the mould from ‘Jack and the Flesh-Eating Beanstalk, dusting off ‘Creeping Beauty’ or ‘The Monstrous Duckling’ and I must say, ‘The Boy Who Puked Up a Wolf’ sounds absolutely epic! Upper Key Stage 2 pupils will relish these disgustingly devilish tales.

With thanks to NetGalley and Walker Books for providing me with a digital copy of Zombierella to review ahead of publication.

To have a further ‘look inside’ the book, visit

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