Return of Zombert by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Ryan Andrews
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Number of pages: 160
Publishing: July 13th, 2021
Source: Edelweiss +
Opening Lines: "In a certain corporate headquarters on the edge of town, all was quiet."
After having escaped from YummCo Laboratories in the first book of the series, Zombert has now found a home with Mellie Gore. Bert continues to be adventurous, spending his nights regaining his strength and hunting. Meanwhile, back at the lab the scientists have been hard at work with their next experiment and Y-92 looks to be a promising replacement. However, the Big Boss is still concerned that Zombert has not yet been returned to the lab, so YummCo stages a Harvest Festival and a Best Pet Contest in hopes of drawing Bert out of hiding. Desperately in need of the money to pay off Bert's vet bill, Mellie enters him in the talent contest. When Bert has an adverse reaction on stage and is taken by YummCo employee's, Mellie and her best friend Danny must join forces in order to save him.
Return of Zombert is a quick read, slightly on the shorter side, with enough mystery to keep the reader entertained. There's the sense that something makes Bert unusual, and his past is beginning to take shape driving the storyline, while making him a sympathetic character. However, I'm sure much more will be fleshed out in the next book. The story alternates between Mellie and Zombert, rising in tension and has an ending that is especially creepy. Bert's fate is left unresolved, which might be unsettling to some readers. Think along the lines of a cross between Bunnicula and the Rats of NIMH, a little macabre but not too scary.
The art work in my review copy wasn't finalized, but I really enjoyed those that I did get a chance to see. I'm also in love with that cover. Mellie is really the highlight of the story for the love and care that she gives Bert. She wants people to see that being weird is alright, and that there are many good qualities to Bert that make him special. I especially love the relationship that they share. The moments where Bert is sleeping on her bed and purring. Kara LaReau wonderfully portrays all of Bert's animal instincts and behaviors. This would make for a fun Halloween read, but defiantly start with the first book, Rise of Zombert.