Readers in Residence: Zombie Attack

Zombie readers in residence
Category: Reading

It’s the final stretch of my residency with The Scottish Book Trust and fabulous Falkirk Libraries and the joy that is getting to do whatever I want!

During the past year one of the most luxurious aspects of the residency has been having the time to plan effectively. Scottish Book Trust also taught us to identify a need and look at our projects from a ‘reader’s point of view’.

Over the 9 months I’ve had all sorts of ideas for what I wanted to do in my final quarter and they must have changed at least 3 times. Ultimately though, I want to do what I have done all year, engage young readers - reluctant or ravenous - through stories in playful and creative ways.

For Book Week Scotland last year storyteller Allison Galbraith and I did a double act in a Kelpie’s head with Grangemouth High School. It was a cold but bright day and we held an S1 English class hostage for an hour before treating them to well-earned refreshments in the new visitor centre in Helix Park.

Allison told the story of Finn McCool and the Young Heroes Children and then we asked them to tell us what talent the person sitting next to them had.

We were offered computer programmers, acrobats, runners, strategists, jokers, creative thinkers and carers. Then we asked them to find someone who complemented their own skill and pair up, one should choose to be the letter ‘S’ and one a ‘Z’.

Then we split them up and I read them the start of a story I’d written. The scenario was that during a school trip to the Kelpies the refinery siren had sung and a deadly chemical had escaped, which activated a fungus spore that attacked the brain and was spread by touch and moisture. Both the tour guide and their teacher, in my story, had been infected and died.

The Survivors were inside the Kelpie’s head. Survivors had to think what skills they would employ to stop the zombies getting in and how they might get food and water. The zombies were in the visitor centre café and had to work out how to stop the survivors getting to the food and water and how to get into the Kelpie’s head and infect the survivors.

We had to work fast – it was November and the sun was setting, a low mist was starting to creep in from the canal. Ten minutes later we shared the cunning and creative strategies each group had worked up – YUK!

Let’s just say that using maths, geography, biology and chemistry the survivors did dodge the zombies and make it to the visitor centre for hot chocolate and cake, but… little did they know the zombies had licked all the food. They say smooth seas never made a skilled sailor!

In January I returned to visit the class at their school to hear their own creative writing and see the fantastic illustrations and graphic stories inspired by their day. So I am now writing a teen novel based on a similar scenario (minus the zombies) and will be returning to share my journey with the class in April and May. The aim? To get published so I can continue to infect the Curriculum for Excellence with creative arts projects and by getting the point of view of these amazing teenagers across.


Think your class would be inspired by zombies? Check out some more infectious ideas inspired by Darren Shan! Find out what else our Readers in Residence have been up to here

Jan Bee Brown

Jan Bee Brown is currently Scottish Book Trust Reader in Residence for Falkirk Libraries.

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