Pros: Fast moving plot, engaging story, interesting plot twist.
Cons: Maybe creepier than I would want for a young child.
The Bottom Line: I would recommend this with reservations. All parents might not have the same comfort level with the dark turns of the story.
I have heard of the "Goosebumps" series for many years now. When my children were in elementary school they seemed to gobble books from this series up. Two of my kids were reluctant readers and they seemed to enjoy the stories by R. L. Stine.
I never gave one of these books much more than a cursory inspection as they had usually been brought home from school. My children said they were scary, but not too scary.
I picked this one up yesterday and glanced at it. I was almost finished before I noticed that I was reading a children's scary book.
The story is about Samantha Byrd, a tall, gawky girl who is tormented at school by more popular girls. Anyone who has ever been cruelly teased can likely relate to her plight. Judith who is petite, cute, coordinated and popular seems to find great delight in making Sam the butt of her cruel humor. She goes out of the way to be hateful at every given opportunity.
Samantha is a kind person but seems to be reaching her limit of endurance with Judith. A chance encounter with a mysterious woman gives Samantha the opportunity for three wishes--something that leads her to a dilemma not unlike that found in the tale of the Monkey's Paw. Although I found much of the plot to be quite predictable, I was a bit astonished by the twist at the conclusion.
This volume has 26 chapters, most are 3 to 4 pages. I believe it is geared to 9-10 year old regular readers. An advanced reader of 7 or 8 could handle the text. The vocabulary is not extremely challenging. The pace is very fast and engages the reader to see what happens next.
The characters are defined in a manner that should be understandable and easily related to by the elementary school reader. There is enough of a physical description to be a familiar type for most children. Most readers would recognize the awkward girl, her not-quite so awkward friend, the mean girls and sadly some of the clueless teachers.
The dialog is simple and sounds like conversations I hear between children. It's believable.
I do have reservations about this story. It was perhaps a bit darker than I would feel comfortable with. I understand that children can be mean, but in some ways I believe kids could pick up some pointers on how to be mean from this story. I found a few elements lightly disturbing.
In retrospect, I have mixed feelings about my children reading books from this series. I'm grateful that they found it engaging enough to be motivated to read titles by Mr. Stine. I don't think they suffered any permanent damage from this series. I don't know how comfortable I would be now after having read one. I'm going to have to re-read a Nancy Drew to see if the series that I loved was as scary. I think I need it as a basis of comparison.
I would suggest that parents view one of these texts in advance of their child reading one.
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