Fifth Grade Screams: The Roaming Dead by Frank Livingston and Janee’ Livingston is an eBook written for kids. It follows three main characters: Phoenix (Nix), Jean-Luc (Jean) and Eddy (Earth Blossom). You might be thinking gosh, what weird names for kids? Well, there is good reason for them. Nix’s father calls his children names that relate to states in the US. His older sister is named Savannah and the youngest is Memphis. There’s more to his family but we’ll get into that later. Jean’s family are crazy about space and aliens, and Eddy’s… well, his mother takes the stereotype of a hippy who only eats food that isn’t processed.
They’re fifth graders who live in Bellybutton and go to Swashbuckler Elementary (what great names!). Everything runs like normal, the only real disturbance to begin with is the introduction of new kid Eddy. That is until they’re sent home early one day for no particular reason… but that can tell it’s something serious and want to investigate further
I’m getting ahead here. You see, Fifth Grade Screams might be a book aimed and written for children, but it has heavy foreshadowing and clever family dynamics that teach moral lessons weaved through the writing. These two factors make a sweet and whimsical text like this one tests the minds of those growing up to think beyond themselves and what’s written in front of them. This doesn’t mean this book can only be enjoyed by youngsters though.
As I stated earlier, it’s all pretty normal to begin with. Three kids running around with hyperactive and creative minds. We begin to see the odd background of Eddy, who’s backpack is huge and heavy full of who knows what. Nix and Jean accept it all, abrupt questions about it more for their curiosity rather than being nasty. They have a discussion about whether Bigfoot or a group of zombies would win a fight. They decide a group of zombies more destructive than Bigfoot (which I agree with). It’s all very believable that children would innocently talk about this.
However, it’s until they return from lunch that their teacher starts looking frazzled. Not long after that, all the kids are sent home. Nix, Jean and Eddy want to investigate, to spy on what’s happening in the teacher’s lounge. Unfortunately, Nix’s sister Savvy (Savannah) has turned up, which means they have to leave now to Nix’s father store.
This isn’t just any store, though. This a kids heaven. A pizza and ice-cream crafting store. Anything you can imagine for pizza or ice-cream, they’ll make it for you! Nix’s father is called Bisbee, although the kids will call him BB. He wasn’t allowed to eat sweets or greasy foods when he was younger, hence why he started the store. Once the three kids arrive, BB asks Nix to check on Mems (Memphis). It’s not until we meet Memphis we see their family in a new perspective.
You see, Mems was born disabled. When she was born, the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, cutting off the oxygen to her brain and caused brain damage. Nix’s mum took it hard and BB let her go and lead the life she wanted. Pretty deep situation for the kids but they brush it off as if it’s normal and go back to their day.
There is a bit more travelling between places where we meet Jean’s parents. They absolutely love space, aliens and things abnormal. Her parents are called Wezn and One of Three (yes, that’s her full name). Again, we see an interesting side to Jean’s family. They believe in things that others don’t and can be seen as quite eccentric and unusual. The kids don’t mind though, it’s just how it is.
So, you have three kids with unusual backgrounds who accept one another. But what is happening that caused them to get sent home early? Remember that discussion about zombies and Bigfoot? Well, there’s your foreshadowing. There are other references to an invasion, but soon it is determined it’s the ‘end of the world’ since dead people are coming back to life. The three kids and their families all pile into Nix’s house and bunker down. News reports say it’s dangerous and to not go outside… but the three kids are too curious to let something like this happen without getting up close and personal.
Well, they do meet a zombie. They call him Barnaby and they find out that the zombies are harmless. Although they are different and come from somewhere else, they only want to roam free and not be hunted. Persuading BB to believe this, they organise the Sheriff to come and see for himself. Before long, everyone realises how harmless the zombies are and they coexist with them without fear. Let’s not start on Bigfoot, but let’s say there might be an appearance later.
Overall, this text is one that takes the highly relevant theme of acceptance that weaves it through a whimsical children’s story. It provides unsubtle foreshadowing that provides a younger audience the ability to look forward to what is going to happen later in the story. It highlights the importance of not letting stereotypes get in the way of understanding a person while still keeping it light, fun and enjoyable for kids, teens and adults to read.
What I thought
Here’s the mystery review this week! I decided to divert from the planned list of reviews and try something different. Reading an eBook for children is not only something that is different to what I usually do but it provided a little bit of relaxation and easy-reading on a platform I’m not used to.
I must admit, I really enjoyed this story. Yes, it’s written for kids. Yes, it’s blatantly obvious what’s going to happen. Yes, some of the characters and their families are hard to believe. It’s all of these factors that make it so enjoyable to read. I liked the exaggeration of features within the families. All the descriptions and conversations were fun and light-hearted. Even the conversation about Mems disabilities had a beautiful innocence to it.
What really struck me while reading this was the serious theme of acceptance the underlined the storyline. It smacks us over the head by exaggerating the differences between the families and the way we are introduced to the zombies. However, the ending is so sweet that it makes you wonder why life can’t be that simple between people. Maybe that’s me trying to romanticise life and what it could be, but teaching kids this is so important to ensure acceptance for people with different backgrounds are not segregated or stereotyped negatively anymore.
This story is lovely and I’d recommend primary school kids to give it a go. The language is done in such a way that I know I would have loved to have read it as a kid. I mean I loved reading it now! It’s a story that isn’t too long, so parents and teachers can read this to their kids without it being too long or dry.
Want to know where you can download this eBook? You can buy it by clicking HERE for only 99 cents (US$). For more information, check out the Livingston Instagram page at @livingstonwriting and click on the link in their bio.
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.