Description (from NetGalley):
Are zombies real? As far as we know, dead people do not come back to life and start walking around, looking for trouble. But there are things that can take over the bodies and brains of innocent creatures, turning them into senseless slaves. Meet nature’s zombie makers—including a fly-enslaving fungus, a suicide worm, and a cockroach-taming wasp—and their victims.
What first drew me to Zombie Makers was the promise of reading about one of my favorite subjects: parasites! I was also really excited at the prospect of reading something that was obviously going to be creepy and disgusting. What made the book even better, though, were the gorgeous color illustrations that appear on each page. Even though I was reading a digital galley, I saw some sample pages of the finished book at ALA, and this thing is going to look really slick as a physical book.
Johnson’s cleverly structured the chapters thematically by “zombie traits,” such as the need to bite or acting mindlessly. Nature is cruel, and parasites turn some of our greatest fears into realities, like being paralyzed while an infant slowly eats you from the inside out. That’s dang scary, and actually happens to cockroaches that have been taken over by the jewel wasp. The parasites in this book aren’t limited to those that attack insects, though. Johnson includes the guinea worm, which grows inside of a person’s body, then bursts out when the person plunges the aching limb into water. Before that, you can see the worm squirming subcutaneously! And yes, there’s a photograph of a guinea worm emerging from a leg. It’s gruesome stuff. Rabies, aka canine madness aka hydrophobia, is also discussed, and we all know that rabies can turn man’s best friend into a drooling, snarling monster, as evidenced by Old Yeller.
This book is chock full of fun subject matter that will fascinate kids. It’s the kind of book I would have carried around with me as a kid and read over and over, and then recounted to anybody who would listen. Heck, I still might do that as an adult. Johnson writes in clear language that a kid can understand, but you don’t get the feeling that it has been dumbed down, either. Also, after a gruesome initial descriptions, she gives the history of how the scientists figured this stuff out. If a kid needs somebody to idolize, I think the researchers described in this book could fit the bill.
The one caveat about this book is that it is probably not a good book for people who are squeamish about bugs; however, it is great for people who love to look at images of insects in detail. This is a terrific book to give kids to get them interested in science and biology, all while stimulating their imaginations.