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Goosebumps – Lessons from RL Stine books

This entry is part 16 of 17 in the series Armchair BEA 2013 - 2014

Goosebumps books provoked controversy

Goosebumps author RL Stine books deliver when it comes to horror for middle grade readers.

Goosebumps author RL Stine (Scholastic)

Goosebumps books capture the imagination of middle-grade readers, particularly boys. For me, that alone is enough to make them good books. However, the Goosebumps books have been the topic of discussion among writers, readers, and teachers ever since the first one hit the market in 1992. For years I read posts and comments, and listened to people put down the books. They were fluff. They were bad for children. They had no literary value. Those making the comments bemoaned the fact that children in droves gobbled up the Goosebumps books. All the while, I found I never could embrace that perspective. My main reason being that children read them. As a lifelong reader, any book that draws in even the most reluctant of readers has value and purpose. Like most, I hadn’t read them.

Goosebumps series read world-wide

The stats were amazing. In the first five years, RL Stine produced 62 Goosebumps books. His series is now in 32 languages and spin-offs continue. Today, RL Stine  has sold over 350 million books. Don’t know about you, but that pretty much boggles my mind. Stine keeps it simple. He says, “My job is to give kids the CREEPS.” For me, as a writer, his over-whelming success led me to take a closer look at his popular series.

 Goosebumps readers are discerning

Goosebumps series author RL Stine - book about the author

Goosebumps cast with RL Stine

To begin my quest to learn more about the appeal of the Goosebumps series by RL Stine, I knew what I had to do: Read the books. I spent one Saturday morning scanning the many volumes and trying to decide where I should start when an obvious devoted fan appeared.

I stood back and watched as he pulled books, examined the cover, read the blurb, and opened the pages. He did this several times. Finally, I summoned the courage to talk to this boy who clearly knew his RL Stine Goosebumps books. He instantly suggested I not start with the book in my hand. Instead, he ran his fingers over the volumes and began to pick out specific books that he recommended. Not only did he give me the titles, he gave me a brief summary of why I should read that book. Clearly, I hit pay dirt. I had a Goosebumps expert guiding me. He spent thirty minutes schooling me in Goosebumps.

What I learned from RL Stine

After reading several books in the Goosebumps series, I noticed a couple of things. First, RL Stine was, and is, masterful in the way he dispenses horror to young readers. He takes them to the very precipice where they don’t think they can handle anymore; then he quickly reels them back in by deftly deploying humor to release the pent-up tension. The scary snake coiled around a character’s leg becomes soft like a feather and tickles. The horrific is tamed. Stine’s readers know they can trust that he will provide them with a safe place. It’s okay to be scared.  Stine repeats this over and over.

While Stine says his books do not have a moral, I disagree. Morality is embedded within the structure of the stories. The characters must make choices. They take the wrong road at their peril. True, all works out in the end, but as in fairy tales, you may have to face a lot of scary situations and things that go bump in the night before you reach the end.

Whether they are labeled horror or thriller, RL Stine’s books continue to entrance children, and yes, the books continue to have a history of being challenged. I remain convinced that RL Stine and the Goosebumps series are a boon for young readers, and especially for those kids who are not book-tolerant. I say, “Go Goosebumps!”

Love to hear from my fellow Armchair BEA particpants and others. Share your thoughts below in the comment section.

Find more Goosebumps books –  RL Stine Goosebumps Or click on images below.

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  • IMAGES & AFFILIATE CREDITS: book covers and titles via Amazon.com affiliate program; Goosebumps Cast with Stine via Wikipedia

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  • Wesley

    I never read any of the goosebumps books when I was little. I’m too easily scared! haha

  • http://www.estellasrevenge.net Andi

    This is a stunning post! I was a young reader who adored RL Stine, though I was reading his stuff (Fear Street) before Goosebumps came to popularity. I think any books that can captivate young male readers are AMAZING, and I suspect I will introduce these to my son when he’s older. I hope he eats them up. :) Sharing this post via Pinterest and Twitter!

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com/ Vikk Simmons

    I was the opposite. Edgar Allan Poe was my constant companion. Loved to get the bejezus scared out of me. LOL

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com/ Vikk Simmons

    Oh wow, thank you, Andi. I cut my teeth on Edgar (Poe) and RL Stine hadn’t even thought of Goosebumps during my early years. I had Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and Saturday Night Weird Theater to keep me company. (Mind you, I always had my German Shepherd sitting on the couch next to me to keep me safe from the bogie man.) Horror done right can be a good thing. Thanks again, and thank you for leaving your response to my post.

  • Kathryn Trask

    I haven’t read any RL Stine although I do have them in the class library. I find that at the moment nobody reads them, but in the past I have had avid readers go through all of them and read everything else as well!

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com/ Vikk Simmons

    At the time I did my research, the Goosebumps were all the rage. Interesting that interest has fallen off, at least in your area. I do think Stine is still a good writer to study. I know I learned a thing or two by reading his books. Middle grade is a wonderful time for reading.

  • Karsyn Smith

    I never read any RL Stine. I’m not sure why. I was sheltered as a kid, so I might not have been allowed to. Dunno! Just never read ’em. I listed some less known authors on my Armchair
    BEA Day 5
    post.

  • http://flirtingwithfiction.com/ Stephanie

    I haven’t read any, but all of my kids were fans. Huge fans. Great post by the way.

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com/ Vikk Simmons

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com/ Vikk Simmons

    Thanks, Stephanie. Glad to hear your kids were fans. I love it when kids are big fans of an author and gobble up his or her books. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  • http://chapterbreak.net Julie S.

    Ooh I remember reading Goosebumps book as a kid :)