2015 Update: Moved my rating up from 3 to 4 stars. Read this with my Freshmen students, and it serves as an excellent gateway into Shakespeare. It's (2015 Update: Moved my rating up from 3 to 4 stars. Read this with my Freshmen students, and it serves as an excellent gateway into Shakespeare. It's (fairly) short. The plot revolves around the title characters and nothing happens without being foreshadowed three times and reviewed twice for the audience. Lots of great discussions with the students about fate vs. free will, true love, and whether Romeo is actually in love with Juliet....more
Personal interests led me to recently revive my interest in the middle-school level book series "Goosebumps." The book series actually follows the claPersonal interests led me to recently revive my interest in the middle-school level book series "Goosebumps." The book series actually follows the classic pulp-horror style, but aimed towards younger readers (3rd through 6th graders). Remembering this one to be one of my favorites, I managed to excavate it from a box in my garage to re-read it. I wanted to see if it held up over time. It did.
The story is only a slight variation on most of the Goosebumps stories. Pre-teen kid, with bratty younger sibling in new environment - notices abnormal occurances, begins investigation of situation, scary revelation, revelation proven not to be horrible, bigger horrible revelation, climax which fixes the problem and restores the universe to order, final twist revealing new trouble related to plot.
In the case of "Stay Out of the Basement," a girl and her brother have been transplanted (if you don't mind the pun) from their original home to an LA suburb because of the sudden departure of their botonist father from his research at an unnamed eastern university. The girl begins noticing odd behavioral changes in her father, catching him eating plant food and slurping water in the middle of the night. When she and her brother catch the dad growing leaves out of his scalp, he explains that his research involves cross-breeding plants and animals and that he has been suffering side-effects and warns them to stay out of the basement. Of course, immediately, strange noises begin coming from the basement and the two kids go to investigate. In the basement, they find their father tied up, and he explains that he's been down there for weeks and that a plant clone of him has taken over the house. In a fight, the two fathers get mixed up and the girl has to decide which one is real and which one is the plant. She makes the right choice, and the family is able to rest with the father promising not to experiment with plants any more. The final twist involves the girl finding a flower in her backyard pleading with her that he (the flower) is really her father, and that the man she saved is really the plant clone.
Is "Stay Out of the Basement" a piece of great literature? No. But was it a lot of fun to read? Yes. It was also a quick read, taking me only a pair of hours to get through it all (if that!). I recommend re-reading it if you were a fan as a kid - it didn't disappoint me to find that it had all the things that I loved when I read it originally. It's also a great reminder that for every Cormac McCarthy, every George Orwell, and every Thomas Pynchon, there's an equally entertaining Stephen King and R.L. Stine....more
This is clearly the work of an author not-yet grounded in his abilities. A lot of these stories and essays began as his NPR bits, and occasionally theThis is clearly the work of an author not-yet grounded in his abilities. A lot of these stories and essays began as his NPR bits, and occasionally the humor is lost in the transition from vocal to text. In fact, a lot of the gags aren't terribly funny until you imagine him saying it in his nasally voice and lisp. I can admit that I enjoyed this book, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that this isn't the Sedaris book new readers should start with. Go with "Me Talk Pretty One Day" or "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" first and work your way back to this one. It's easier to appreciate as a retrospective of "ah - that's how he started!" than as a "here's a great example of his work!"...more