Unlikely Character Provides Teachable Moments in Edward Kent's Books
December 13, 2011 by Lisa McMahon. MA'09
The title character in Edward Kent's series of books is very much like the children who read them ”“ friendly, inquisitive, and eager to learn.
But there is one notable difference ”“ Ed is a zombie.
While that may seem an unlikely character for books geared to children in kindergarten through third grade, Edward, '87, M.S.Ed.'90, says the books, and his namesake, have been well-received. It seems that Zombie Ed provides “just the right amount of spookiness” for young readers.
And he also teaches them important lessons, including how to stand up for themselves when confronted by a bully.
Stop Bullying Me! I'm a Zombie. So What? is the fifth in the Zombie Ed series. Edward hopes that the story, which was inspired by the suicide of a young boy who had been bullied by classmates in his middle school, might contribute to stopping this growing problem.
“This is a big topic, it's an important topic, especially to the younger kids, because a lot of this usually happens in middle school and high school,” says Edward. “But maybe something could be done to curb it early on.”
The fact that Ed is a zombie provided the perfect opportunity to tackle the topic of bullying, says Edward. Because Zombie Ed looks like a typical little boy, albeit with an unusually bony arm and monsters for friends, he serves as a “sort of universal victim” who is singled out for being different. Told in rhyme, the story teaches children that everyone is more alike than some realize.
The idea for Zombie Ed was born out of Edward's childhood fascination with zombies. After doing a little research, he realized that there weren't any books about zombies for children and decided that he could write one himself.
“I can turn a phrase, I'm creative, I bet I could write a children's book and I could probably illustrate it myself,” he recalls thinking.
Interestingly, the idea for Zombie Ed had actually occurred to Edward years before, when he had done some rough sketches in a journal. But time and the daily obligations of work and family prevented him from developing the idea further. Now, recently downsized from his job, Edward had the time to devote to concentrate on bringing the Zombie Ed character to life, so to speak.
“I don't even think I went and got that journal, I didn't even know if I could put my hands on it at the time, so I did a whole new character,” Edward says. “I just started writing. I figured I can rhyme, I'm a former elementary school teacher, so I just wrote the words down first and then I drew the pictures to match them.”
That book, Zombie Ed Counts to Twenty, took Edward less than a week to complete. After self-publishing it through Lulu, Edward began working on other titles in the series, including Zombie Ed Knows His ABC's, Zombie Ed Loves Halloween! and Zombie Ed Thinks School Is Cool! To promote his work, he's done book readings in local schools and launched a website and a Facebook page.
While the Zombie Ed series has been front and center recently, he has also been working on a young adult novel, Ed Undead. This tale of a teenager who is half zombie takes place in a small town based on Edward's hometown of Wilson, N.Y.
He says it's about three-quarters of the way done and he hopes to have it available in early 2012.
Edward's fond memories of his time as an undergraduate in the NU Theatre Department just may provide an ending to his novel. “Maybe at the end of the story Ed and his girlfriend will be hiding out in the old theatre at Niagara University or something like that,” he laughs. “It's actually a good idea.”