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Night of the Living Dummy (Classic Goosebumps #1) Mass Market Paperback – May 1, 2008
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Low and behold, after the Goosebumps movie came out, one of my daughters wanted to read the book after I explained that the movie was based off his books.
We read the first one together and plan on reading all of them, in order. My daughter is only 6 but is mature enough to handle any of the "scariness" she comes across. I recommend that parents read it with their kids to see if they would be able to handle some of the things discussed (nothing like Fear Street novels). Some kids may not be into (mild) horror and may get scared, so proceed with caution if under 8 (as recommended).
They're not my favorite stories. The first was a mess of unlikable characters doing unlikely things. This one is a little more structured. Still, the conflicts with Slappy (or any of the evil dummies) never felt like they had significant risk. Even as a kid, I recall finding the heroes' attempt to overpower the dummies too easy and too immediate. He'd feel more like an annoying personality who wouldn't leave you alone than a threat, especially with his weird plot to make children his 'slaves.' (Although, I do specifically remember thinking what it'd be like to be his slave, and how I'd be able to escape.)
In Night of the Living Dummy II, Slappy takes center stage as the villain after Mr. Wood's failed plot in the previous book. Amy Kramer is a young girl with an odd passion: Ventriloquism! Where her rival sister, Sara, is a wunderkind artist, Amy expresses her skills in comedy routines with her dummy, Dennis. Unfortunately, Dennis (and her act) are in shambles, and Slappy enters the picture as a dolled-up replacement.
As expected, he comes complete with a magic spell to bring him to life, where he ruins Amy's acts with cruel insults or by injuring her audience. He's also sneaking into Sara's bedroom every night and ruining her work. No one believes a dummy is walking around on its own, so Amy is increasingly separated from a family who can no longer trust her. Probably the freakiest scenario here: Being so mistrusted that no one can even look at you straight.
Sara does, at least, come to believe Amy, and the two sisters hatch a creative plot to get the family back on Amy's side, and get rid of Slappy for good. I liked it significantly more than the first NOTLD story, but it's still missing something I can't quite put my finger on.
In some respects, it feels like a rewrite, and corrects a lot of the beats that just didn't work with the last one.
R.L. Stine's characterization also really shines with this entry. The siblings play off of one another with genuine sibling personalities, and their reluctance to accept (or, like, not accept) their doofy cousin feels very real. The dad is awkward, and often fails at being a stern parent -- but he tries! he tries really, really hard.
It's a creepy entry: Trina and Dan O'Dell's dad brings home a 13th dummy to add to his collection during a visit from some relatives. Soon after, horrible pranks start occurring in the night, with cousin Zane usually at the butt-end of them. Most of the yarn is about unraveling the mystery of who's behind the pranks, and what the motivation is. It could be Slappy, or it might be a bit more...real. The real scares don't crop up until the very end.
With mild spoilers, I still don't understand Slappy's goal to make children his slaves by...being a jerk. Like with the last entry, he isn't threatening -- just annoying. Even rude. And like the last entry, our heroes simply overpower him when he plays his cards and starts making threats. It makes Slappy's nefarious goals confusing, and his threats weak.
But this entry was all about the characterization, and the feeling of an ominous mystery! It's easily the best of the sub-series, and can be read entirely on its own without reference to the prior entries.
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Love this book this is my favorite series of goose bumps in my life