Goosebumps Books...

From front cover to front cover.
March 12, 2009
Hmmmm... Goosebumps books. Who remembers cuddling up by the fire on a cool, crisp August night to read one of R.L. Stine's masterpieces? The draw of the dialogue. The rhythmic cadence of each paragraph. The poetic litigation from one sentence to the other. The.... wait.... who am I kidding? It was a children's book meant to frighten and entertain. Connecting such books with the works of Shakespeare, Dickens, Frost, or even King can be a ludicrous idea.

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Though, despite my mocking of a great Retro title, I have only read two of Stine's books; The Haunted Mask and The Haunted Mask II. Don't judge me so quickly. I do appreciate what these books gave to kids and the medium it chose to translate the joy of reading. I enjoyed every bit of the books I read, though, they were written for a much immature audience. I am not a heavy reader, so me reading a book for fun in any way is an honor very few authors can claim.

Now, with that being said, I did have an extensive collection of these books on my bookshelf as a kid. I remember receiving a book from my parents expecting me to read it. Soon, I found myself seeing another title that seemed more intriguing to me at the local grocery store, and I begged until it was mine. After awhile, I accumulated more and more without remotely reading any of them. I just started collecting them, like my comic book collection underneath my bed. During my time of collecting Goosebumps books I started to cherish the covers of each one. I would pull out these books and just stare at the covers, contemplating which one I would read next, but never found myself reading them. During this process, I soon got favorites, and so, here are my top 10 favorite Goosebumps covers (judged in artwork, coolness of its depiction, tagline, color usage, and overall appeal). I'd like to give a good synopsis of each book, but like I said, I only read two. I'll leave that job to the avid readers.

10. Beware, the Snowman

"He's got a heart of cold!"

This is one of the books on the list that I never got, but I always wanted. I thought it would be a good read with the "fearsome" snowman on the cover. At that age, snowmen just seemed cool, especially on account that I live in Texas. Snowmen are few and far between here. More often than not, my friends and I would make some measly 2 foot high snowmen made of mud and ice. These weak excuses would often just get destroyed from the football games that proceeded afterwards. Looking back on this cover it seems extremely funny. Why would anyone runaway from a snowman that is permanentely immovable? He has no legs! Apparantly the story is about a snowman with a scar on his face..... a scar. mmKay. The cover is sleek and simple. Not much going on, but makes its point. The border (the goo-like silhouette) is the color you'd expect from a story about ice, sky blue. The Goosebumps lettering is the color of the snowman's scarf, intertwining flawlessly the aspects of the artwork and digital editing. This is present in all of the covers in the Goosebumps series. It adds a flow and easiness for the eyes. It's just great developing and I apologize in advance if me mentioning this aspect seems dumb. I like the concept. The tagline "He's got a heart of cold" is very cheesy. Needless to say, it is one of the lighter covers on my list.
My grade:

9. Say Cheese and Die!

"One picture is worth a thousand screams."

I think this is one of the first ones I got. The cover is kinda corny, but could easily scare the shorts off a kid. It speaks volumes of what the story is about. You take someone's picture. They die. And you're left with a beautiful 3x5 piece of art ready to be framed and hung above your bed. It features the quintessential family enjoying a summer barbeque. Son has his ball cap backwards, Mom is carrying a plate full of burgers, and Dad is enjoying a chilled beer. The cover doesn't really scare me when I look at the mom. I guess she was laughing about something, leaving her mouth gaping open. The border is the color of the background behind the picture, and the upper background is the color of the sky. Reading the tagline, you hardly think a thousand screams have ever been induced by this cover. Maybe a few laughs.
My Grade:

8. The Haunted Mask

"If looks could kill..."

I'd like to think this book was the first huge success in the series. It spawned the television show. This was the first book I read in the series, and it was in large part because of the straight to VHS movie. I'd watch it pretty much everyday and tried to scare my friends with it. I'd pop it into the VCR and say, "You're gonna be scared. You're too much of a scaredy-cat."

This book was pretty much the start of the budding franchise. The story is about a girl who finds a mask at an old magic shop and plans to wear it for Halloween. She's had it with her mom's "kiddy" costumes she makes every year, so she wears this mask to symbolize that she has grown up. During her Halloween fun, she learns that the mask has abilities she's not used to. It forms to her face and changes her psyche. The rest of the book is about her trying to destroy the bond between her and the mask. The cover is quite simple, but it brings me back to when I read it (mine had many frayed edges). The top coloring is what pops out to me. When I think of the story, I think of that orangey color. That color matches the mask's eyes and the border is the color of the girl's overalls. The ghoulishness of the cover is a little more mature than the previous, so it ranks slightly above it.
My Grade:

7. The Beast from the East

"He's a real animal."

This is a pretty cool cover. It doesn't really scare me as much as it intrigues me. The animal in the painting. The environment he is in. The animal's position. The vegetation behind him. All of these elements are quite interesting and begs you to read this title. I bought this book for a family vacation and read the first few chapters. I sadly didn't finish it but it's not because it wasn't a bad book. I got tried of reading while my family was having fun. The story goes that a girl and her brothers get lost in a strange land. There, they meet some even stranger creatures. To get back home, they have to play a game of tag and outwit these monsters. The story is like The Chronicles of Narnia. The entrance to this strange place is on this earth, but the cover makes it look like a new world with stars shining while the sun sets. The blue bear-like thing looks like he wants a high-five. That's not true, but it's kinda cool to think about. The border is the color of the starry sky and the upper background is the color of the highlights in the creature's hair.

Oh, and Goosebumps is on TV!
My Grade:
6. Night of the Living Dummy II

"He's still walking. He's still stalking"

Yes! Night of the Living DUMMY!!!!! I'm gonna be totally straight with you, this one scared the crap out of me. Well, mostly the idea. I was deathly afraid of the Child's Play movies when I was little. In fact, My Buddy was often in my nightmares quiet often (not MY My Buddy, but just from the TV commercial). My dad would force me to watch the evil Chucky doll whenever it was on the tube. I remember going to the video store with extreme terror of seeing that VHS cover on the shelf. My dad would grab it with a hideous smile and show it to me spontaneously when I least suspected it. I left one video store petrified from the massive movie poster of Child's Play the store had. Whenever my family would go rent a movie, I'd always be very apprehensive. Anyway, pretty much what I'm saying is that puppets/dummies/dolls have always scared me. With that being said, this cover had to be on this list. I chose this one instead of the first one because of three things. The first book was just too plain. It has just an up-close shot of the dummy.

The second part of the storyline has him sitting on a bed with other stuffed animals, which also intrigued me. Lastly, the quote of "He's still walking, He's still talking" just seemed too funny not to leave off. The ooze border is green (matches walls) and the upper background is pink (matches the bed).
My Grade:

5. Deep Trouble

"Swimming lessons won't help you now."

Not much to say about this cover other than that I like hammer-head sharks. They just look so odd that I wonder why they look that way. The picture gives us the feeling that we all have felt while swimming at the beach/pool. What if there was something lurking underneath us ready to gobble us up?

It's a chilling feeling and this cover depicts it masterfully. The shark's teeth are slightly more twisted than the average hammerhead shark, giving a monster quality to him. The caption "Swimming lessons won't help you now"... UNLESS YOU HAVE FLIPPERS!!!!! I kid. The ooze border is the color of the boy's trunks and the Goosebumps lettering is the color of the coral.
My Grade:

4. Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes

"Stay off their grass!"

Lawn gnomes. A priceless possession in anyone's garden. My dad used to collect these weird guys. I remember one that was laying on mushroom smoking a pipe.

My brother and I used to make fun of what exactly WAS in the pipe, but seriously kids, drugs are bad. I learned my lesson. Unless I wanted to be a 6 inch high gnome, I had to stay away from drugs for the rest of my life. Anyways, the cover. I think this cover reminds me more of the segment off of Freakazoid, "Lawn Gnomes". In this segment, the gnomes are ruthless and are cursed to spend an eternity frozen during the day until they start doing good things. Looking at this cover, I get the impression that these gnomes are also looking for trouble. With the tagline "Keep off their grass", you have to take them serious, "Or they'll beat yo ass." (That's how I would've finished the caption). I don't know. I just have a more personal attachment to this cover. It has the gnomes, it has pink flamingos (my mom collected them for awhile), and it has a baseball (my sport of choice back then). The ooze border is green (like the grass, duh) and the lettering is orange (like their hats).
My Grade:

3. Stay Out of the Basement

"Something's waiting in the dark..."

What a great cover! It is drawn beautifully. It reveals a lot, but at the same time, not enough. Who is this figure and where is it coming from? Reading the title we soon learn it's the basement, but still the question of who remains. The term basement means so much more than a room in a house. On average, the basement garners the creepiest and scariest aspects of a Goosebumps story. Either monsters are made in a basement in R.L. Stine's books, or the main character confronts the monsters down here. Basements are really cool to me. I never had a basement (I still don't have a basement). Houses in Texas just don't have any use for them. We just have addicts and crawl spaces underneath the floors. I like the cover, though, regardless. I had the Goosebumps trading card of this cover (the only one I remember having).

I like the colors on the hand. It looks like a plant with the greens, browns, and reds. One of the things I would always look at is the little leaf sprig on the monster's (who is the father of the household in the book) middle finger. Oddly enough, this cover and the next are the only ones that do not have all the colors of the border/lettering in the picture. The upper background is a bright green (which we can match to the highlights of the green skin), but the purple ooze border is hard to place in the picture, but I find this color to work amazingly well.
My Grade:

2. The Horror at Camp JellyJam

"Tennis... Ping-Pong... Monsters, anyone?"

Now, the funniest of all of the Goosebumps covers is this one, "The Horror at Camp JellyJam". Everything about this cover is really funny, but really twisted. In almost in a Joker kind of way, the smile of this character leaves you quite disturbed. Every tooth is showing. His eyes are bulging out of his sockets. That cynical gaze he is giving to the reader gives me, well, goosebumps. I give this cover an "A+" for doing exactly what every cover should have done, give the reader a shudder before ever opening the book. This whole book is a mystery to me. Why is the place called Camp JellyJam? What an odd and funny name for such a place. Why would this character look so funny and scary at the same time? How can you put the words "tennis" and "ping-pong" into the same category as a horror book? How can a decal ever be considered a "Decal of DOOOOOOOOM"? I don't now, but it was free, so at least your wallet wasn't doomed to be emptied. If I had a guess in what this book was about, I'd say that there's something sinister underneath that skin. Something slimey. Probably as slimey as these two.

The upper background is a light purple to blend with the purple colors in this guy's uniform, and ooze border is an aqua-green (not in the picture).
My Grade:

1. How I Got My Shrunken Head

"Heads up!"

The cover that tops my list. Out of all of the covers, this one scared/scares me the most. I hid all of my Goosebumps books in my closet. I was afraid that somehow I'd catch a glimpse at one of them (namely this one) and then I'd be scared the rest of the day. When I wanted to look at these novels, I'd sit Indian style in my closet, pull out the box that all of them were in, and just start browsing through them. Contemplating on which one I'd read, if I ever started. But I'd always leave one for last and made sure that it stayed on the bottom of the stack. "How I Got My Shrunken Head" was the scariest of them all, and if I left it somewhere in the stack of Goosebumps books other than the bottom, this shrunken head would end up on MY dresser. I know, it sounds paranoid, but I was a kid. I still believed the Boogey-Man walked this earth.

Looking back on this cover, I soon realize how cool it is. It's just an old, wrinkled, and tiny head chillin' on a dresser wondering what its purpose is for. The messiness around it gives the impression that its handler is not really organized, and not really ambitious. Oddly enough, this character either his ambitions to go to college or is already there. The term "University" is laughable in its generic usage. The baseball theme pops up again in the picture and the old, red Converse gives a relatable feel. In all its scariness, the tagline, "Heads up" is a bit too lighthearted, but it is a children's book. The ooze border is a dark green (the color of the shadows on the shrunken head), and the upper background is a bright green (the color of the highlights on the head). These two colors bring the reader's eyes directly to the shrunken head. My final thoughts on the cover: I'm still frightened.

Oh, and Fox Kids ruled! Goosebumps was on it!
My Grade:

Thanks for reading my article. If you have any comments over these covers, any covers you enjoyed, the exact plot of one of these books that I probably got wrong, or any other Goosebumps related info feel free to do so. I hope you enjoyed it.

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