The looming presence of Halloween has me reminiscing about the very first series of books that gripped me as a child. I’ll be showing my youth here, but in 3rd-6th grade there was nothing better than R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books. They were quick to finish and filled with cliffhangers — perfect for a somewhat reluctant reader such as myself.
They’re still popular today, though they’ve apparently gone through several iterations since that initial copy of Welcome to Dead House found its way into my hands back in 1992. Whenever I work in libraries, kids are constantly asking for “scary stories,” and although some of these books are approaching their 20th anniversary, Goosebumps remains the go-to series for elementary school students looking for a safe scare.
This got me thinking: is there a current series like this — a fantasy/horror mix for the mid-grade set — that’s even comparable in popularity? I’m not sure there is. There are many for younger readers (minus the horror element). The Magic Tree House and Secrets of Droon books seem to be especially popular. But what we’re missing right now is a solid mid-grade fantasy/sci-fi/horror series. Trends come in cycles, for sure, and it seems like these types of books had their last big heyday in the 90’s (the Animorphs series also comes to mind), before the age of the weighty Harry Potter-esque tomes took over. But it seems to me that there’s a hole in the market. Maybe it’s time for a Goosebumps-style comeback.