Happy Birthday, R.L. Stine!

Banned and Challenged Books, Banned Books Week, School Libraries

By Tess Wilson

R.L. Stine stands behind a seated masked creature, preparing to shoot the Goosebumps series.Robert Lawrence Stine was born on October 8th, 1943, in Columbus, OH. He describes his family as being “very poor” and recalls the experience of growing up in poverty as a reason why he “liked staying in [his] room and writing.”

After finding his first typewriter in the attic, he began compiling jokes and stories into short books. He continued writing all the way through school and as a student at Ohio State University, where he edited The Sundial, a humorous university publication. This led him to a career at Scholastic in New York City, and an opportunity to create even more joke books, this time as a published author! During this time, he also created Bananas, a humor magazine.

Cover of new graphic novel series Just Beyond featuring three kids running from a school building.
New graphic novel series “Just Beyond.”

Many of us are familiar with Stine’s most popular series, but even his very first spooky book was a big success. Blind Date convinced the author to “forget the funny stuff. Kids like to be scared!” After this bestselling hit, he dug his heels into the horror genre and began writing books like Beach House and Hit and Run. The Fear Street series began in 1989, which was soon followed by Goosebumps. Television executives quickly saw the potential of the series, and a Goosebumps show ran from 1995-1998.

This television series was unique, as it delivered horror stories in a kid-friendly package. This eventually earned it the rating “TV-Y7,” which is recommended for child over seven. Stine’s sweet spot — somewhere between gross-out and gore; teetering on the edge of horror and humor — has earned his writing a somewhat controversial history. Parents have requested his books be removed from collections for being “too scary” or for reasons of violence, and Night of the Living Dummy was challenged for its “satanic symbolism, disturbing scenes, and dialog.”

Despite challenges — and to the delight of readers of all ages — R.L. Stine continues to produce books of horror and harrowing tales. In fact, he recently announced a new series of middle-grade graphic novels. If you or your young readers are up for a scare, keep an eye out for Just Beyond, coming soon to a library near you!


Tess WilsonTess Wilson is an Outreach Librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and a Trainer with The Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Her writing can be found on the YALSA and OIF blogs, on VIDA Reviews, and on the Eleventh Stack blog. Currently, she is an ALA Emerging Leader, a PaLA Leadership Academy participant, and a librarian in the inaugural Library Freedom Institute cohort. She is a collector of everything from big dictionaries to small rocks, and her latest acquisitions were an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh. Find her on Twitter @tesskwg.

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