The taglines both relate to Little Red Riding Hood. On the front it says "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?" while on back it says "What big teeth you have!" Sort of predictable, but I guess at least it fits. It's neither particularly clever, nor particularly groan worthy. In all, C+. Now lets get to reading!
As is the case with many Goosebumps characters Grady and his family recently moved to a new house. His parents are scientists that moved to Florida in order to preform tests with South American "Swamp Deer." I believe there exists in real life, a "Marsh Deer" from South America, but I don't know about any Swamp Deer. Plus these deer have webbed feet. I don't know about that... Regardless, releasing a non native species into an ecosystem always proves to turn out well. Just ask Australia about cane toads. They love those things!
Well Grady and older sister Emily decide to go out exploring the swamp together. They see swampy things, like cranes, and peat bogs. Then they promptly get lost. Using the tried and true method of wandering around aimlessly, they eventually stumble upon a ramshackle hut, and knock on the door asking for someone to help. A weird old hermit comes out and scares the kids shitless, purely by virtue of being a creepy hermit. Come on kids, who do you think is going to answer the door of a swamp shack? They decide to run away instead of getting directions home. It does seem to work though, they found their way back and inform their parents of the hermit situation. Dad says the people in town say Mr. Hermit is perfectly safe, just... hermity. Sounds reasonable.
Grady tries to sleep, but wakes up hearing terrible howling. He goes into the kitchen to investigate, and bumps into her sister who hears the same thing. She asserts that it must be wolves, but that's ridiculous! Wolves don't live in the swamp! That's almost as ludicrous as... swamp deer... wait... Anyway, there is a scratching at the door. When Grady works up the courage to open the door and check it out, there is nothing there. Back at sleep, he has dreams of being chased before being sucked into a peat bog.
The next morning, Grady gets mauled by a terrible beast as he exits the house! It tackles him and licks his face. Turns out, it's a dog. A really big, wolf looking dog. They name it Wolf, because ya know, screw creativity. The kids want to adopt it, but the parents are not so down with that plan.
Grady goes off with Will to explore the bog and both get startled when Wolf decides to join them. They go off to the peat bog and Wolf starts to growl. The creepy hermit wanders by, with stains that look like blood on his shirt. He leaves the kids alone, and the kids hypothesize the origin of the stains. Later on their adventure they discover a heron that had been torn to shreds. Immediately Will condemns the hermit. Can't a guy just live by himself in a shack covered with blood and not arouse suspicion? Jeeze! Grady on the other hand thinks a wild animal is the culprit, because there were paw marks. They take wolf away, without even considering that the mysterious giant dog could have been the culprit.
Wolf's first night sleeping inside doesn't go well. Everyone is woken up in the middle of the night as the dog crashes into lamps and windows, frantically trying to get outside. The parents decide that perhaps Wolf should be an outside dog. He happily goes outside and they go back to sleep... for awhile. Then there is that loud howling again. In the morning they find a rabbit torn to shred on their lawn. Emily thinks its wolf, but Grady refuses to believe.
One day Grady and Will go out exploring. Neighbor girl Cassie comes upon them, and they start talking about how a neighbor man is missing. Apparently it was the work of a werewolf. Will teases Cassie for this notion. Grady doesn't seem to know what to think. Suddenly Cassie points out the werewolf. Grady thinks she is pointing at Wolf, but really it's the swamp hermit. He apparently overhears them because he jumps out at them yelling "I'm the werewolf" and laughing. The kids apparently think that this is standard werewolf behavior and run away. Grady, however, trips and falls. The hermit leers over him, then assures him he was just kidding around. On the way back home Grady thinks about Wolf, and the hermit, and werewolves but then gets attacked by a much more tangible threat: a snake.
The howling at night keeps happening. One morning they discover a slaughtered swamp deer, and dad decides wolf is the culprit because there are paw prints by the corpse. Apparently lots of other animals in the area have been killed, and the neighbor is still missing. Wolf gets all the blame. Grady is distraught and gets Wolf to run away before his dad can take him to the pound. Next night the howling comes back and Grady decides to follow Wolf and investigate. Which is sensible, when something is accused of slaughtering countless large animals the best course of action is to follow it into the dark wilderness. Apparently Will had a similar idea of going out in the swamp to investigate the howling of a killer beast. Smart.
What I Thought
Sometimes I wonder what the ratio of Goosebumps kids with scientist parents is. Maybe I should have been keeping track. It seems like a lot of them. Ultimately however, the scientist part wasn't very relevant to the plot. It just set up a reason for them to have moved to the swamp, and a reason for them to be skeptical of werewolves as if being a rational human being wasn't reason enough. Moving into a new house is kind of an overdone thing for these books already. I mean, I get that there is a bit of eeriness and uncertainty to a new house, or from new situations but it's getting old and I'm only 14 books in.
On the other hand, some things still amuse me even though they are frequently done. All the touches of 90'sness entertain me. It seems like at least 2/3rds of the kids in these books own a Nintendo... which is probably fairly accurate to the time. Still, you'd think at least one of them would own a Sega. Also some of the clothing seems amusingly unfashionable. Will apparently wore lycra shorts. What 12 year old boy wore lyrca shorts, even in the 90's?
So lets get to the plot. There was a decent amount of mystery surrounding who the culprit was. The two obvious contenders were the hermit and Wolf. Both were too obvious, and I'm happy it was neither. It could have also been Grady, but that would have made far too little sense with how things were going. Having it be Will worked out, because he seemed like a perfectly normal kid, who was reasonably skeptical of werewolves. If he got legitimately upset about them, then it would have been all too obvious. So ultimately this book ends up being above average in terms of Goosebumps because it doesn't end ridiculously. I mean, I guess the twist of Grady going on as a werewolf is sort of silly, but it is a thing Stine really likes to do. It's an ending straight out of cheesy horror movies gunning for a sequel. Except that Stine almost never actually follows them up.Ultimately it just shows that these characters are not really meant to be meaningful people emotionally invested in. They are just props for a tale to be told. I guess you shouldn't really expect more from these books.
Rating: 3 out of 5 werewolves
The next book in the series is You Can't Scare Me! I like titles with exclamation points! Now there are 2 things I know about this book.
1) It is one of , if not the very first Goosebumps book I ever read.
2) I don't remember any bit of it at all.
Will I remember things as I read it? We shall see! Catch ya next time.