Once upon a time there was a boy who wanted to be a zombie, but his parents said “no.” The boy grew up to be a dad and had a son of his own who wanted to be a zombie. This time, the answer was “why not?”
It’s a little more complicated than that, but it is the basic story behind the children’s book “Jack and the Zombie Attack” by Chris and Amy Hernandez.
Chris Hernandez said his first brush with the walking dead came on a playground when he was about 7 years old. Another child was wandering around saying “brains.” Young Hernandez joined in and later learned that zombies were from the movie “Night of the Living Dead” by George Romero.
“When I came home later that day I asked my dad if he could rent it for me,” Hernandez remembered. “He immediately said ‘NO!!!! That’s a demonic movie!’ BAM I was sold! I had to see this movie no matter what!”
Seeing the movie proved to be a bit of a challenge for the elementary school student. There was a failed attempt to sneak the video out of a rental store before it was successfully obtained from a friend’s parent’s collection. Once they had the tape, Hernandez and his friends still couldn’t watch it, however, as they didn’t have a VCR of their own.
“What a tease, to have one of the greatest cult classics in your possession but no way to watch it!” he said. “We finally found a friend whose parents let us watch it because, well, they didn’t speak English and didn’t understand what a zombie was anyways.”
And what did he think when he was finally able to watch the movie his parents had forbidden?
“It was everything I thought it would be and more! In fact I couldn’t sleep with the light off for days!” Hernandez recalled, noting it was worth the punishment he received when his parents learned of what he’d done.
In an example of the proverbial apple not falling far from the tree, Hernandez’s son Jack, then 5 years old, became infatuated with zombies after seeing a preview for the first season of AMC’s television adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead.”
“Jack already started telling everyone he watched it (even though it wasn’t even out yet) and you would be so surprised how many of our friends and family scolded me for allowing him to see such terrible things!” Hernandez said.
Even though he hadn’t actually seen the show, Jack’s fascination with zombies couldn’t be stopped.
“I’ll never forget walking outside one day and seeing him dressed up in a post apocalypse outfit; torn up jeans, ripped shirt, and trashed play shoes, walking like a zombie and creeping slowly towards a rabbit that was inside the backyard,” Hernandez said. “I yelled ‘HEY! What are you doing?!’ The rabbit ran off as Jack turned towards me and said pouting, ‘DAD! You scared him away! I was going to eat his…(creepy mean voice) BWAINS!!!’ I burst into laughter! It was the funniest thing ever!”
Jack’s next step in zombie evolution came courtesy of a babysitting aunt who had a flair with make-up.
“When I returned home, there he was, but this time in full zombie make-up! I laughed! How could I not pass up a photo opportunity? I shot a bunch of pictures then had an even better idea!” Hernandez recalled. “I quickly ran inside the house and grabbed my sketchbook and started to draw pictures of this little boy staggering down the street with his teddy bear that was chewed up.”
After looking at the images he’d created, Hernandez realized there was a story there and set about writing it. However, being more an illustrator than writer, he knew his story needed help. To find it, he turned to his wife Amy an educator and experienced writer.
Hernandez said he explained the basics of the story: A little boy named Jack wants to be a zombie, decides to go on a rumpus with a bunch of them and then shortly after he decides he wants to go home. While the storyline itself might sound familiar to fans of works like “Where the Wild Things Are,” Hernandez said there are differences.
“I explained to Amy that I wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, just put a different rim on it!” he said. “What my wife Amy came up with was so amazing, I was just blown away at her creativity and imagination!”
With the story set, Hernandez created the art using watercolor and ink. The end result is a book that is both dark and beautiful.
“’Jack and the Zombie Attack’ is a children’s book that is a very rated G story that has a moral,” Hernandez said. “It’s a tribute to classic children’s literature and a return to good and fun writing such as Shel Silverstein, Doctor Seuss, Maurice Sendack, and many others who broke rules and crossed lines.”
Hernandez said he and his wife just had a very successful book release party with well over 1,000 people in attendance, including a real-life zombie. He explained that Michelle Helmeczy, a zombie from The Walking Dead, came out from Georgia to attend.
“We were totally blown away at the fan base that we have for the book,” he said. “It’s been circulating all over the High Desert and inland Empire with both controversy and praise.”
So, now that Jack is back from his zombie adventure, where will he be going next? Hernandez said his next adventure will be with pirates in a children’s book designed to tackle the tough issue of bullying.
“Pirates have been the biggest bullies in history. One thing I will not tolerate while volunteering at schools is this heinous act of brutality. I was bullied growing up because I was always a small guy and yes, it is a sore spot for me,” Hernandez explained. “Rather than focusing on school and enjoying childhood, I was constantly tested and pushed by bullies and no child should have to go through life fighting and defending themselves for who they are as a person.”
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