Well, well. Mr. Stine. Can I call you R? No, that sounds silly. I’ll just call you what I’ve always called you: R. L. Stine. I’ve been meaning to write you a “Thank you letter” for nearly 15 years. Now that I’m turning 30, I’m realizing just how important you were to me growing up. I wanted to write you a little note of gratitude.
I remember seeing your books, the “Goosebumps” series, for the first time in the book store. I must have been 8 or 9, and I knew that those books would be different than all the other books that kids my age liked. Boxcar Children and Baby-Sitters, bah, well. They were neat, but they weren’t exactly relatable. Your books set off a cobweb-covered light bulb over my head the first time I saw them. After my wonderful mom begrudgingly bought me my first Goosebumps book, “Welcome to Dead House,” I knew it was the start of something… interesting. No other book spoke to me on a ‘weirdo level.’ In fact, I didn’t even know a ‘weirdo level’ existed, until I saw your books.
“Goosebumps” really struck a chord with me. The bright-colored covers with textured spooky dripping font, always featuring very creepy scenes. Your covers scared me for a long time, if you didn’t know. But I knew I had to read them – the books that seemed meant for strange kids, like me.
I grew obsessed with each story. Each kid, in the center of a world where they didn’t belong, but could somehow always figure things out. Parents, who just didn’t understand. Unusual happenings, ghostly friends, monster blood, ancient relics, werewolves, haunted houses, and sometimes an alien or a shrunken head, to add flavor to the poisoned soup. I could relate to these kids, overcoming odds in an odd world. So unlike in the real world (which was so boring!), I felt right at home in your unhomely books.
You’ll get a real kick out of this: When I was 21, I took college courses to become a school teacher. One class, “Children’s Literature,” I’ll never forget. Our teacher went around the room asking us what our favorite books were as children. Books that we would recommend to kids in our own classroom, were we ever to teach one. My answer was obvious. “The Goosebumps books,” I said proudly, eagerly awaiting the nods of gratitude, cheers, and high fives my classmates would surely be giving me. But, to my shock, the teacher quickly dismissed my answer. “I don’t think those books would be appropriate for children. Those books are too scary.”
“Those books?” I thought through my arched eyebrow, my curled upper lip. “Those books meant a hell of a lot more to me as a kid than I think you would ever understand, lady.” Needless to say, I dropped the class and left a Haunted Mask on her desk.
Those books gave me the go-ahead to be me. Those books showed me a world of kooks, creeps and ‘cabres. (That’s short for macabres, if you didn’t know.) Those books made me confident that, no matter how different I thought I was, there was at least one person who gave me permission to be me. That was you, R. L. Stine.
Thank you for creating a series of books that, at the most impressionable time of my life, when I felt like an alien among my peers (or perhaps I was but still hadn’t figured out how to contact my home planet yet), made me feel like someone out there understood me. It was okay to be a freak – curious, mysterious, and totally out there. Thanks for the “Goosebumps” books.
Looking at the haunted house I live next door to, my own collection of creepy toys much like Slappy the dummy, and my love of cheesy horror movies, I’ve no doubt they are certainly a tribute to you and your gateway into the land of weird.
Yours in weird-ness,
Thanks for reading! If R. L. Stine, or another author, greatly shaped you as a kid, post a comment to let me (or them) know!
This post was #4 on my list of 20 things to do when you’re down in the dumps.
I have learned that there will be a Goosebumps movie, starring Jack Black as R. L. Stine coming out in 2015. Look out for it – you know I will be!