Jack and the Zombie Box
Writer: Bruce Brown
Artist: Mike Barentine
“Parents are not interested in justice, they’re interested in peace and quiet.” That quote, by Bill Cosby, is printed on the very first page of this book, and how true it is. Speaking as a parent, there are days when you just want peace and quiet; some time without nonsense, fighting, shouting, etc. How far will you go to obtain that euphoric state? That is one of the main focuses of Arcana’s Jack and the Zombie Box by Bruce Brown. This book really resonates with me as a parent, and recalls memories of being a child as well.
The main character, Jack, is a boy who has a vivid imagination, but that imagination gets stifled indirectly in this all-ages read. Jack is a boy growing up in a typical family setting. An older brother, sister, mother and father – all are characters that make appearances in the story (although the brother and sister aren’t integral to the plot). One night, Jack’s vivid imagination gets him in hot water with his mother. She screams to Jack’s father for help, and he quickly puts the fire out. Now, the manner in which he calms Jack down is the eventual problem. Jack’s mother has a meeting out of town for a few days and it’s up to dad to run the show. This is where things get a little crazy.
There are some similarities in this book to the movie Mr. Mom (1983 – Michael Keaton, Teri Garr). Now, not exactly, but definitely with the out of place dad running the show theme. I’m a huge fan of that movie, so this book is one that really hits home with me for several reasons. First, I can appreciate the subtleties with the parenting perspectives. On the other side of the coin, though, I can really associate with the main character, Jack. I don’t feel like I’ve ever had the imagination Jack has in this book (i.e. fighting against a stuffed toy as pirates), but I did use some inventiveness when playing with action figures and other toys as a kid. Without giving too much away, I definitely got sucked into things that totally took away my imagination for quite a while, as Jack does in this book. There were a few moments that anyone would laugh at for the same reason. The use of certain “mainstream” TV and other media references that had me laughing over and over again.
The art here is very serviceable for everyone. The cartoony style is good and is easy on the eyes. Not too over-the-top at all. I usually see artists go too far with books that are all-ages or aimed at a younger crowd. Mike Barentine did a great job of walking the line between real life and a comic book. Sometimes, Jack had sort of a sinister look on his face. Whether that was intentional or not, I don’t know for sure, but it added a nice layer to the character. The colors were fairly vibrant, but not to the point of being distracting. There were several references to TV shows in the book which made me laugh when recalling my kids watching them years ago.
As this is the second book by Arcana (click here for the other) and Bruce Brown that I’ve reviewed, it’s easy to send Bruce and Arcana my gratitude for doing such high quality all-ages books. It seems to me that this is such a lost art form in this day and age, and one that hopefully has a revival in the years to come. Again, if you are looking for a book that has humor, real life scenarios that most people can relate to, and just an all around fun read, then pick up a copy of Jack and the Zombie Box for yourself or as a gift for a young reader in your family. Heck, pick up a copy, read it, and then donate it to your local public library and pass on the good vibes!
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