Goosebumps books provide thrills, chills

January 21, 1997


Staff Writer

A school board in suburban Minneapolis is considering banning the thriller "Goosebumps" books from elementary school libraries because of complaints, but Tri-State area librarians and booksellers say area parents and children haven't been scared away from the best-selling series.

"They are very popular. I can hardly keep them on the shelf," said Bernice Crouse, children's librarian at Coyle Free Library in Chambersburg, Pa.

"Actually the Goosebumps are our best sellers among children's books," Kelli Cross, assistant manager at Walden Books in Valley Mall, said.


There are 50 Goosebumps series titles, 12 titles in the Give Yourself Goosebumps series, five Goosebumps Presents titles based on the television show and a host of products for sale based on the book series.

Scholastic Inc., which publishes Goosebumps, says more than 130 million of the books are in print and a new one is published every month.

The paperback books by R.L. Stine, which sell for about $3.99, are controversial for some local educators, parents and booksellers.

Officials from the Washington County, Chambersburg Area, Waynesboro (Pa.) Area and Berkeley County (W.Va.) school districts said they have received no complaints about the books from parents or requests to exclude them from school libraries.

But George Michael, principal of the Grace Academy in Hagerstown, said that students there are told to leave any Goosebumps books they own at home.

Grace Academy tries to encourage positive and wholesome character traits and to discourage reading the bizarre and horrific, Michael said.

Some parents won't allow their children to read the horror tales, which carry graphic titles such has "Welcome to Dead House," "Monster Blood," and "Say Cheese and Die."

Librarian Crouse is one of them, she said.

Crouse said she doesn't want her 9-year-old daughter reading the books "because of the horror aspect of them."

"It doesn't fit with my set of values to let her be exposed to something like that at her age," she said. "The fact that it's popular scares me a little bit."

Even some booksellers are less than enthusiastic about the series, despite its short shelf life in stores.

The Christian Light bookstore at Valley Mall doesn't carry Goosebumps because of its violent content, Manager Gary Sipes said.

Instead, the store sells a Christian alternative called Spine Chillers, he said.

Pam Reed, owner of The Book Store Etc. on West Washington Street in Hagerstown, said the Goosebumps books "are not good literature. They are not well written."

"I would liken them to Stephen King for little people," she said.

Old childhood standards like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew make for a better read in terms of content, plot and vocabulary, Reed said.

"They're timeless. I don't think Goosebumps are timeless," she said. "In terms of good literature, there are so many other good choices."

But Reed admitted, because of the popularity of Goosebumps, "I would be a fool not to carry them."

Some of the series' young readers and their parents don't find the books troubling or offensive.

"It's not scary," said E.J. Gregory, an 8-year-old third-grader at Pangborn Elementary School.

"It's just entertainment for the kids," Cathy Gregory, E.J.'s mother, said. "They know going into reading them that they're not real. I wouldn't let him read an adult murder mystery or anything like that."

And there can be a positive side to kids' interest in the books, Crouse said.

"Frankly, a lot of parents like them because it is something that gets their kids to read," she said. "It does attract some children to reading that might not otherwise be attracted to it."

Child and adolescent psychotherapist Sybil Schiffman, of the Blue Ridge Counseling Services in Martinsburg, W.Va., said that in general, kids of a certain age love monsters.

The author of Goosebumps, R.L. Stine, "found a really good way to keep Halloween alive all year round," Schiffman said.

Some of the books are interactive, allowing young readers to write their own happy endings to the story, she said.

If parents are involved, they will know whether the book is appropriate for the child and whether the child is frightened by the content, Schiffman said.

"I think these books need to be read with parental supervision ... so they can talk about it," she said. "I'm against book banning of any type but I am in favor of parental supervision."

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