R.L. Stine probably thanks his lucky stars that he was born with such a cool name. Born Robert Lawrence Stine, he has scared thousands of kids in the past twenty-five years.
Stine is great because he really likes what he does. It seems like scaring people gives him a thrill, which makes me glad. Also, he has written enough books to get a kid from third grade up through high school without rereading anything. He is prolific. (According to him, he’s written around 330 books!)
If you grew up in the 1990s, you probably read the Goosebumps series. Goosebumps premiered in 1992, and the books are still being published! Each book is a self-contained horror story aimed at elementary age kids. Some example plots: a murderous ventriloquist dummy! A sponge with teeth! Plants that come alive! These books are short, scary, fun, and quick to read. They are not Ulysses, which in my opinion, is a good thing.
This leads me to another reason why I love R.L. Stine: his books are incredibly accessible. Growing up, I loved to read, but many of my classmates treated reading like it was torture. However, when it came to Goosebumps books, these same classmates ate them like candy. One boy in my third grade class started a Goosebumps club, of which I was the only female member. My (amazing, spectacular, delightful) elementary school librarian detested the Goosebumps books, but she kept buying them and keeping them on the shelves because she knew they got reluctant readers flipping the pages.
The Goosebumps series is also known for huge twist endings. These range from, “They were all dead!” to “The monster is still out there!” and everything in-between. Some of them are actually pretty creepy and put the rest of the book into a completely different light.
Stine’s books for teenage readers include the Fear Street series, which I inhaled. They are kind of like Goosebumps but more mature. There’s a lot of dates gone horribly wrong, house parties where the killer is on the guest list, and cemeteries on the way home from school. They are like bonbons with phantasm filling.
I also love that R.L. Stine has a web presence these days. He’s on Twitter (@RL_Stine) and his website is pretty neat. You can even download a complete list of the Goosebumps and Fear Street books so you can see how many you’ve read! I have read 48 of the 62 books in the original Goosebumps series. That makes me proud.
Here are some classics to get you started!
This is the first R.L. Stine book I ever read, and it’s still my favorite, I think. If the title didn’t tip you off, it’s sort of like the boy who cried wolf, but with a girl, and with monsters.
The twist in this one is sort of crazy. It’s already scary; kids start disappearing at summer camp, and it could be a monster in the woods. Or is it a counselor?
I am so creeped out by this book. There’s a sponge-like thing, it has teeth, it’s hard to kill…and it lives under your kitchen sink. To this very day, I am scared of the cabinets underneath sinks. Thank you, R.L. Stine.
Fear Street series
Someone shot Evan a year ago, and then his girlfriend moved away. Now she’s moving back, and some of Evan’s friends are throwing a party. But a killer is invited, too!
The Outdoors Club is going on a trip to Fear Island–alone!
Chelsea has never had a boyfriend, and then two guys ask her out. But one of them is a killer.
In short, R.L. Stine’s books are fun, over-the-top, and actually pretty scary. He is amazing at what he does, which is scaring children. I hope he keeps writing for a long, long time.