McNally Jackson Kids

Oct 12

52 Fear Street: It Worked Out for Author Micol Ostow

Welcome to 52 Fear Street, McNally Jackson’s month-long celebration of R.L. Stine. Join us on October 30th for an evening with Mr. Stine himself and his Fear Street editor Kat Brzozowski, and follow the #52FearSt tags on tumblr and Twitter to hear what authors, booksellers, and editors have to say about Fear Street and Goosebumps. 

Today’s post comes to us from Micol Ostow, author of family and Amity

It Worked Out 

For those of us who might have aspired to one day be known as “the Stephen King of Children’s literature,” it’s a bittersweet knowledge to realize that RL Stine has already claimed that crown. I’m not (too terribly) embarrassed to admit that though the TV adaptation of Goosebumps found success during my college years, it was nonetheless perfectly on my wavelength during many a late-night cram session.

It would be the second time that young adult genre publishing (and its subsidiary content) had made an impact on me. My first encounter was around age eleven or twelve: more “young” than “adult” and certainly devouring titles like the Sweet Valley High series for wish fulfillment more than any representation of reality. Similarly, Fear Street hit that perfect note of edgy, spooky thrill, while still remaining safely within the parameters of parental approval (unlike those Stephen King hard covers my mother furtively checked out from the library week after week). In some ways, young adult literature is a bridge of sorts, but to me, it was an escape all its own.

Much like other childhood escapes, I’d packed away the memories of young adult by the time I graduated college and entered the “grown-up” realm of office work. My first job out of school was in publishing, and specifically, in very dry, very academic adult nonfiction publishing. It didn’t take long to realize that I am not at all a dry, academic person. It had all been a huge mistake.

In a desperate gambit to find my footing, I took an interview at Pocket Books. I knew nothing of their list. Imagine my shock on being led to my potential editor’s office for the first time:

The shelves were lined with Fear Street. Pocket Books was the publisher of the Fear Street series.

I was sold.

It didn’t hurt that my editor had been Christopher Pike’s original assistant, as well. And she was in the throes of launching a new series from Sweet Valley creator Francine Pascal. Right there was the holy trinity of my junior high years.

Somehow, as an actual young adult, I’d forgotten about young adult fiction entirely. But in that office, with Stine’s name peering down at me in neatly-lined columns of spine after spine after spine, it came flooding back. The comfort. The accessibility. The sense of being understood, and even, yes, titillated, on occasion. RL Stine writes books that strike the magnificent balance of making readers feel safe, while at the same time pushing boundaries. And of course each book crackled with thrills, chills, adventure, and romance. There can be no misunderstanding why his reach, his impact, is so vast.

Did I mention I was sold? Then and there. All in.

I got the job. Frankly, I got a new direction, a whole new life. I don’t think it’s overstatement to say it was fated. And that RL Stine and my own preteen memories helped direct me toward the actual adult – a young adult writer – I was meant to be. It was that very editor at Pocket who not only allowed me to schedule a Fear Street conference and even to correspond with Bob Stein all on my very own, but who later encouraged me to try my hand at writing YA fiction myself.

It worked out, is what I’m saying.

My newest book, Amity, has (somewhat unbelievably, to me), garnered its own recommendations as “YA Stephen King.” Certainly that’s what’s known as a career high point. Really, though, when you parse that statement, the takeaway is actually more specific, and more relevant to the high-impact moments of my life as a reader and a writer both:

To follow in RL Stine’s footsteps. My twelve-year-old-reader self wouldn’t have dared to dream.

Oct 11

52 Fear Street: I’d Like To Blame Boarding School by Author Margaux Froley

Welcome to 52 Fear Street, McNally Jackson’s month-long celebration of R.L. Stine. Join us on October 30th for an evening with Mr. Stine himself and his Fear Street editor Kat Brzozowski, and follow the #52FearSt tags on tumblr and Twitter to hear what authors, booksellers, and editors have to say about Fear Street and Goosebumps. 

Today’s post comes to us from Margaux Froley, author of Escape Theory and Hero Complex

I’d Like To Blame Boarding School 

R.L. Stein, where have you been my whole life?

While your books were filling bookshelves, libraries, teenagers’ bedrooms, I was busy trying to finish my required reading assignments with J.D. Salinger, Ray Bradbury, and Sylvia Plath.

Instead of pretending I understood Dostoyevsky, what I really needed was a good dose of Fear Street. I needed more books that made reading feel fun; I needed books that I wanted to stay up late reading, books that made me afraid to turn off the lights, books that spoke to me and my experience of the world. (Keep in mind, this was before YA became the robust genre it is now.)

You see, there was a time when I didn’t enjoy reading. I know, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it’s true. When reading became a chore or another assignment, the fun was sucked right out of it. I didn’t know that you were hanging out in my local library. I was so disconnected from the joys of reading, I didn’t even like my library at the time. Now I have a Pinterest page just for cool libraries around the world.

I’d like to blame attending boarding school for this lapse. Too be fair, boarding school doesn’t fully deserve that blame, but when you lived at school, reading was never a hobby. When you were expected to study, study, study, Fear Street would have been considered contraband. How wrong we were!

I think of all the summer flings you and I could have had, tucking a Fear street book into my straw beach bag next to my towel, bathing suit, and a few stolen cigarettes. Oh, the winter breaks, curled up next to the fireplace, when I told my family I had reading assignments to catch up on, while I gleefully read chapter after chapter of cheerleaders dying and popular kids killing each other for sweet high school revenge.

So, R.L., in honor of Halloween, I thought I’d indulge in my first Fear Street novel, Halloween Party.

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What a perfect setting for a scary novel. The story begins in a cemetery on Halloween night as two lovebird teenagers stumble upon a tombstone with the words, “Died October 31st, 1884” - you hooked me within the first paragraph.

Despite some outdated slang, dweeb, rad, a girl with a fast reputation, the teenage drama is timeless. Jealousy between two male friends over a girl, bullies forcing their way into a coveted party, the mysterious new girl in school – the story could easily fit into a modern thriller.

Also, what I found striking in Halloween Party, was that one of the main characters, Nikki, is deaf. In the often white-washed world of YA where being quirky is considered a handicap, I found this character distinction to be refreshing and ahead of its time.

Not to give the story away, but Halloween Party, does indeed mostly take place at the titular Halloween Party. As a group of teenagers become increasingly scared and the body count piles up, the book keeps a quick pace and the mystery hums along.

Long after my normal bedtime, I stayed up turning the pages of my aged paperback. While the dog snored next to me, the mystery of Halloween Party kept me guessing, and the thrills kept coming.

My first Fear Street book was everything I hoped it would be; fun and dangerous all at once. I don’t enjoy the gut-twisting fear that I get from Stephen King novels, but Fear Street made me feel like I was safe to venture into haunted mansions and foggy cemeteries.

If I had found Fear Street when I was in high school, I would have devoured every book I could and no doubt my grades would have plummeted and my social life would have suffered. Fear Street would have been that dangerous boyfriend I couldn’t help but obsess over while my parents shook their heads.

If I had found Fear Street earlier, I would never have doubted my love of reading. Just think, a life without reading – what could be scarier than that?

Oct 10

52 Fear Street: Author Kate Milford is Traumatized and Elated

Welcome to 52 Fear Street, McNally Jackson’s month-long celebration of R.L. Stine. Join us on October 30th for an evening with Mr. Stine himself and his Fear Street editor Kat Brzozowski, and follow the #52FearSt tags on tumblr and Twitter to hear what authors, booksellers, and editors have to say about Fear Street and Goosebumps. 

Today’s post comes to us from Kate Milford, McNally Jackson Children’s Book Specialist and author of The Boneshaker, The Broken Lands, and Greenglass House, which has just been named to this year’s National Book Award long list. You can order a signed copy of Greenglass House via our website. 

Traumatized and Elated

I read RL Stine for the first time for this post, and here’s what happened: in basically every single way, the house of horrors won.

It was awesome.

Somehow I missed RL Stine as a kid. No idea how that happened. It wasn’t like I wasn’t the right age at the right time, because basically anyone who’s been 13 and up anytime in the last thirty years was the right age at the right time. Who knows? I was definitely reading scary stuff in those days. That was during the phase where I wanted to be a writer of horror and suspense tales in particular. They were dark days, the days of years twelve and thirteen. My songwriting career hadn’t taken off the way I had hoped—Debbie Gibson wasn’t returning my letters—and my epic fantasy novel just wasn’t progressing past the first couple of chapters. Plus, I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I was probably never going to meet and fall in love with that Jordan kid from New Kids on the Block. I was feeling drawn to Lovecraft and Poe, but more because I knew they were supposed to be scary than because I really grasped the horrors they described. I would have loved RL Stine.

But whatever. No use mourning the youth I could have had if I’d gotten my hands on these books sooner. Here I am, twenty-odd years later, and along came Cristin Stickles and this assignment: read an RL Stine title and write a thing about it. I picked 99 Fear Street: The House of Evil, The First Horror. I picked it because I thought, oh, hey, I just spent a lot of time writing about a cozy, wonderful house in which mysteries happen. Spending time with that house’s evil twin sounds like fun.

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In the course of reading this book, I learned that it is actually possible to write a book for young readers in which EVERY BAD THING HAPPENS AND NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS AT ALL, NOT EVER, NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT. Why didn’t anyone tell me this? This is a game-changer.

All right, yes, Cally does kiss Anthony at one point. I suppose that counts as something good. Then they have dinner together, although Cally’s twin sister Kody tags along because poor Kody is just always stuck in perfect Cally’s shadow. Then, like a page and a half later, Anthony’s hands get sucked into the DISH DISPOSAL AND HE LOSES TWO FINGERS THAT CALLY HAS TO REACH IN AND FIND AMONG THE REMAINS OF DINNER. That’s right. There’s a bloody, pulpy, down-two-fingers hand maybe three pages after Cally smooches Anthony. Awesome.

Here’s what else happens. Backing up to the beginning, Mom and Dad buy a fixer-upper house for their family of five without ever letting the kids see it. Not surprisingly, the kids hate it—which should not, you know, surprise anyone because it is, after all, the aforementioned House of Evil. Then there’s a bunch of stuff that really ought to tip everybody off that getting out of there would be a good idea. There are unnaturally aggressive rats in the basement. A window attempts to crush Kody’s hands (and this is even before she starts getting really whiny and makes us all wish we could shut a window on her). Some invisible presence wrests a ladder from Cally and knocks it over while Kody’s at the top. Dad stabs himself in the side with a carving knife. Little brother James’s new puppy goes missing, although everyone can hear it barking all the time as if it were right there.

Then, as Cally and James are roving the neighborhood searching for the absent pup, they run into Anthony, the dreamboat from the local greasy spoon. Under duress, Anthony clues Cally and Kody in on the truly horrific history of 99 Fear Street. Assorted late-night knockings-on-doors and blood-colored paint spatters later, the shit hits the fan. Not literally, although foul-smelling goo does come bubbling up out of the bathroom sink. While that’s being dealt with, Mom shows up in a blood-spattered nightgown. It’s not her blood—it’s coming down through the ceiling of her room. When Dad goes to investigate the attic, he finds three unattached heads that are not there to be found when the cops show up.

Dad goes pretty much nuts. There’s the thing with Anthony’s fingers. Then James disappears. Like the missing dog, he can be heard calling desperately for help, but he’s nowhere to be found. They try to follow his voice to no avail, and during this frantic search Mom falls down the stairs and breaks her arm so badly the bone skewers through the skin. Dad, meanwhile, is still rushing around in pursuit of James’s disembodied voice and can’t be bothered to care about his wife’s smashed arm. Following his son’s cries, he drags a ladder into the living room, where he’s certain James is somehow up in the ceiling. As he climbs up, a misty spectral presence, a shadow hand, reaches down through a hole in the ceiling and wraps itself around his face, blinding him instantly. And that brings us to the part where Cally dies.

Yeah, Cally dies! In fact, she dies horribly, drowning in a pool of some terrifying protoplasmic black tarry stuff that opens up at her feet. Kody tries to save her but can’t (live with that for the rest of your life, Kody). As Cally dies, she gives in to the evil of the house, so that when she emerges, she’s a furious, vengeful ghost. The family moves away after her funeral, but James is never found, Dad’s still blind, and poor Kody you just know is going to be in therapy forever. We close as ghost-Cally watches the next family move in, and starts plotting horrors to visit upon them. The house…wins.

I mean, this is only the first of the House of Evil books, so it’s entirely possible that in the next book, or the one after that, Cally is somehow redeemed or the house at least is neutralized and burned to the ground or something, or maybe the next family manages to find their kid after the house sucks him into the walls. But in this one, the house wins. I finished reading at one in the morning both traumatized and elated. Nobody told me you could get away with this kind of thing in kidlit. RL Stine, where have you been all my life? I really feel that I could have borne the traumas of my middle-school years a lot better if I’d known there was some properly cathartic, properly horrifying literature right there at my fingertips. Even now, I’m kind of itching to raid Cristin’s stash of Fear Street books in search of 99 Fear Street: The Second Horror.

But what if the good guys win this time? I think if that happens, I might actually be a little disappointed.

Oct 09

52 Fear Street: Author Gretchen McNeil’s Top 5 Fear Street Moments

Welcome to 52 Fear Street, McNally Jackson’s month-long celebration of R.L. Stine. Join us on October 30th for an evening with Mr. Stine himself and his Fear Street editor Kat Brzozowski, and follow the #52FearSt tags on tumblr and Twitter to hear what authors, booksellers, and editors have to say about Fear Street and Goosebumps. 

Today’s post is from Gretchen McNeil, author of Ten, Possess, 3:59, and  the recently-released Get Even.

Whenever I see an ad for Fox’s sitcom New Girl, I don’t picture Zooey Deschanel in all her quirky adorableness, I picture the town of Shadyside where a teenage boy named Cory who may or may not be in love with a dead girl.

The New Girl was my introduction to the world of R.L. Stine and the sometimes paranormal, always spine-tingling Fear Street series. Mysterious strangers, sinister plots, serial murders, and revenge killings, all dripping with blood and gore—just the tip of the iceberg for Shadyside, Ohio. You read them at night then were afraid to the turn off the lights for bed, and with every creak of the house and gust of wind, you were convinced someone was inside, stalking you.

My love of scary books was born in these moments: illicitly reading R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike long after bedtime. It makes perfect sense that when I turned by hand to writing young adult fiction, I would gravitate toward writing the same genre I loved so much as a teen—horror and suspense. TEN, POSSESS and 3:59 are in print today because R.L. Stine proved that teens love horror, and so, in tribute, I’m counting down the top five Fear Street moments that have stuck with me after all these years.

(I apologize for any spoilers.)

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5. Silent Night (Fear Street Super Chillers #2) – It took me literally years before I would apply lipstick without checking to see if there was a needle poking out of it first. YEARS. That scene with the main character’s mouth full of blood after trying to lacquer up with her Max Factor totally sticks (no pun) with you.

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4. Missing (Fear Street #4) – I’ve been dying to write a cult sacrifice scene, and I credit that desire to this book which has, hands down, the creepiest suburban cult around. Teen Matt and Cara discover their parents in the woods, about to be sacrificed to the Cult of the White Monkey whose membership includes parents and elders from the town. The ceremony is pure druid creepiness, with white robes and giant gleaming knives, and a twist ending, of course.

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3. The Secret Bedroom (Fear Street #13) – We all know you’re not supposed to open hidden doors in the creepy old house you just moved into, right? You never know what you might find: a ghost girl in her spectral bedroom, or, you know, the rotting, skeletal corpses of her dead parents who attack you.

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2. Lights Out (Fear Street #12) – I had to look up which book this was in because all I remembered was “pottery wheel.” But there’s a reason those words are stuck in my head. The image associated with them has been branded into my brain for all time. A girl has been strangled while using her pottery wheel, which has been left on and is slowly rubbing her face off. Total gross out death reveal. Absolutely amazing.

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1. The First Scream (Fear Street Park #1) – I read this one in college, yeah, that’s right. I’m not afraid to date myself. But even then as a fledging adult, there is a scene in this book that has haunted me for years. Basically, there is a group of teens cutting up tree stumps in the forest for reasons I don’t even recall, and suddenly they turn on each other and start hacking each other’s limbs off with their hatchets. Yep, you read that right. It was awesome.

If you’ve read any of my books, you can see the influence of my teen reading habits. Scenes, moments, feels—I can see them in TEN, POSSESS, and 3:59. Thank you, Mr. Stine, for making what I do possible.

Oct 08

52 Fear Street: Editor Kat Brzozowski’s Five Ways Fear Street Teens Had More Fun Than Me In High School, Even While Occasionally Being Murdered

Welcome to 52 Fear Street, McNally Jackson’s month-long celebration of R.L. Stine. Join us on October 30th for an evening with Mr. Stine himself and his Fear Street editor Kat Brzozowski, and follow the #52FearSt tags on tumblr and Twitter to hear what authors, booksellers, and editors have to say about Fear Street and Goosebumps. 

Today’s post is from Kat Brzozowski, an associate editor at Thomas Dunne. She is the genius who decided the world needed new Fear Street books, and is the editor of the recently released Party Games: A Fear Street Novel.

Five Ways Fear Street Teens Had More Fun Than Me in High School, Even While Occasionally Being Murdered

Before I ever walked through the front doors of my high school, I had a clear picture of what high school would be like from my healthy diet of “Saved by the Bell,” Sweet Valley High, and, most importantly, R.L Stine’s Fear Street series. I’d been gobbling up Fear Street like candy from our town library since I was 11 years old, testing the kindness of the librarians, whose “strict” eight books at a time rule could sometimes be stretched to nine or ten books.


I quickly realized two things about high school. First, my school had no dress code, as evidenced by the girl who was wearing a tube top and overalls. For real. Secondly, and more importantly, those teens in Fear Street had a lot more fun than I did, even while being stalked in the woods by crazed murderers, threatened by stepsisters with knives, and evading ghostly new girls.

Here are five ways in which my high school experience didn’t live up the exciting lives of the Fear Street teenagers. Although I did make it through alive (to become the editor of the new Fear Street books, which is a wish come true), so I’m luckier than most of those kids.

1) They had hangout spots.
The characters in Fear Street often have a cool place to hang out with friends. In Party Games, Rachel works at Lefty’s, where all the cool kids gather after school to eat hamburgers and chat. My town had no cool hangout spot like they did on Fear Street. Nowhere. Nada. I was so jazzed for milkshakes and cute boys and jukeboxes, and I was sad to discover that my options for after-school spots were 1) an Exxon station with a mini-Dunkin Donuts in it, where we would frequently OD on Coolatas; 2) the parking lot behind the school, mostly inhabited by the truckers; or 3) the mall.

2) They had pets.
A lot of the Fear Street teens have dogs (including Lisa, the main character in Don’t Stay Up Late, which is coming out in April), and it always seemed fun to me. Who wouldn’t want a furry, lovable companion? But my sister and I could never convince our parents that we should have a pet, probably because they didn’t want to take care of one (fair enough). We did have a goldfish once. Her name was Wilma. It was a hot summer… Yeah. She didn’t last long. I was always jealous of those Fear Street-ers with their cuddly and affectionate – if often in danger – dogs.


3) They went on dates
And I don’t just mean that the girls hung out with boys, because I did that. Were these boys mostly my friends from the school plays? Yeah, but so what? Mind your own business. I mean that the teens on Fear Street went on real honest-to-goodness dates, with flowers and dinner and only two attendees. In Broken Hearts, which is one of my favorites (it’s a Super Chiller, so it’s packed with even more awesomeness), Josie and Steve go ice skating. Ice skating. Is there anything more romantic? There were probably people in my school who went on real dates, but I didn’t know any, so I had to live vicariously through the Fear Street teens, which was good enough for me.


4) They went to exclusive parties.
Not only was no one in my friend group going on dates, we also weren’t invited to any exclusive, invite-only parties like Rachel in the new Fear Street book Party Games. Our “parties” pretty much consisted of playing board games in my basement (like I said, I was a theater geek, so you’re probably not too surprised by this). I would have died (pun intended) to be invited like Rachel to a private island for a birthday party thrown by the cutest boy at school.


5) They were often home alone.
The teens on Fear Street often came home to an empty house, which usually, as you’ll know if you’re a Fear Street fan, did not end well (just ask Felicia Fletcher in Runaway). I had attentive, often-home parents and a sister with the same after-school schedule as me (yes, we were both drama geeks; I’m sure there’s a genetic component), so I never had an empty, spooky house to prowl around. In fact, my house wasn’t spooky at all. It was yellow, sunny, and surrounded by well-meaning, non-murderous neighbors.

Oct 07

52 Fear Street: Blueprint for a Creepy Childhood

Welcome to 52 Fear Street, McNally Jackson’s month-long celebration of R.L. Stine. Join us on October 30th for an evening with Mr. Stine himself and his Fear Street editor Kat Brzozowski, and follow the #52FearSt tags on tumblr and Twitter to hear what authors, booksellers, and editors have to say about Fear Street and Goosebumps. 

Today’s post is a collaborative effort from McNally Jackson’s staff and stable of book recommendation geniuses. 

Blueprint for a Creepy Childhood

Some are born creepy, some made creepy, and some have creepiness thrust upon them. Here are our favorite scary books for each step of the journey.

Age 1: 

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Hello, Doctor!    

Ghosts in the House

The Tailypo  

Age 2: 

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Frankenstein & Dracula Babylit

The Gentleman Bat

I’m the Scariest Thing in the Castle 

Age 3:

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Outside Over There

I Am A Witch’s Cat 

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

Age 4:

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Monster Mama: Sadly out of print, but there are plenty of used copies out there.

I Want My Hat Back 

My Mama Says There Aren’t Any…

Age 5: 

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The Raven

There’s A Nightmare in my Closet 

Hansel & Gretel 

Age 6: 

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Wolves in the Walls 

Gashlycrumb Tinies

What Was I Scared of? 

Age 7: 

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In A Dark, Dark Room 

Bony-legs 

Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep

Age 8: 

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 

Night of the Living Dummy 

Odds Are Good

Age 9:

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Bunnicula 

Wolves of Willoughby Chase

The Dollhouse Murders

Age 10: 

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House with a Clock in its Walls 

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy

The Cabinet of Curiosities

Age 11:

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The Halloween Tree

The Witches

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase

Age 12: 

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The Graveyard Book

Summer & Bird 

Skellig

Age 13: 

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A Monster Calls

The Riverman 

Doll Bones

Age 14: 

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Long Lankin 

Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein 

The Wave

Age 15: 

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

The Rag and Bone Shop 

The Vanishing Season

Age 16: 

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In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Absent

A Certain Slant of Light

Age 17: 

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Boy Heaven: Out of print, but available used

Bitterblue 

Slumber Party

Age 18: 

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This is Not a Test 

The Madman’s Daughter

Amelia Anne is Dead & Gone 

Oct 06

52 Fear Street: Author Nova Ren Suma is Full of Scares

Welcome to 52 Fear Street, McNally Jackson’s month-long celebration of R.L. Stine. Join us on October 30th for an evening with Mr. Stine himself and his Fear Street editor Kat Brzozowski, and follow the #52FearSt tags on tumblr and Twitter to hear what authors, booksellers, and editors have to say about Fear Street and Goosebumps. 

Today’s post comes to us from Nova Ren Suma, author of Dani Noir, Imaginary Girls, 17 & Gone, and the forthcoming The Walls All Around Us. For those of you already filling in your day planner for next year, Nova will be launching The Walls Around Us here at McNally Jackson on 3/23/15. You can preorder a signed & personalized copy of the book via our website

Full of Scares

I like being scared.

I first discovered this about myself when I was twelve or so—hobbies included pretending I was a witch, communing with spirits over a talking board, and reading anything that sent a shiver up my spine. I’d get myself good and scared and then, as to be expected, I’d be too terrified to go to sleep in the dark of my room that I’d perform running leaps from my light switch to my bed and hide under the covers, shaking at any strange noise, basically until the sun came up.

Fear Street is full of scares like this. Dripping with them, really. Stalkers, people gone missing, murderers… a small town full of real, unexplainable threats, something a lot of us can recognize in the places we call home. Out of every writer out there, R.L. Stine knows exactly how to keep someone up through the night, shaking under the covers, shivers crawling up and down her spine. And now with more stories set in Shadyside High School coming, with Fear Street being revived for a whole new set of readers, well, I know I’m no longer the twelve-year-old afraid of imagined scares in my childhood bedroom, but I kind of want to see what new shocks and terrifying stories R.L. Stine has in store for us.

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As we get older, I don’t think this delicious attraction to being scared ever goes away. Once you get the taste… you just want more. And more. And more. Which may explain why the books I write as an adult are getting scarier and more disturbing. It started when I was young—like it started for so many of R.L. Stine’s readers—and it’s only grown and taken me over. The stories you find in Fear Street never do leave their grip on you. And would we want them to? I’ll admit I still get that shiver up my spine in a pitch-dark room. I bet some of you do, too.

Oct 05

52 Fear Street: 16 Times R.L. Stine Crushed It On Twitter

Welcome to 52 Fear Street, McNally Jackson’s month-long celebration of R.L. Stine. Join us on October 30th for an evening with Mr. Stine himself and his Fear Street editor Kat Brzozowski, and follow the #52FearSt tags on tumblr and Twitter to hear what authors, booksellers, and editors have to say about Fear Street and Goosebumps. 

16 Times R.L. Stine Crushed It On Twitter

If you aren’t following R.L. Stine on Twitter, you’re missing out on some varsity-level hilarity. To wit, his wit: 

Returning an at-reply gauntlet: 

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On aging gracefully: 

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Regarding family matters: 

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Telling a horror story in just 13 tweets: 

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Kindly providing vacation recommendations: 

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Crowdsourcing like a champ:

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RSVPing politely: 

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Providing timely pop culture commentary: 

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Administering 2nd degree burns: 

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Standing in for the ESPN9 sportscasters: 

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Offering positive feedback: 

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Staying strong in the face of real-life terror:

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Knowing which jokes are worth revisiting: 

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Oct 04

52 Fear Street: A Slappy-Worthy Salute to Ventriloquism

Welcome to 52 Fear Street, McNally Jackson’s month-long celebration of R.L. Stine. Join us on October 30th for an evening with Mr. Stine himself and his Fear Street editor Kat Brzozowski, and follow the #52FearSt tags on tumblr and Twitter to hear what authors, booksellers, and editors have to say about Fear Street and Goosebumps. 

We’ve got dummies on the mind after Claire Legrand’s amazing close reading of a Goosebumps classic. Our children’s book buyer has spent the last two months obsessing over ventriloquism after reading Son of Slappy and losing an hour of her life to Slappy’s page on the Goosebumps wiki. The below post is her gift to the world. 

A Slappy-Worthy Salute to Ventriloquism

Let’s start with something un-terrifying, shall we? 

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Video: Edgar Bergen on The Muppet Show, Season 2 Episode 7 

There is something truly magical about watching different species of puppets interact with one another. It gives me hope for mankind. Speaking of hope for mankind: 

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Video: Trailer for the documentary Her Master’s Voice

This is the most important piece of information you will receive all day, or possibly all your life,  so please pay attention: There is a ventriloquism documentary that you can stream on Netflix that is called Her Master’s Voice. It is about one woman’s journey to bring her recently-deceased ventriloquism mentor’s puppets to their final resting place: Vent Haven, a ventriloquism museum and graveyard for puppets of dead people. No, seriously. 

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Each of those dummies is wearing the name of its dead master. Couple things here: 1) Good luck sleeping tonight. 2) I went into this documentary thinking it would be a hoot but was crying so much 15 minutes into it I legit scared my mother into thinking something that actually pertained to my life was actually wrong. That was about the point at which our documentarian, Nina Conti, says of the puppets: “They’re such uniquely bereaved objects. They’ve lost their voice.” If you can hear that and not cry, you don’t deserve the love of an inanimate, hollowed-out person puppet, anyway. 

If you’ve got $75 and a dream, you can own a little slice of Vent Haven: 

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That’s Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits, and it is filled with life-sized pictures of dummy heads. They are… really something. This guy will probably do your taxes for you, by the looks of him: 

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And this one will just straight-up kill you in your sleep. 

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Another fun game that I definitely have not played here at the bookstore because I have way too much respect for everyone I work with is to flip through this book and pick out which dummy looks the most like each of your coworkers. 

Enough niceties. As Darkwing Duck would say, let’s get dangerous. 

Over on Hulu you can watch the Living Doll episode of The Twilight Zone. Talky Tina. Tina’s not a ventriloquist’s dummy but we’ll forgive her for that since she is super-homicidal and more than worth the price of admission for that reason. 

"Of course, we all know dolls can’t really talk, and they certainly can’t commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian. Especially a doll like Talky Tina, who did talk and did commit murder - in the misty region of the Twilight Zone."

"DID talk and DID commit murder." I like to imagine this sentence fragment as said by an indignant prosecuting attorney as a part of a small town murder trial that is threatening to rip a close-knit community apart.

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Few phrases warm my heart more than “from the writer and director of Saw.” I forget that guy’s name, but whoever he is, I totally want him as my wedding planner when the time comes, as long as he’s done adapting Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by then because I CAN. NOT. WAIT. a second longer for that adaptation than I have to. One of his most frequently overlooked triumphs is ventriloquist horror movie Dead Silence.

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Video: Dead Silence Official Trailer #1 

Dead Silence clocks in at a cool 21% over on Rotten Tomatoes, but don’t let that fool you. First of all, this is a movie about a homicidal puppet (OR PERHAPS SERIES OF PUPPETS, WHO IS TO SAY) that is titled Dead Silence. This leads me to believe that the title of the movie was conceived first and the script written later, not unlike how I frequently buy outfits to go along with necklaces, or how RL Stine was given the title for the first Fear Street novel and backed into the plot based on that. I watched this movie in two sittings; after round 1, I came into the bookstore and was all “there’s a cop who is constantly shaving using an electric razor, and the estranged millionaire father of Jason from True Blood is always wearing a tuxedo for no damn reason” and all of my associates were all “great, Cristin, maybe do some work now or something?” and I ignored them and ran around changing all of our computer desktop background images to shots from the movie. 

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I came back to work a few days later, having finished Dead Silence, full of all of its secrets and explanations, and proceeded to ruin the ending for every single person I spoke to that day. It’s a great show of restraint that I’m not ruining it for you right this second. I don’t know how long I can hold out for, though, so you should probably stop reading now, go watch all of Dead Silence, and then come back and catch me talking about ventriloquist beauty queens.  

Good job. 

It’s 2011, and I’m watching the Miss America pageant alone in my apartment, furiously texting my friend Sara with all of my really important, professional, and well-informed opinions about the contestants. Then this happens: 

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Video: Miss Arkansas Ventriloquist, 2011 Miss America Pageant 

"Is this actually happening?" I said to my empty apartment. "IS THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENING." I texted to Sara. I recover from my shock and immediately transition into total emotional investment in Miss Arkansas’s pageant journey. I want her to win more than I’ve ever wanted anyone to win anything with the possible exception of the year When You Reach Me got the Newbery. She does not win. 

Just like Miss Louisiana didn’t win in 1988. 

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Video: Miss Louisiana Ventriloquist, Miss America 1988

And just like Miss Ohio didn’t win this year. 

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Video: Miss Ohio Ventriloquist, Miss America 2015

Oct 03

52 Fear Street: Author Claire Legrand vs Night of the Living Dummy

Welcome to 52 Fear Street, McNally Jackson’s month-long celebration of R.L. Stine. Join us on October 30th for an evening with Mr. Stine himself and his Fear Street editor Kat Brzozowski, and follow the #52FearSt tags on tumblr and Twitter to hear what authors, booksellers, and editors have to say about Fear Street and Goosebumps. 

Today’s post comes to us from Claire Legrand, author of The Cavendish Home for Boys & Girls, The Year of Shadows, and Winterspell

The Night of the Living Dummy, Then and Now

or, 

How R. L. Stine Ruined Dolls For Me Forever

When I was little, my maternal grandmother gave me the most beautiful porcelain doll.

I still remember the particular blankness of her expression (which didn’t strike me as disturbing until I was a little older, but more on that later), her perfect brown ringlets (like mine, but more elegant!), her dress (ruffled pink satin bodice and a voluminous green velvet skirt that would have made Scarlett O’Hara proud), and her tiny white shoes, trimmed with lace. I named her Brooke, and she made me feel oh so grown-up. Only big girls could take care of such a fragile, expensive creature. She sat on my dresser and stared at me while I slept. I would wave and say good-night to her before I shut my eyes. Once, I played with her a little too roughly and broke her foot. Devastated, I watched, sobbing, as my father taped her foot back on. One leg was always a little longer than the other, after that.

Not once did I imagine Brooke coming alive at night, crawling to my bed, and latching onto me while she sucked out my soul.

At least, not until I read R. L. Stine’s Night of the Living Dummy.

Then, everything changed.

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I still remember the day I discovered this masterwork of horror. At my local library, they kept the Goosebumps paperbacks on a tall, narrow shelf. I hadn’t read any of the series yet, but when I saw that iconic green-and-red cover, featuring Slappy’s leering, shadowed visage, my world tilted on its axis. I zombie-walked to grab the book, helpless to resist its call, and sat right there on the floor to read it. Then I went home and read it again. And again. And again.

Poor Brooke, innocently sitting there on my dresser, never saw it coming.

My brain full of fresh, horrifying images, I shoved the now-disturbingly-blank-eyed Brooke into the back corner of my closet. After a couple of nights of not sleeping and instead staring at the closet door for a tiny porcelain hand to pry it open, I did the unthinkable: I threw Brooke away. Snuck out to the garbage cans on trash day and shoved her down between bags reeking of rotting food. Never mind that she was probably expensive and a gift from my grandmother. Obviously Brooke was secretly evil, biding her time until the day when she would get back at me for breaking her foot.

But that was then. I was young, still afraid of the strange, doll-like shapes the items in my bedroom would morph into at night, in the dark, without my glasses on. Nightstand? No! Murderous doll! Coat hanging from a hook? Levitating murderous doll! Ceiling fan? Murderous doll, limbs splayed as it leaps out from the shadows to smother me!

What about now? I’ve often wondered if, as an adult who no longer sees dolls in the shadows (well, not every shadow, anyway), I would still find Night of the Living Dummy as terrifying as I once did.

I therefore decided to record my reactions as I re-read Night of the Living Dummy for the first time since fourth grade.

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(I won’t lie to you: I’m feeling bizarrely nervous about cracking open this book. In fact, I decided to read an e-book version rather than trying to find an old paperback. The e-book just seems … safer.)

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Pictured above: Claire’s puppy, Odin

They entered the bedroom to find the window wide open, the curtains slapping wildly, rain pouring in. ‘Oh, no!” Kris hurried across the room to shut the window.
As she leaned over the chair to grab the window frame, Slappy reached up and grabbed her arm.
“Hey, slave—is that other guy gone?” the dummy asked in a throaty growl. “I thought he’d never leave!”

I say again: BRILLIANT.

So.

In conclusion:

Night of the Living Dummy is just as (wonderfully, giddily) terrifying and panic-inducing to read as an old person as it was when I was a kid. Maybe even more so, since it’s been sitting there stewing in my subconscious for years, like a possessed dummy in a pawn shop, awaiting its next potential slave.

Also? I am now imagining my poor Brooke, lying in a junkyard somewhere with a maimed face and a thirst for revenge, planning a cross-country hitchhike to come find me.

Which is why I re-read this in broad daylight.

THANKS, STINE. THANKS.

(No, really. Thanks. We would all be a lot less psychologically scarred and therefore a lot less interesting without you.)