Thrice a Zombie Weapon…

Zombie Apocalypse: Thrice a Zombie Weapon…

Ever wonder what authors would do in the case of a zombie apocalypse? For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting the answers to that question on my blog…

This week, author Sylvia Gunnery weighs in on her zombie apocalypse survival plan. And she does so as a story! Sylvia is one of the authors I’ll be doing workshops with at the SD73 Young Authors’ Conference in Kamloops on May 4th.


Zombie Apocalypse Challenge

It’s midnight (of course). The wicked winter wind howls around the corners of my house and the angry Atlantic Ocean pounds against the rugged shoreline. Salty spray is hurled at the trembling windows. All dire warnings. But is anybody listening?

Snow swirls out of the darkness like desperate, lost ghosts.

Or zombies.

A sudden knock sounds on the front door. Eerie. Eager. Then again.

Through the frosted window I think I see, in the dangerous darkness, a crowd (more of a small collection, than a crowd, actually) of desperate zombies, huddled helplessly together. They plead with undead eyes for me to let them come in out of the apocalyptic storm. The winter nor’easter, my first weapon, has grabbed the zombie spirits by their fleshy (er..I mean…) creepy throats. They are already faltering in their gruesome intentions!

But the zombies are not yet conquered. (Of course not.)

My second weapon is ready.

I open the door. Zachery (I already know his name because I’m the one writing this scene) stands at the head of this zombie collection. He’s the one who came up with the brainy (yummmmm) idea to appear at Crescent Beach on this winter-storm night. Zachery nods to his nearly dead followers. Like a group of ten-year-olds at Hallowe’en, they crowd into my porch. I close the door against the wild wind and frigid, foreboding night.

Grey eyes stare out of decayed faces. Grey and blistered lips curl across pointed and purposeful teeth.

“Hu…” I stop myself (before it’s too late) from asking if anyone’s hungry.

“Thi…” I stop myself (before it’s too late) from asking if anyone’s thirsty.

My second weapon has begun to work its magic. Silent. Invisible. It oozes into their brittle zombie bones. Finally, their grey and gruesome zombie thoughts slowly begin to melt away in the warmth of the fire in the wood stove. (Note: slowly begin to melt away.) It’s not over yet!

I have one more weapon left! (Three is always a good number in story structure–you know, like three wishes, or three little pigs, or three blind mice. Or, in this scene, three zombie-conquering weapons.)

With my third weapon, I will turn this boney band of beleaguered bodies into a calm collection of curious creatures!

“Sit down, everyone. Make yourselves comfortable,” I say. “Do I have a story for you!”

It was a dark and stormy night…

About the author…

Sylvia Gunnery first took herself seriously as a writer when she attended the five-week Banff Centre writing session in 1976 under the instruction of W.O. Mitchell, Alice Munro, and others. Since then she has published over 25 books for teens and children as well as professional resources for teachers of writing. A recipient of a Prime Minister’s Teaching Award, she has presented at conferences, libraries, and schools across Canada.  In 2016, she was honoured with a WFNS Legacy Membership.  Sylvia lives at Crescent Beach, on the South Shore of Nova Scotia.  Her newest YA novel is Road Signs That Say West (Pajama Press 2017).

Jeremy Tankard’s Hungry Bird Booklaunch

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing long-time friend Jeremy Tankard launch his newest creation, Hungry Bird, at Vancouver Kidsbooks. As a library tech who does storytimes with preschoolers, I’m familiar with his other books. A favourite with the kids is Grumpy Bird, as you can read the book as an interactive with the kids acting out the animals plus you can discuss how you know when someone is angry and what we can do when we’re angry.


Along comes Hungry Bird, also a familiar feeling for the young and old. “Who brought me something to eat?” is the theme of this book, and again this will be an amazing picturebook for storytimes and early education. You can buy a copy from any retailer.

Congratulation, Jeremy, on an amazing book!




The Library Storytime Guy

As a library tech, one of my duties is to do an all-ages storytime twice a week. I generally gear this towards the 3-5-year-old age group as that is most commonly who attends. However, at the drop of a hat (as has happened) I have adapted for slightly younger/older. Being a male in an industry traditionally filled by women, I tend to be a novelty to some of my audience (though I think it’s far more common these days than most think it is). Thus far, this has never been negative, and quite a few caregivers have expressed their appreciation of my maleness. Just as there is a need for children to see women in roles traditionally filled by men, there is also a need for those same children to see men filling roles traditionally filled by women. I’ll be honest — I chose this vocation, not for that reason, but because I knew it was one I would love. End of story.

However, one of the challenges I face when choosing my stories is what to do when current cultural norms have shifted from classic tales. For example, Anne McGovern’s Too Much Noise, which I love, has an old man take in many animals and then at the end he just gives them away. *Smacks head* Sixteen years ago, I worked in a rescue shelter (and was gifted with my rescue dog) where I witnessed what happens first hand when people take that cavalier an attitude towards animals. This is an easy fix: at the end of the story, he takes the time to make sure every animal is transferred to a proper home. (He keeps the cat and the dog.)

Fairy tales present their own issues. Many are misogynistic, and as a male, I am always acutely aware of the messages I may be teaching my young audience. I came across this while considering Princess and the Pea, a story about a prince who is looking to marry and tests women by having them sleep on a mattress with a pea underneath it. If they don’t notice the pea, then they are not a true princess and not worthy of his attention.

Basically, this prince has reduced these women to having no value beyond that of their status in the world. It doesn’t matter if they are good people, kind, generous, have similar interests as him. (Probably because any woman in her right mind wouldn’t consider him a suitable suitor, and he’d be turned down.)

I like a challenge. As an author, it intrigues me to rewrite age-old tales for modern audiences. And we had a felt ready-made story to go along with this fairy tale.

This particular day, my regular 20 kids showed up. Moments before beginning the story, one of my coworkers leaned into our story barn (yes, we have a story barn!) and asked me to wait as there was a preschool group coming into the library to join us. Add another 20 kids so they were seated even outside the barn. It did occur to me that not only would parents hear my revamped story, but so also would the preschool teachers.

I started the story by telling them it was “Princess and the Pea,” but one that they may not have heard before. You see, this Prince was a young boy who was playing prince but was all alone. He never had anyone to play with and wished that he did. Along came a young girl who’s mother was a friend of the family, and she would be staying with them for awhile. As a joke, the boy placed a single pea under her mattress.

This pea made her mattress quite uncomfortable, so she asked him nicely for another mattress. And then another, and another. (The kids then counted the mattresses up to ten.) Each time she asked, she said “please” and “thank you.” In fact, she was so kind that he apologized for putting the pea under her mattress.

Because she said “please” and “thank you”, and because he said “sorry” when he had done something not very nice, they became the best of friends. And they played a prince and princess who, together, had many adventures throughout the land.

Everyone in the audience enjoyed my Princess and the Pea story, and I will definitely be telling it again.

Storytime Parachute

One of the perks of my new job as a library tech is that I get to do storytime twice a week with toddlers. The first one I did I was so nervous that I forgot the words to my first song! But I shrugged it off, and launched into the songs I hadn’t forgotten. Families came back, so I assumed they enjoyed themselves. Thanks in part to Jbrary (my favourite song I learned from them is featured at the end,) I have much improved.

Now that I’ve done quite a few, and have memorized a few dozen songs and rhymes, I’m experimenting with different ideas to keep storytime fresh. Last year, I bought a ukulele and am learning a few songs so, hopefully, soon I’ll be brave enough to play it for the kids. (Though I did play Jingle Bells on it for our Christmas event, and Ten in the Bed that same day as it’s only the “G” chord.)

My latest prop is my storytime parachute. I remember parachutes from when I was a kid, and I loved them. So I decided that it would be a cool thing to have in my storytime, and for two sessions I have added it to the last three rhymes and songs.

My parachute is 10×10 feet and fits perfectly in our storytime barn. (Yes, it’s a barn. And it’s AWESOME.) I found a few blogs where I could pull ideas and gain advice on how to use the chute, so I thought I’d share them here:

READ SING PLAY Adventures in early literacy – this is a fantastic blog with lots of great advice. It’s written by Kendra Lu Jones, who’s a children’s librarian in Tacoma.

STORYTIME KATIE – Katie is a Chicago early literacy librarian and has many great ideas.

So, this is me with my chute just before storytime. To keep things fresh and predictable, I’ll use it on Thursdays at my 10:30 AM storytime.


Also, as promised, my favourite Jbrary song that I sing every storytime because it always gets laughs and now my regulars all know the song. I sing the first version, and then after tell the parents about the … dreaded second version. The parents get a laugh about it, but I have a suspicion that they don’t believe me. Although, last week at babytime when we did Raffi’s Spider on the Floor as a tickle song I changed the words at the end to wishing the spider, not our children, were dead. They laughed at that, and then more so when I told them I softened it up for them.