Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: Goosebumps Collection 13

This entry is part 69 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

This weekend was a bit of a loss.

Productivity wise, I mean.

No, no, don’t try and make me feel better. I know I should have done more.

Okay, I did 18,000 words of my novel which was only 2,000 short of the target, and pretty good, but let’s remember I had three blogs to do, and I only managed one.

You think you’re disappointed. They’ll still come out on schedule for you. I’m the one who’s got to do them now.

In which case, let’s not beat around the bush. Let’s talk about –

Goosebumps and Younger me

Before we get into talking about this current collection and what I thought of them as a (supposedly) grown man, let’s talk about my experiences with Goosebumps as a youth.

The original series began the year I was born – 1992 – and by the time I was old enough to start reading them, they were fully fixed as one of the most popular series of children’s books going.

They are indeed the only children’s book I can remember reading as a child within their genre. The Darren Shan books came later of course, with the first of The Saga coming out in 2000. But I didn’t get into those until I was in year nine (ish) by which time the series had just wrapped up (they all came out within a four year period) and they were for slightly older readers anyway.

I have memories of a lot of the books – especially the older ones like Welcome to Ghost Town, Stay Out of the Basement and, of course, the Slappy the Dummy books, but these are vague, broken things.

Slightly clearer is the TV series which was on after school and all of which I could watch without trouble except for those about mummies.

I had a fear of Egypt.

Still do, though mummy films don’t both me so much now.

So I was well versed with the Goosebumps books back in the day but, as we all do, I grew out of them. I moved on to bigger and better, and unlike a lot of fiction for younger readers, I never went back.

Until now.

Goosebumps Collection 13

When it comes to Goosebumps, it’s the original series or nothing, for me. I feel like they got worse along the way, which makes sense given he was ploughing out about 30 a year.

I do remember some of the Give Yourself Goosebumps ones (like the choose your own adventure books) being quite good, but let’s not talk about those here.

At one point we must have owned a lot of the Goosebumps books, between my brother and me, but over the years the majority have fallen by the wayside until, finally, we were left with just one book.

The Goosebumps collection 13, containing Night of the Living Dummy 3, Bad Hare Day and Egg Monsters from Mars. Which initially fell as books 40, 41 & 42 in the series.

A lot of books work well in childhood and adulthood, but maybe these are books that are for slightly older kids anyway – like the Cherub series – or books with universal appeal – Harry Potter.

Goosebumps, on the other hand, feel very much like children’s books and children’s books alone.

The stories are simplistic, the chapters are short, and not a lot happens.

The classic Goosebumps hook, where something shocking happens at the end of each chapter, only for it to be revealed as something innocuous the next chapter is alive and well in all these books, and the pacing is good, but these really don’t hold great appeal for Adult me, as they did when I was a child.

Of course, the base is good, and the storytelling, is something for any writer to emulate.

As I mentioned in my Cirque Du Freak review (I think) Darren Shan did just this. He was inspired by a Goosebumps book to start the Saga of Darren Shan.

He took the principles of fast-paced chapters with scares at the end, a fast-moving story, but took the plot up a step to make it work for an older audience with a more nuanced story. One that eventually carried him over 12 successful books.

Interestingly enough, Bad Hare Day was a lot like Cirque Du Freak, and I wonder if it was from this that Darren Shan picked up.

In both, a boy goes late at night to a show he is not supposed to go to, where he becomes transfixed with a particular act. Transfixed enough to later steal from them.

In both, the stolen item then causes some mortal peril to happen to someone close to our lead character, and both are forced to join with the act and leave their families behind to reverse the issue.

The main difference, of course, is that Shan adds layers to his story, and it is this that transcends a quick, easy story for kids alone to a story that works for everyone.

That is not to slag off Goosebumps. These are books designed as easy to read novellas. They are meant to be easy enough for children to get into and enjoy, even if they are not big readers.

In this, they succeed swimmingly, which is why they continue to endure twenty-six years after they first came out.

I would read them to my children, even if I wouldn’t read them for myself anymore.

Next Time

Next time out we face what I think must be the longest book tackled yet at just under 1000 pages. 

Taking in the whole of time from the big bang up to 2011, we have 1001 days that changed the world. 

See you for that. 

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International worst-selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). An author of mystery and suspense novels including the James Perry Series of mysteries.

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