The Bookworm: Goosebumps Campfire Collection

Goosebumps: The Campfire Collection, by R.L. Stine. 373 pages. Scholastic Inc. September 2003.

“Some of the kids tried to scare you,” Lucy confessed. “They only wanted a little fun, Harry. It isn’t fun being a ghost. Believe me. It isn’t fun spending day after day after day out here, knowing you aren’t real anymore. Knowing you will never grow. Knowing you will never change.” She uttered a loud sob from deep in her chest. “Knowing you will never have a life!” (p. 209)

I recently found the Goosebumps Campfire Collection in our neighborhood free library and could not pass up the opportunity to read it.

It’s been a long time since I last read a Goosebumps book — maybe twenty years. I don’t member if I read them before or after I discovered the Fear Street series, but at a certain point I felt like I had graduated from Goosebumps and disregarded the series as kid stuff. I had continued to do so ever since, even disdaining the old Goosebumps books I have in my closet. I knew I would revisit the series at some point, but always put it off until later. However, something drew me to The Campfire Collection when I saw it in the little library.

And, yes, I’ll admit it — the recently released Goosebumps movie has piqued my interest in the series. Finding the collection was a welcome coincidence.

To be honest, I expected the books in this Goosebumps collection to be worse than some of the Fear Street books I have read. I expected cheesier plots and convenience to make my eyes roll around in my head. I mean, Goosebumps is a step down from Fear Street, right? Right?

In a way I suppose it is. However, to my surprise, I found the books included in The Campfire Collection are not only more interesting, better written, and (dare I say) more believable than many Fear Street books, but also a tad bit scarier. At the end of the collection, I wondered if Fear Street is a step down from Goosebumps.

The Campfire Collection contains three books set at summer camp — The Curse of Camp Cold Lake (1997), Ghost Camp (1996), and Welcome to Camp Nightmare (1993). Though the settings may not have been autumn-appropriate, their spooky mysteries fit the Halloween season nicely. Plus, camping and campfires always make me think of fall. A chill in the air at night, the smell of burning wood, the mysterious darkness beyond the light of the fire…

Each book was a joy to read. The stories are simple and down-to-earth, albeit fantastic at the same time. Much like many of the Fear Street books, each kept me guessing; I knew the strange, inexplicable events in each book needed to be tied together somehow and was eager to reach the end, eager to see how it all came together. Plus, the books are my type of scary stories. No slashing, no mutilations — just good ol’ fashioned, spooky tales of the unknown and unexplained.

The books in The Campfire Collection are not without the usual drawbacks, though. There is convenience, and one book ends via deus ex machina. There is also a lot of fluff to fill pages, especially at the beginning of each book when the characters and situation are being introduced. However, once the stories start rolling they are very engaging.

Speaking of the characters, I felt much more empathy for the ten-, eleven-, and twelve-year old protagonists in these Goosebumps books than I do for the often bubble-headed teens in the Fear Street series. The kids in The Campfire Collection were much more authentic and likable; they had realistic quirks and personalities, much like kids in real life. They definitely did not seem to be contrived and somewhat stereotypical, like Fear Street characters sometimes feel like.

Needless to say, The Campfire Collection proved me wrong about the Goosebumps series. I should revisit it more often — and maybe even see the movie.

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