Posted in Fear Street Recaps

Recap #85: Ghosts of Fear Street #26: Go To Your Tomb – Right Now, A.K.A. “Absolutely No Giants In This Book”

Title: Go To Your Tomb – Right Now!

Author: Carolyn Crimi [Wing: What even is this weirdness, someone not Stine writing Fear Street. The horror. THE HORROR.]

Cover Artist: Mark Garro

Tagline: “Talk About Being Grounded!”

Summary: You Meet Some Weird People In The Fear Street Cemetery…

Like Luana. She just appeared there when Jack was taking a shortcut through the cemetery. She said she had powers. And she told Jack she could make him invisible.

Being invisible would be cool, Jack thinks. But he’s not sure he wants to go through with it. After all, how far can you trust a ghost?

[Wing: If you’ve read a single book or heard a single story about Fear Street, you would know that you can’t trust a ghost at all, JACK. Also, why do people keep hanging out in the Fear Street cemetery? You should all know better by now!]

Initial Thoughts

My first foray into reviewing the “Ghosts of Fear Street” series, which is, as you could tell from the cover, “Goosebumps Meets Fear Street.” However, pretty much every book in the series was ghostwritten, and the publishing info before the title page informs you of the actual writer. I’m not familiar with Carolyn Crimi’s writing, other than she possibly ghostwrote “Fun With Spelling,” a Goosebumps short story.

I decided to pick a later entry in the series because no one ever reviews or talks about them. All the recaps I’ve found have only focused on the first ten or fifteen books in the series, so I thought it’d be more productive to shed light on the more obscure titles.

This is the first one to feature the redesigned logo and cover layout, with the title banner of haunted houses and ghosts similar to the revamped look the “Fear Street” books received. However, the new designed only lasted until the next entry, and then they were redesigned again with the CGI art up until the series ended. I have to say, the “Ghosts” series did a better job with the redesign than the Fear Street books did.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with this book the way I did because it’s so off the walls. I should mention for some reason the summaries given by the online book stores mention something about Luana really being a giant and I don’t know where that came from because nothing like that happens here.

Oh, Wing, you’re really not gonna enjoy the penultimate battle sequence. For about eight reasons.

[Wing: EWWWW WHY WHY WHY WHY IS IT ALWAYS THAT. (I really do appreciate your warnings!) I’d never even heard of this series until recently, and up until this moment, was tentatively excited, because I like Fear Street and Goosebumps (generally). NOT SO DAMN EXCITED NOW THOUGH, AM I.]


Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #83: Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Title: Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: N/A

Summary:  Reader Beware– You’re In For Ten More Scares!

Can Jeff convince his parents there’s a live mummy in the basement? Will Adam escape from a monstrous flying gargoyle? Is Brian’s boarding school turning kids into robots? Find out in these ten creepy Goosebumps short stories guaranteed to make you shiver!

[Wing: Stine is making a lot of guarantees with these books!]

Initial Thoughts

I’m not really sure what to say the theme for this collection is. The cover would have you think it’s summer related, but not really. It feels like some sort of middle ground between the first collection and the fifth, which was also the strangest. I think I can safely say you don’t really know what to expect from some of these titles, and they certainly are a bit more imaginative.

One story was adapted for the French novella line, and three of them got turned into TV episodes (one was a two-parter!). I think my favorite would have to be the last because it’s got a twist ending that’s definitely a lot of fun and won’t have you screaming in frustration.

Oh, and apparently this book came with a pair of actual boxers! [Wing: … what.]

For these subtitles I’ll be doing riffs on stereotypical anime and manga episode titles, like from Sailor Moon.

Oh and, Wing, hon, you’re really not gonna like the second story. [Wing: Greaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.]


Posted in Fear Street Recaps

Recap #81 Fear Hall: The Conclusion by R. L. Stine A.K.A. “And You Thought Student Loans Were Scary!”

Title: Fear Hall: The Conclusion (obviously follows Fear Hall: The Beginning)

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Franco Accornero

Tagline: “Welcome back to the most terrifying dorm on campus!”

Summary: “A Special Message From R.L. Stine”

Dear Readers:

I hope you’ll join me for the conclusion of Fear Hall. I think it’s one of my scariest finishes ever!

Where will Hope go now that her secret has been revealed? Does she realize that her friends aren’t real friends? Does she know who the vicious killer really is? Are there more shocking surprises in store for her?

Find out the answers in FEAR HALL: The Conclusion. I had so much evil fun writing it, I scared myself!

[Wing: I am still both charmed and confused by Stine’s special message on these books. Why? How? … Why?]

Initial Thoughts

Back to Fear Hall for the last time. Were you guys scared by R.L. Stine’s take on mental illness? I know I was!

[Wing: “Scared” might not be the right word for my response last time… I do hope this goes better. I doubt it will. Also, student loans are terrifying.]

The ending of this tragedy follows directly after the last book’s climax, and believe me, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. If you haven’t read the recap for the first book, I insist you do so because otherwise it’s gonna be difficult to understand what’s going on and why, even with the short recap.


Posted in Graveyard School recaps

Recap #79: Graveyard School #3: The Headless Bicycle Rider, A.K.A. “The Adventures of Algernon and Mr. Toad”

Title: Graveyard School #3 – The Headless Bicycle Rider

Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Barry Jackson

Tagline: N/A

Summary:  Will The New Kid At Graveyard School Keep His Cool Or Lose His Head? [Wing: AMAZING.]

Even though the class bully makes fun of his name, Algie (short for Algernon) is enjoying Graveyard School and his new town. But things start to change for Algie when he gets a new customer on his paper route. The ride to old Mr. Bates’s house is dark and creepy, and rumor has it someone was beheaded there long ago.

Algie doesn’t believe the rumors, and he’s willing to brave his paper route. Until the headless bicycle rider appears…

Initial Thoughts

Round three of Graveyard School and this time we get a first hand look of how a child acclimates themselves to old G.S.. Algie is the first new addition to the ongoing cast who wasn’t mentioned in the very beginning of the series or was always simply there and never referred to, and he quickly becomes a mainstay among the sixth grade cast. We further get a glimpse of the best and worst the kids can offer, the best in Kirstin Bjork and the worst in Jason Dunnbar.

Now, you’d expect a bunch of references to Sleepy Hollow given the title and subject matter, but what you’re really in for is a bunch of “Psycho” references. Enjoy!

[Wing: I’m actually sad! I love Sleepy Hollow references. And headless riders. And new kids. Clearly I am primed to love this book.]


Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #76: Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

cover of Tales to Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine with a ghost in front of a background image

Title: Tales to Give You Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: N/A

Summary: “Reader Beware — You’re in for ten scares!”

From an evil baby sister, to a remote control that can control more than just the television set, to a teacher who’s obsessed with snakes, to a cute, cuddly teddy bear gone bad, here are ten creepy, spooky stories guaranteed to give you Goosebumps all night long!

Initial Thoughts

So this is the first of the six short story collections and, honestly, it’s kind of boring. It’s clear that most of these are ideas Stine had that he just wasn’t able to convert into full length novels. While most of the other collections had themes, this one’s kind of all over the place in terms of genre, with one that’s not supernatural or science fiction-based at all. Four of the stories managed to get turned into TV episodes, which is more than the other collections could say (and a bit of a waste since the one really good story wasn’t), while two were adapted into illustrated novellas for the French Goosebumps line. [Wing: Now that’s interesting! I wonder what the illustrations are like.]

I never read this book on its own, just after it was reprinted alongside the following two collections in hardcover format. I will say it’s interesting that this entry seems to be the birth place of Curly the Skeleton, the original Goosebumps mascot. You might remember him from the merchandise that appeared in the mid to late 90s when the series got popular. He was the skeleton with the buzz cut, bandana, and sunglasses who often had a big pit bull by his side. On the cover he was depicted with long hair and tattered white robes, more like a ghost, and Scholastic supposedly asked Tim Jacobus to redesign him. He’s sadly forgotten by the current young Goosebumps readers, discontinued like so many of the monsters like Amaz-O, Cuddles, and the Masked Mutant to make way for the disappointing likes of Madame Doom, Murder the Clown, and *ugh* Dr. Maniac. But he will forever live on in the goosebumps of our hearts.

To add a bit of fun, for subtitles this time I’m taking a page from one of my favorite animes, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and adding “Duel” with each recap entry. The French words translate to a trait shared in the stories. I’m on a small Utena kick lately.

[Wing: Again, I’ve never read this, I’m excited for the recap, and I’m grateful that someone else is recapping a Stine book.]


Posted in Fear Street Recaps

Recap #74: Fear Hall Part 1 – A.K.A. “Fear Street: The College Years”

cover of Fear Hall The Beginning by R. L. Stine shows a white girl behind a window looking out and appearing scaredTitle: Fear Hall: The Beginning

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Franco Accornero

Tagline: The first part of a shocking two-part special!

Summary: “A Special Message From R.L. Stine”

Dear Readers:

Come with me to FEAR HALL. That’s the creepy college dorm built many years ago by the cursed Fear family.

Hope and her roommates live in Fear Hall. Hope’s boyfriend lives there, too. They’re all good students and best friends. Everything is going great… until one of them becomes a murderer!

Now Hope is about to find out that life at Fear Hall can be a real scream!

I hope you’ll join me for FEAR HALL. This story has so many scares, it took me two books to tell it all!

P.S. You’ll never believe what I came up with for the next book…

Initial Thoughts

I only read this story once when I was in middle school, and I barely remembered what happened after I was finished. I did that sometimes, skimming through a book so that I read it but I didn’t retain anything. This didn’t leave much impact on me at first, but I still found and purchased the two volumes as part of my unfinished effort to collect all the Fear Street books. Then, in the summer of 2011 I decided to re-read the Fear Hall books. I remember that summer. I discovered “Jem and the Holograms” and DC Comics was in the middle of their “Flashpoint” event which ended up ruining the DC Universe for six years and counting. Imagine my surprise when I re-read these books and ended up falling in love with them.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a perfect story. It’s basically “Fear Street At College” which Stine already did with “College Weekend,” and Stine’s take on mental instability is… well, it is what it is. But I enjoyed it because I really liked the main characters, Hope and her roommates, and the setting. I’ve re-read these books so many times over the last few years they’re all scruffed up and worn. I practically refuse to put them back on my book shelves. I even got Stine to autograph them at that signing last year.

The story is split up in several parts and is one of those books where the narration shifts between different characters.

[Wing: I’ve never read these before, and am, of course, always leery of how Stine (and the other Point Horror and similar authors) handle mental illness, but I love a good horror at college story. Stine is setting the bar for the next book pretty high with his little introduction note, though.]


Posted in Graveyard School recaps

Recap #72: The Skeleton on the Skateboard, A.K.A. “Wes Craven Presents Rocket Power”

cover of Skeleton on the Skateboard by Tom B. Stone, has a skeleton on a skateboard and a creepy black and gray backgroundTitle: The Skeleton On The Skateboard

Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Barry Jackson

Summary: “Dead Man’s Curve Is Scary Enough…”

Who’s the new hot dog on Skateboard Hill? He’s the only thrasher who can take Dead Man’s Curve alive. Skate and Vickie are determined to meet him – he may be their only chance to beat obnoxious Eddie Hoover in the upcoming skateboarding contest. But if the phantom boarder gives the secret of his awesome moves, will Skate and Vickie have to take the ultimate wipeout in return?

Initial Thoughts

This book is just soooo 90s, but not in an obnoxious completely dated period piece kind of way. The Skeleton is by far the most prolific and noticeable monster of the Graveyard School series, by far the easiest to get a commission of, but the reveal is pretty much obvious during the climax when you remember what the goddamn title is. That said, you come for the Skeleton, you stay for Vickie Wheilson in all her tie-dye, headstrong, neon glory.

[Wing: This sounds like the under 16 version of drag racing, right down to the Dead Man’s Curve, and therefore I am predisposed to love it. That description of Vickie only cements the deal. As long as I don’t think too hard about the real author, I’m excited. Let’s do this!]


Posted in Graveyard School recaps

Recap #70: Don’t Eat The Mystery Meat! by Tom B. Stone, A.K.A. “Nightmare Cafeteria II – Electric Boogaloo”

cover image for book has plate of spaghetti with eyeballs in it set against a dark background and the words Graveyard School Don't Eat the Mystery Meat!

Title: Don’t Eat The Mystery Meat!

Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Barry Jackson

Summary: School lunch has always been gross, but lately it’s worse than ever. The salad is soggy; the spaghetti is rubbery. No one knows what the meatballs are made of! When pets start mysteriously disappearing around town, sixth-graders Stacey and Park think they’ve stumbled onto something. The new lunchroom attendant is awfully weird… What exactly has she been cooking up?

Initial Thoughts

This was the last book I needed to complete the set for Graveyard School. It felt weird, finally owning this book, which is why I probably took so long to finally read it. It blew away my expectations, though, not thinking it would go down the route it did.

As a head’s up, I recently discovered Todd Strasser was NOT the writer of this series. Instead, the creative genius belongs to Nola Thacker, who some of you might know as Point Horror authoress D.E. Athkins.

[Wing: I’m really intrigued by these author shenanigans, I must say.]


Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #66: Still More Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Still More Tales to Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Title: Still More Tales To Give You Goosebumps

Summary: Will Charlie’s recipe for pumpkin juice cause him some hair-raising terror? Are Dave’s awesome ants biting off more than they can chew? Can Max’s Halloween wish turn him into an endangered species?

Notes: This is the 4th of the six short story collections from the original Goosebumps line, and the second where the stories are connected by a seasonal theme. The original printing included a bonus make-up kit to make your own vampire costume for Halloween, though surprisingly none of the stories involve real vampires.

Initial Thoughts

So my first Goosebumps recap for you lovely juvenile delinquents.

I actually have met R.L. Stine in real life, but just once. Last December he was doing a signing at “Books of Wonder” in Manhattan for his new book “Young Scrooge.” I took with me a few Goosebumps and Fear Street books for him to sign, as well as a copy of a Goosebumps art zine called “Monster Edition,” and a hardbound collection of some of the covers I worked on for “If It Were Stine.” Stine was super nice and I’m glad he didn’t have a problem signing the cover book, but it’s the weirdest thing. He doesn’t seem to have aged at all since the 90s. Remember he would do introductions for the Goosebumps TV show? Between then and now he looks exactly the same.

[Wing: BLACK MAGIC. BLOOD SACRIFICE. I love him so much. This is why we feud.]

Back in the 2000s I was lucky to find a copy of this collection, plus the one that came after it, at a tag sale a church in my neighborhood was holding. The second book still has a library slip inside I’ve kept as a bookmark, although the paper is practically faded by now. I’m a sucker for holiday-themed horror, especially Halloween and Christmas, and I was super happy to find a copy of this book because Amazon sellers tend to jack up the prices on old YA horror books. My favorite stories in this would have to be “The Scarecrow” and “Bats About Bats,” and I’ve previously written about “An Old Story” for a separate blog (I’ll get into the details later). I hope you all enjoy the following, and I hope to have more to show you all very soon. As an added bonus I’ll be including scans from my collection of Goosebumps-related commissions in these posts.

I’d like to dedicate this post and future posts to Jet Wolf, whose Sailor Moon liveblogs and commentary style inspired how I wrote these recaps. This is for you Jet.


Posted in General

Jude’s Graveyard School Reunion

It’s easy to assume that due to the popularity of the Goosebumps franchise in the 1990s, it instigated a flood of similarly themed YA books about kids facing supernatural and not-so-supernatural horrors in their daily lives. Hell, even the Babysitter Club books did a horror-themed spin-off. Here are as many titles as I can think of:

Shivers, Spinetinglers, Strange Matter, Spooksville (Christopher Pike’s Goosebumps!), Ghosts of Fear Street (Goosebumps on Fear Street), Choose Your Own Nightmare, American Chillers, Fright Time, Spinechillers (the Christian Goosebumps), Deadtime Stories (Nickelodeon did adaptations of these a couple of years ago), Bone Chillers (this one got a TV show in the 90s), and numerous other titles. Not to mention the vast number of standalone novels published by Apple and Scholastic like “The Dollhouse Murders” and “The Ghost That Came Alive,” although many of those books were originally published long before Goosebumps was a thing.

What set some of these books apart is their subject matter could get surprisingly darker and more mature than you’d think. “The Dollhouse Murders” involved a girl’s strained relationship with her autistic sister. “Shivers” included deliberate talks about child abuse and racism, and one book even went into detail about the Nazi Holocaust. Another thing which set these stories apart is it was more likely to read about kids who felt and acted like real kids. In “Goosebumps” it was increasingly standard to have main characters surrounded by shoddy and untrustworthy friends scheming against them for petty reasons, alongside abusive parents and siblings making their lives difficult for laughs. In these books, it was more likely to read about kids who, while they could be assholes from time to time, weren’t actively trying to sabotage each other and acted like, dare I say, real friends?

Graveyard School was one of those titles, published around 1994 up until 1998 with 28 entries. Written by “Tom B. Stone,” which may or may not be a pen name for Todd Strasser, I’m not sure. The Graveyard School series was one of those rare series that had a single cast of characters instead of interchangeable one-shot protagonists. There was no ongoing/overreaching plot to the 28 books, but there were a few themes which connected the books as well as a tendency to reference past incidents. Each book also came with a small activities section in the back, usually a word puzzle or tips for party planning or science experiments.

The books go as follows

  1. Don’t Eat The Mystery Meat!
  2. The Skeleton on the Skateboard
  3. The Headless Bicycle Rider
  4. Little Pet Werewolf
  5. Revenge of the Dinosaurs
  6. Camp Dracula
  7. Slime Lake
  8. Let’s Scare The Teacher To Death
  9. The Abominable Snow Monster
  10. There’s A Ghost In The Boy’s Bathroom
  11. April Ghouls Day
  12. Scream, Team!
  13. Tales Too Scary To Tell At Camp
  14. The Tragic School Bus
  15. The Fright Before Christmas
  16. Don’t Tell Mummy
  17. Jack and the Beanstalker
  18. The Dead Sox
  19. The Gator Ate Her
  20. Creature Teacher
  21. The Skeleton’s Revenge
  22. Boo Year’s Eve
  23. The Easter Egg Haunt
  24. Scream Around The Campfire
  25. Escape From Vampire Park
  26. Little School Of Horrors
  27. Here Comes Santa Claws
  28. The Spider Beside Her

How I Learned Of This Series: During one of the book fairs my elementary school regularly held, I purchased a copy of “There’s A Ghost In The Boy’s Bathroom” because it was the only book that captured my interest. That was most likely 1998 or 1999. Then in early 2004 I looked up the series on the “Fantastic Fiction” website and found out about the other 27 books. I recall it was February, and around this same time my sibling and I just purchased the Revolutionary Girl Utena movie on video. Listening to the movie’s soundtrack still makes me recall the feelings from that day.

It wasn’t until September of that year when I bought a bulk listing off eBay containing most of the series, alongside a separate purchase of “Boo’s Year Eve.” I then slowly acquired every book I was missing until I finally completed the set.

While these aren’t exactly “obscure” obscure, almost no one ever talks about these books. I personally created both the Wikipedia page and the TV Tropes page for “Graveyard School” because I got sick of waiting for someone else to do it first.

The Problem: The kids of Grove Hill pray and hope they will live to see their elementary school graduation. Why? Because Grove Hill Elementary was built adjacent to an abandoned graveyard, but though it’s abandoned, its influence lives on in more than just the nickname “Graveyard School.” Graveyard School is the setting to many life threatening situations, and employs a number of odd and downright terrifying educational figures. The parents, teenagers, and adults of Grove Hill are either blissfully unaware or living in denial that something is deeply, terribly wrong with the school and the town, so the kids have to rely on their wits and make it through the days until middle school by themselves. Mainly, it’s the sixth grade class who deal with more than they deserve, since they’re just on the cusp of getting out of Graveyard School for good.

The Horror: Graveyard Hill is mainly believed to be the source of the weirdness Grove Hill’s seeped in. The kids all know this, but are more focused on trying to stay alive until graduation. There’s even talk of a grave which glows in the dark upon Graveyard Hill, but no one’s been able to find it.

The Teachers: The head of Graveyard School is the intimidating and inhuman principal, Dr. Morthouse. A woman of few words and possibly a silver fang in her mouth (students frequently catch glimpse of the fabled fang, but don’t know if it’s real or not) Dr. Morthouse keeps order with a steely gaze and can make the first graders cry without trying. She might not even have a first name. Below her is the oily and saccharine Vice Principal Hannibal Lucre, a man of poor fashion sense and desperation. Legendary for the solitary strand of hair combed across his gleaming bald spot, his brown suits and bow ties, and the damp noise his hands make when he rubs them together, Mr. Lucre frequently tries to remind the students that he is their friend. Manning the front office is the indignant and grumpy Mr. Kinderbane, who’ll insist (when out of earshot of Dr. Morthouse) that he has a school to run. The good doctor frequently puts Kinderbane in his place like an unruly dog. The only person more intimidating than Dr. Morthouse is the janitor, Mr. Bartholomew, a.k.a. “Basement Bart.” Dressed in army fatigues and sunglasses, Basement Bart can pop out of thin air whenever a fight breaks out or a mess is made. It’s believed he may actually live in the school basement, which is practically an underground labyrinth. The school lunches are considered disgusting by the kids, but eat them anyway because bringing lunch from home is considered babyish. The only named cafeteria worker to feature into the plot of a book was Ms. Stoker in the first entry. Her dishes included “Cannibal Stew.” Make of that what you will.

[Wing: KINDERBANE. A principal who might have a silver fang. I love this series already.]

The teachers fluctuate from book to book. The two most human teachers are Ms. Camp, an English teacher who tends to be disorganized, and Ms. Beamer, the art teacher known for wearing lots of bracelets and bell-shaped earrings. Beyond them, the teaching staff is made up of bullies and borderline sadists (with names like Mrs. Beak, Mr. Melon, Mr. Weazell, Ms. Manidble, Mrs. Storch, Mrs. Dedd, etc.) who vary from being assholes to possible monsters. Whether or not they’re human or just jerks is up for debate.

As far as the rest of the staff goes, Morthouse and the others aren’t actively trying to murder and terrorize the kids (well, terrorize them THAT much). So long as nobody’s misbehaving or going out of their way to antagonize the staff, Morthouse leaves them alone. Her reoccurring presence brings about anxiety of survival-based fear from the students, but if she went too far over the line the parents might finally suspect something’s off. She’s admittedly at her most blatantly evil in “Creature Teacher,” after discovering the kind substitute teacher Ms. King has the gall to allow laughter in her classroom.

The Kids: Stone, Strasser, or whatever his name is, focused on a single cast of kids with rotating protagonists throughout the 28 books. Only a handful of kids would star in one book and never appear again, while the rest would have starring roles or get to be supporting or background characters in every other entry.

Park Addams, Stacey Carter, and Polly Hannah are the three most consistently occurring characters in the series, but you couldn’t call them the main characters since there is no main story.

Park is the class’s baseball enthusiast, Stacey runs a small dog walking business after school, and Polly’s the girl everyone can’t stand. Park and Stacey were the main characters of the first book in the series. After that they fluctuate from entry to entry as either main, supporting, or background character. Polly has never been a main character, but nevertheless appears in practically every book. The closest she’s come to having a substantial role was in the eighth book.

For as much as Park is a baseball nut, he’s also a good sport and an excellent team player. He’s often the one to team up with the protagonists in the other books. Stacey’s a devoted animal lover and has a pet bull dog named Morris she cares for very deeply. Stacey has good business sense and she often wears her hair in a sleek French braid.

Polly is… well, she’s the Libby. The Alpha Bitch. But no one likes her, which is fine with her because she doesn’t like anyone else. Her outfits are all painfully coordinated (she wears ironed jeans when she’s not wearing dresses) in shades of pale blue, pink, and butter yellow, creating the image of a demented Barbie Doll by how rigid she is. Polly’s the token class suck-up, even with teachers as terrifying as Dr. Morthouse (but even Polly has her limits). Of course, some of the teachers are well aware of how nasty Polly is and don’t like her as well. No creativity or imagination, her classmates wonder if Polly is even human. Yet she still hangs out with them, so she comes across more like the neighborhood jerk similar to Roger Klotz. She’s nasty, but ultimately harmless.

As much as I’d want to go into detail about all the kids, it’d save time to discuss the ones with the most discernible personalities:

  • Jaws Bennett: The kid who will eat anything, even roadkill. While the narration will describe Jaws’ first appearance in the books as either big or round, he’s never outright referred to as chubby or fat. Likewise, the source of humor in his roles doesn’t come from him being “The Fat Kid,” but instead “The Kid Who’ll Eat Anything.” He’s the only one who enjoys the rancid school lunches.
  • Maria Medina: Stacey’s best friend, a dark-skinned girl with spiky black bangs. Enjoys rollerblading and collecting oversized rugby shirts, which she wears every day. Is on the school soccer team. Stacey and Maria are rarely seen apart at school and the two are incredibly loyal to each other. She’s probably the one kid who dislikes Polly the most out of everyone else.
  • Algernon “Algie” Green: The new kid in class, Algie immediately stands out not just for his name, but his short stature, glasses, and the small ponytail at the nape of his neck. Algie delivers papers and has good money sense like Stacey. He’s on the soccer and baseball teams, but is more into baseball. When he first transferred to Graveyard School, he was bullied by class douchebag Jason Duunbar until he helped Kirstin Bjork beat Jason for class president.
  • Skate McGraw: Skateboard nut #1. Real name Ryan. A boy of few words. He prides himself on taking care of and respecting his boards. Can be very stubborn at times, and hopes to one day get skateboarding turned into an Olympic sport. His cousin is…
  • Vickie Wheilson: One of my favorites. Skateboard nut #2. Vickie’s the most vivid character in the series, because the narration always describes her insane clothes. Vickie often dresses like she got in a fight with a Crayola box and won. Typically wears oversized sweaters in shades of purple and orange, with Day Glo high-top sneakers. Rides a neon colored skateboard, and her spiky red-orange hair resembles an exploded dandelion (Because it was the 90s, you see!). She acts without thinking, and once got Skate involved in a contest with follow-up douchebag and Skateboard nut #3, Eddie Hover. However, Vickie sticks by Skate because she knows she got him into this mess, and basically stopped Skate from selling his soul to beat Eddie.
  • Jordie Flanders: My other favorite of the main cast. The smartest girl in the sixth grade, earning her the nickname “The Human Computer.” She’s very articulate and verbose, speaking rather formally and analytically, like she’s solving an equation, but not all the time. She can be very sarcastic and deadpan, with a slightly twisted sense of humor. She’s not a teacher’s pet, but she’s got no time or respect for teachers who suck at their job because she cares about learning.
  • Kirstin Bjork: Sixth grade class president and captain of the soccer team. Has zero patience for Jason Duunbar’s bullying machismo, and beat him for class president because she was sick of him threatening people for their votes.
  • Marc and Terri Foster: The token twins of the class. Marc’s the serious, introspective twin to Terri’s energetic, outgoing twin. Marc often wonders which of them is the Evil Twin, Marc because he’s so dour, or Terri because she’s so gosh darn chipper even in the face of mortal danger. Of course, because Terri’s so nice, she has a much easier time getting people to answer her questions.
  • David Pike: The science kid, but not as overtly smart as Jordie Flanders. His brother Richie is a dino-fanatic.
  • Tyson Walker: Is to soccer what Park is to baseball. Thinks on his feet and is also a good sport, and expresses open disgust at parents who only give a shit about their kids winning games. Is only ever described as having short dreads for hair.
  • Jason Duunbar: The literal worst besides Polly Hannah, and not in an entertaining way. A stereotypical meathead bully who threatens people to get what he wants, can and will resort to physical violence, and teases kids for having “girlfriends” or “boyfriends.” Thankfully gets knocked down a few pegs.
  • Eddie Hoover: Is to Skate and Vickie what Jason is to Algie and Kirstin. Eddie’s a real meathead, a skateboarder who practically destroys every board he owns. His family’s implied to be rich, which is how he can keep affording new boards. He’s followed around by his lackey Roy Carnes, who seems to worship the ground Eddie skates on.
  • Ken Dahl: Pretty much the one thing Ken has going for him is that he’s the stupidest kid in class.
  • Christopher Hampton: The class financial wiz. He’s got every penny he’s earned since he was in kindergarten, and unsurprisingly he’s the Scrooge stand-in for the Christmas Carol knockoff.
  • Kyle Chilton: Only appeared in two books, but has enough of a distinct personality. Can be stubborn and single minded in whatever he puts his energy towards, which may not always be a good thing. But regardless of the circumstances, he will NOT go down without a fight.
  • Bentley Jeste: The class clown and king of practical jokes. Will wage all out war on teachers (except Dr. Morthouse, obviously), but has enough of a conscience to extend mercy to teachers who don’t deserve it (even if he doesn’t like them). That said, he knows perfectly well nobody trusts him, but his skepticism may have helped him develop the ability to read people’s personalities and recognize truly aberrant behavioral shifts.
  • Skip Wolfson: His parents run a pet supply store, and he has a weird little brother. One of the few bits of consistent continuity says his family moved to a farmhouse outside of town after the fourteenth book. Suffers from severe trochophobia (fear of buses).
  • Blue Russell: The second new kid. Other than his name, there’s nothing unusual about Blue, which is why he doesn’t understand why he was put in Mrs. Storch’s homeroom. The kids aren’t that bad, but they seem to share a big secret. A big, monstrous secret.
  • Mel West: The artistic kid, but a bit pretentious. Ask him to draw a bowl of fruit and he’ll sketch out what the fruit makes him feel like on the inside. He’s practicing drawing with his left hand, and Ms. Beamer will give thoughtful critics of his work as if he were an adult.
  • Ari Spinner: Ah yes, the mysterious Miss Spinner. No one knows who she is or where she comes from. The teachers don’t scare her in the slightest. She has no friends, but she’s not hated like Polly is. Ari has no interest in her fellow human beings, unless they suddenly grew six extra legs, could spin webs, and suck out organs through their mouths. You guessed it, she’s an arachnophile.

So the books go out of their way to establish the kids all have different interests and goals in their lives beyond surviving the sixth grade. Some of the one-shot protagonists don’t have much in way of personalities and are there simply to keep the story going. The narration doesn’t try to dumb things down for the readers by having the kids act really stupid or too “kiddie” kiddie, but while they aren’t miniature adults, the kids do have a better sense of the world than the protagonists of a Goosebumps book.

For starters, they’re more prone to confronting whatever horror is bedeviling them instead of just falling into it. This is especially true if other people’s lives are at stake. It’s true they aren’t going out of their way to solve the mystery of Graveyard Hill and Dr. Morthouse, but if it’s an immediate threat they’ll do what they can. Hey, they’re not trying to be heroes. For that matter, they’re also not trying to be saints. They may not be sadistic little brats, but that doesn’t mean they’re exempt from acting like dicks to each other from time to time. That just makes them believable, because who here hasn’t given their friends a hard time at some point in their lives?

In “The Fright Before Christmas” and “Here Comes Santa Claws” none of them are eagerly hoping to get lots of gifts for Christmas, and it’s implied that’s more a phase they go through when they’re younger. Park expresses disgust at how the stores and TV commercials always try to get you to spend more money on useless junk you don’t need, recalling a past experience with a toy he really wanted that broke the second he played with it. When they call out Christopher Hampton on his Scrooge-like attitude around Christmas, he points out many people don’t celebrate the holiday. The kids say that’s not the point, acknowledging that all cultures and religions have at least one holiday or celebration. Their problem isn’t that he’s against celebrating Christmas, but that his miserable attitude is ruining the fun for everyone else.

There’s an ongoing trend throughout the books about environmentalism, but not in an extreme “Captain Planet” sort of the way. The kids are just responsible enough to not throw their trash around wherever they feel like. This is most prominent in “Revenge of the Dinosaurs” and “Slime Lake.” “Slime Lake” especially has the kids (except Polly Hannah) disgusted at what a businessman is doing to the aforementioned lake and surrounding wildlife, preparing to dredge the lake and demolish the nearby swamp to build a resort and condos. Stacey expresses concern about what damaging the swamp would do to the local wildlife, and overall the kids are turned off by how commercialized and gaudy the lake’s new recreational area is.

They aren’t glory hogs when it comes to sports. I’ve explained that Park and Tyson are good sports and team players, but the books mention that trying to outdo everyone else on your team regardless of what the game is should not be considered a healthy attitude. In “Scream Team,” the Grove Hill soccer team frequently beats the Belville Academy team because the Belville kids are incapable of playing together without trying to individually steal the spotlight. They have no teamwork, no sense of grace when it comes to losing, and their parents are even worse. Every other soccer and baseball team that appears besides the Grove Hill and Belville teams are able to work together and act respectful in the face of losing.

What makes all these themes work is that the books don’t repeatedly beat you over the head with them. Add all these together, and it’s like they’re trying to make it clear that kids aren’t stupid.

The Books Themselves: The books aren’t terribly long, and most could be finished within at least a couple of hours. Some aren’t even a 100 pages long. There are:

  • 7 books that take place during the summer
  • 2 at summer camps
  • 2 fairy tale based books
  • 2 sequel books
  • 2 during Christmas
  • 1 during New Year’s Eve
  • 1 during Halloween
  • 1 during Thanksgiving
  • 1 during Easter
  • 1 during April Fool’s
  • 1 anthology book

The summer books can be kind of tricky to figuring out a timeline for events, because it can be hard to determine if they take place before or after the kids finished the sixth grade. Even when the books explicitly mention stuff that happened during the school year it still feels like the kids will be heading back to Graveyard School even though they should’ve graduated by now.

The stories are mainly supernatural, with only one full book featuring aliens in the plot. The extent of the horror goes beyond just Graveyard School, because even if the kids are on vacation the weirdness will eventually follow them. You’ve got ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and monsters, but you’ve also got:

  • Stoker, the aforementioned psychotic lunch lady.
  • The Skeleton on the Skateboard
  • The Headless Bicycle Rider
  • Dinosaur figurines that grow and come to life [Wing: I AM SO EXCITED! #dinosaursdudesdinosaurs]
  • The monster underneath Slime Lake
  • A soccer coach using what can only be called “zombie juice” to turn his team into an army of unstoppable juggernauts
  • A huge ghost alligator
  • A ravenous Easter bunny hatched from a literal Easter egg
  • An evil Santa with a buzz cut and claws, whose sleigh is pulled by GIANT, TALKING RATS
  • A spider that grants wishes by biting people

The prose and tone of the novels doesn’t go into quite vivid detail about the horrors that plague the kids. There’s an air of mystery as some events are left to the reader’s imaginations, sequences that leave you wondering if they really did see something strange or if it was imagined. Not every haunting is given a total explanation when it ends, but since the kids want to put it behind them they’re not complaining.

Only a couple of books have characters who more or less act like douchebags, but in those situations it reads more like the equivalent of going to a car show just to see the cars crash. You know it’ll happen and you hope it’ll be spectacular. “Let’s Scare The Teacher To Death” is one where both sides of the conflict give as good as they get, but it’s hard to figure out which side you should root for.

The first ten books or so sometimes end on a note where the main character will turn out to be more deeply connected to whatever strange event they endured than we were led to believe. And thankfully the books avoid insane, contradictory twist endings like were prominent in the Goosebumps books, but there are a few twists here and there.

I’d love to suggest you guys try to find some of these to read them yourselves, but unfortunately some are either hard to find or you can find them on Amazon and eBay at rather ridiculous prices. I think someone’s trying to get a thousand bucks for “Little School of Horrors.” I was lucky to find them while they were cheap, so I’ve decided, alongside the Goosebumps recaps I’d like to start doing recaps for all y’all.

Ah, me. They broke the mold.

Oh, and a little fun fact. The covers of the latter half of the series were all done by Mark Nagata. He’s the guy who did the cover art for the first half of the “Give Yourself Goosebumps” series (well Tim Jacobus did the actual first). You can find some of the original cover artwork on his website, facebook, and tumblr pages.

[Wing: I’ve never read the books, and haven’t been able to get my hands on them yet, so I’m very excited to read these recaps!]