A Good Night for Shooting Zombies

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Martin’s life changes the day his dad is killed in a car accident. No one talks about it, his mum refuses to leave the house, and his only consolation through the sleepless nights is solving difficult maths problems. Until he forms an unlikely friendship with his neighbour Vusi who dreams of making a zombie movie. The two are plunged head first into a wild adventure, pulling everyone they know along with them. Shortlisted for the Found in Translation award, it has also since been made into a popular film in Afrikaans.

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction / Contemporary

Author: Jaco Jacobs

Paperback, 160 pages

Expected publication: April 4th, 2019

Publishing House: Oneworld Publications

My Review

This lovely middle-grade adventure novel was translated from Afrikaans to English and is shortlisted for the Found in Translation award. Since publication, it has also been made into a popular film in Afrikaans.

Martin and his mom live alone after the death of his father. They own a small plot of land, tend to their chickens and sell the eggs locally for income. Martin had to do some growing up in the last two years since his mom is not leaving the house and is still devastated over their loss. She keeps her bedroom and all his father's things locked up, watches movies late into the night and sleeps on the couch. She used to go to work, but not anymore.

Martin is a liked boy in the community. His egg delivery runs are welcome by so many and he saves every bit of coin he receives. In school, he is an average student but excels in math. It was his father that had a brain for numbers, and Martin is following step. Everything in Martin's life is analyzed mathematically. He loves to calculate with exponents and determines different number-combinations to be a certain way.

One afternoon, one of his beloved chickens, Kathleen, is attacked by a neighbor’s dog. Martin goes to investigate and meets the family that owns the dog. This is where he meets Vusi, a homeschooled boy with cancer. The two of them hit it off immediately. Vusi is a strong & bright kid with a love for movies. His doctors have given him a survival rate of 40/60 %. His current treatments are going well and Martin and Vusi decide to make a movie with zombies. Soon, Vusi’s bedroom becomes too small for their action and they begin sneaking out the window many afternoons to shoot their movie at a barn. What they don’t know is, that this barn is simultaneously used as a storehouse by a local criminal group storing their spoils. And, as fate has it, they get tangled up in a much larger and more dangerous plot then they had anticipated!


Firstly, I loved the flair of this translated book. It reminds me of my own childhood when kids still played outside and used any and all resources to feed the imagination and play. Secondly, Martin’s and Vusi’s friendship is true and without spoil. I loved this camaraderie and the authenticity of their burdens and their amazing spirits. Therefore, I found this book very lovely and pulling on my heartstrings. Not everything in this book commences to a happy ending, but the message is one of selflessness. Without it being too heavy or dramatic, the author did an amazing job to balance out the heavy subject content with the joy of life and friendship.

I would love for kids here to read this middle-grade book. My only fear is, that many are already too desensitized to the material. Nevertheless, if you are in search of a book with great morals, this would be one to try.

I received a digital copy of this novel from Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.

All opinions are my own.

Thank you :)