Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Book Review: Goosebumps: The Beast from the East, by R.L. Stine (Scholastic, 1996)

Recommended for ages 9-12

R.L. Stine is the Stephen King of kid's horror. His Goosebumps series has been scaring the daylights out of kids for almost 20 years now, and he has branched out into other Goosebumps series (Horror Land, Hall of Horrors) and a television series based on the novels.

The Beast from the East is like reading a demented version of the old nursery song, Teddy Bear's Picnic (also referenced in the story). Twelve year-old Ginger, her ten year-old twin brothers Nat and Pat, and their parents go on a camping trip one summer. While their father sets up the campsite, Ginger and her brothers go exploring and end up getting lost in the woods, where they come upon a group of big, blue, furry bearlike beasts that want to play a game where the winners get to live, but the losers get eaten. There are a lot of rules - can they figure them all out and get back to their parents, or will they end up as dinner?

Stine's stories are short, creepy fun, and end with a macabre twist every time. There isn't a lot of character development here, but there doesn't need to be - you learn what you need to know to get through the story, because it's really the situation that makes the book. Stine is great at describing panic and fear, giving readers the good scare they want in the safety of their own space. The twist is one last parting shot to keep you thinking after the book's end, or until you pick up the next book.

Several books from the series have won Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards and is one of the best-selling children's series of all time. Scholastic has an official Goosebumps site.

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