There was nothing that made 8-year-old me much happier than when a new Goosebumps book was published.
I can remember going with my best friend to buy the latest installment in the series on a Friday night and spending the rest of the weekend reading our separate copies and discussing in great detail what we loved most about them.
Going back and looking at the covers nearly 20 years later, I vaguely remember some of the titles — “The Cuckoo Clock of Doom,” “The Haunted Mask,” and “Phantom of the Auditorium” each stand out to me. I don’t really remember the plots, but I’m sure I could guess at them.
I always loved how the word “Goosebumps” at the top of each cover was raised. When I would check out the books from the library, I would run my fingernail along the word as it sat piled with my schoolwork, just aching to go home and crack open the spooky tale.
As I got older, I began reading my older sister’s copies of author RL Stine’s Fear Street series. I delighted in tales of evil cheerleaders and the misfortune of those who moved to the dreaded neighborhood.
Looking back, my fascination with these sort of books surprises me. I hate scary movies now, and I can’t even tell you the last time I picked up a book from the horror section. Not that any of Stine’s books were truly terrifying, but one would think the natural progression would have been to begin reading Stephen King. The only thing I’ve read of his is “On Writing,” for a journalism class in college.
Last weekend, I let that happy-go-lucky elementary kid still inside me come alive at the Texas Book Festival. I attended a book reading by Stine, who I was surprised to find out actually wrote all of those hundreds of books and still does to this day. As I got older, I assumed Goosebumps was like The Babysitters Club, another series I loved that I learned later used many ghostwriters to keep up with demand.
At the reading, Stine himself even joked that many people often express shock that he is alive. One librarian even asked for a photo with him to prove it to children.
As Stine read a short story about being afraid of clowns, I listened to the words and realized why I devoured every book he wrote. The stories are simple, have a sense of humor and dig straight into the fears of children. Who wasn’t afraid you would get kidnapped by clowns while visiting the circus?
When I visit my mom next I plan to dig out some of those old Goosebumps books and relive those childhood moments. Sometimes, when dealing with the stress of adult life, you just need to fall back in time and remember those things that made 8-year-old you smile and squeal with delight.