It’s October- a time for ghosts, goblins, and other things that go bump in the night. So what better way to get into the Halloween spirit than by showcasing the Children/Young Adult series “Goosebumps” by R.L. (Robert Lawrence) Stine.
Before being knocked out of first place by the story of a young wizard with an English accent, Stine was the bestselling children’s author of all time according to the Guinness Book of World Records; but his books share something in common with that wizard- a spot on the American Library Association’s Top 100 Banned Books; “Goosebumps”, as a series, squeaked in at #94 on the register for 2000-2009. It might not seem so bad coming in near the bottom of the list, especially considering that they were at #15 throughout the 1990’s.
With their mix of supernatural mystery and fantasy, Stine’s novels have been likened to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew; and Stine has been described as the “Stephen King for kids”, but his books contain no offensive language, and his central characters never die.
Nevertheless, Stine’s books like Say Cheese and Die and Piano LessonsCan Be Murder are being challenged even though children are grabbing for these books quicker than Halloween candy.
Complaints against the series assert that they contain “excessive violence” for books intended for children under the age of twelve; and charges of depicting occult or satanic themes.
Some parents have argued that the books violated zero tolerance policies on violence in schools; other parents, and even some school officials, around the country have alleged that the books might provoke harmful thoughts or behavior, and encourage disrespect for people and property. The claims went so far as to accuse Stine of having an ulterior motive of hooking young children with the collection as a prelude to more graphic and perverse books like the “Fear Street” series.
In January, 1997, a Minneapolis, Minnesota parent sought to have Goosebumps banned in schools because she felt it was “too scary” for children. Ironically, though, she admitted that her son had only read for school reports before he started avidly reading the novels. “I had to force him to do that,” she conceded.
Double Date was removed from the Crawford County, Georgia Middle School Library in 2004 for no other reason than because the book deals with complex issues teenagers confront.
On September 15, 2011, the ACLU of Texas released their annual report on books banned in the State\’s school districts. The list included R.L. Stine, a Gossip Girl novel, and a previously-covered story, “And Tango Makes Three.”
Dotty Griffith, of the ACLU of Texas, acknowledged that, “Censorship of Young Adult books is concerning because these books motivate youth to read, improve literacy levels, and drive interest in literature. The ACLU of Texas absolutely respects a parents\’ right to choose what books their children read, and to work with teachers to find alternate titles when parents have concerns. But efforts by a single parent, or small group, to ban a book and keep all students from reading it infringes on the rights of other parents to make their own choices. That is the effect of banning books.”
Following the release of the first “Goosebumps” novel, the books’ popularity quickly spread, selling a million copies a month after they were first published and four million copies a month by the mid-1990s. The books appeared on such lists as the New York Times Best Seller List for Children, the USA Today bestseller list, and the Publishers Weekly bestseller list. Some of the books even stayed on USA Today\’s list for over 115 weeks; forty-seven of the sixty-two books made the 2001 Publishers Weekly list of bestselling children\’s books of all-time. The series is also a hit in many other countries, including England, France, and Australia. They have been translated into thirty-five languages, such as Chinese, Czech, Spanish and Hebrew.
To let these books be banned would be a horror more terrifying than anything written on their pages.
For a complete list of titles covered and more information about the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project, please visit www.deepforestproductions.com
Sources: Wikipedia, Amazon, American Library Association, CNN, Business & Heritage Clarksville, Infoplease, Yahoo! News, Marshall University, Houston Press
© 2011 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions