Judging a Book by its Cover
Greetings Goosebumpers (is that what I should call my readers?) I know I've been pretty lacking in updates but it's Halloween and here I am, back again. Today I'll be talking about an entry from the classic Goosebumps Series, novel #41, Bad Hare Day.
First things first, I do love a pun title. This title is kind of like the inverse of My Hairiest Adventure, right? So that gets points right off the bat.
So once again Tim Jacobus knocks it out of the park with a great illustration. It has his trademark weird angles. The rabbit's embellished features like big ol' teeth and creepy eyes manage to make a pretty unscary creature pretty fearsome.
I do have a confession to make though. There are like, "magic essence" lines sort of wafting up from the hat right? At first I thought those were stink lines. Attack of the stinky rabbit doesn't have the same ring to it though.
So we learn a few things from this cover. There is presumably going to be some illusionist magic. A rabbit will be involved. And as the tagline fills us in, this rabbit will in fact not be the easter bunny.
Will there be an evil rabbit that saws kids in half? Will there be a robot rabbit that steals from fans at magic shows? Will there be an alien rabbit that invades a budding young magicians house? It's Goosebumps so anything is possible. Let's get in to it.
Tim Swanson's family is kind of a drag. Both of his parents are continually having the worst days of their lives due to work being a miserable slog. His younger sister Ginny takes karate for self defense... but uses it more for offense... specifically against Tim.
So what does Tim have to look forward to in his miserable life? His love of magic. Of course, it's still a work in progress. Trying to impress his friends with magic tricks doesn't go to well. Ginny the Karate Kid reveals that all his cards are the 3 of clubs, making picking the right card a real easy feat. He loses his audience, and an argument with his sister ends with a nice karate chop to the gut. Pretty embarrassing to get beat up by your younger sister.
At least his friend Foz is on his side. Together they check out the magic shop together for some new tricks. Of course, with only 5 bucks to his name Tim mostly browses. The quirky shop owner tricks them with a prop sword. Convincing kids they are witnessing a murder IS pretty hilarious. They get him back later using one of his prop guillotines to fake getting a hand chopped off. The owner is pretty embarrassed he falls for one of his own tricks. Knowing they have a true love of magic, he gives them free tickets to a show for the worlds greatest magician, and Tim's personal hero, Amaz-O.
Foz is out right away, realizing instantly that his parents would never let him go to a show at 10pm on a school night. Tim is more hopefully. After all, magic is his passion and Amaz-O is his hero! Surely his parents will understand!
... No. They don't. Will Smith was right. Parents just don't understand. Undeterred, Tim decides to sneak out and attend the show at Midnight Mansion. Unfortunately for him Ginny hears him sneaking out and demands to tag along under threat of tattling.
Dodging cops upon their bikes, they make it there. A slick lie to the doorman assuring him their parents are just parking the car and they are in. Instantly Tim is enthralled.
The show is absolutely amazing. Doves fly out of his hat. Things levitate. All the magical things happen. Amaz-O is as amazing as his name suggests. Best of all is that Tim himself gets called up to assist in the last trick. He is going to disappear! Nervously he enters the box for the trick. He gets spun around. He gets sucked into the 5th dimension! Well no... he falls down a chute to the basement. So that's how the trick works. Now all he has to do is wait for Amaz-O to come down and get him and he can strike up a conversation with his hero...
Problem though. No one comes. He is alone down there. Also the door is locked. He yells for help. No help. Only one thing to do, bust open the door. He manages to, but still there is no one. He yells out and wanders around. How could everyone leave him?
Finally he finds Amaz-O's personal room. He eagerly comes inside, a little upset that the jerk left him alone down there, but still eager to meet his hero... Instead all he sees is Amaz-O's rabbit and hears the magician yell at him, call him a punk, tell him to get out of there.
Tim leaves in a huff and as a parting gift steals Amaz-O's personal trunk of tricks on the way out. He runs to his bike being followed by security, and runs into a miffed Ginny. Together they bike off into the night and manage to get home safe and sound.
His sister demands they share the trunk, again, under threat of tattling. She may not be the biggest magic fan, but a professional magicians props are too tempting a thing to let go. Tim agrees to share the trunk, and they will open it up together the next day. Then Tim IMMEDIATELY breaks his promise. What can he say, magic is too cool to wait.
The chest blows up as soon as he opens it. Except it is only an audio chip with an explosion sound. Still scares the crap out of a kid though. He tries out some of the tricks without really knowing what to do and only succeeds in letting loose a bunch of live snakes from Amaz-O's suit. Enough is enough, I've had it with these mother fucking snakes in this mother fucking suit! When he fully investigates them it turns out they are clockwork automatons. That must be HELLA complicated clockwork. Finally he gives it up for the evening.
The next morning Ginny immediately tries to confess, but their parents are too distracted by the hellscape that is adult life. She also knows that Tim broke the promise. The agree to check out the trunk together with Tim's friend Foz.
Foz is also faked out by the exploding trunk. Tim is eager to show off some tricks. He does the ball under a shell trick. Ginny guesses the ball right. How can that be? Tim palmed the ball. But then they realize there is a ball under EVERY shell. And there are more balls popping out from under the shells all the time! Quickly they stash it away, clearly this magic is too advanced. Next Tim inadvertently lets loose legions of doves. How the hell are they gonna clean all this up?
They escape to the outdoors, but Tim hasn't given up on the tricks yet. But why is there a carrot in there? Without any fucking hesitation Ginny bites the magic carrot. What kid in the world is so eager to eat a carrot? I don't believe you RL Stine. This carrot turns out to be some genuine magic too, because it turns his sister into a rabbit. Tim threatened to do this all the time, but now it actually happened! And it's going to be a big problem because if parent's don't understand kids going to see a magic show at 10 pm on a school night they sure as hell are not going to understand you turning your kid sister into a damn rabbit.
Tim finds a magic wand and tries it out. All it does is shoot out handkerchiefs. Pretty impressive, but not useful. They finally find a instruction paper but wouldn't ya just know, a convenient gust of wind blows it away and into a nearby stream. Shucks. There goes any hope of turning rabbit Ginny back to human. Aww well.
Well I guess there is one more thing to try. They have gotta go meet Amaz-O and confess to their crimes... and also get Ginny turned back to a human.
Back on their bikes, they return to the Midnight Mansion only to find it closed. They barge in anyway, and go to Amaz-O's room. There he sits, but he is outright ignoring him. Wait no, he's not ignoring them, he's asleep. Wait no, he's not asleep, he's dead! Wait no, he's not dead, he's.... a wooden puppet? How can that be? Is it a prop for his shows?
Either way his rabbit is still there. And Amaz-O's voice calls out calling them a bunch of punks that need to leave. Wait no, his rabbit is saying that.... wait no, the rabbit IS Amaz-O!
See Amaz-O has some backstory. He was a human once. The greatest magician in the world. Famous, popular, rich, and all that good stuff. He had a jealous hater named Frank. Frank was a genuine sorcerer. Real fucking magic. Problem is he had none of the success because he was kind of awkward. So what's a man to do? Turn the person you're jealous of into a rabbit apparently. And what is a rabbit magician to do? Go on continuing to do magic apparently... He just has a wooden puppet of what he used to look like because apparently no one would pay to see a magic rabbit? Wait no... everyone would pay shit tons to see a magic rabbit. So I guess I don't understand why you need the wooden puppet BUT NO MATTER.
This story resolves itself. The magic carrot has a time limit. In a scant half hour Ginny will be a human again. What a happy ending. And in the happiest ending, Amaz-O wants Tim to be in on his act.
There is a problem though. Tim thought he was going to be replacing the wooden puppet. Turns out instead he is replacing the rabbit... He does get plenty of lettuce though...
What I thought
One of R.L. Stine's strong suits can be putting forward some relatable childhood experiences. A lot of kids have definitely had a "magic tricks" phase. If you didn't, there is a good chance you went to school with someone you did. Maybe it was just a couple of simple card tricks. Maybe it was a full fledged prepackaged magic kit. As far as "hobby leads to trouble" plots go, I think this is more relatable than say, the ventriloquism in Night of the Living Dummy.
This also has the whole aspect of "your desires coming true in a horrible way." The monkey paw if you would. Tim wants to be able to do wonderful magic, but he cheats his way there and it overwhelms him. Tim also wants to turn his sister into a rabbit and I'll be damned but he does it, and immediately realizes there are real world consequences to it.
Parents in Stine books always disbelieve the kids, but in this book they outright ignore them due to the stresses of life. It's a different way to paint the characters that still results in the kids being all alone in their trouble. As an adult now, the parents are hell relatable.
I do have a problem with this book though. It resolves itself. Stine often comes up with really silly solutions to the problems in the books but here the solution is just to wait. They don't have to do ANYTHING to get Ginny back to being a human. They have no problems to figure out. They don't outsmart anyone. They don't even figure out the true identity of Amaz-O on their own really. He just outright tells them everything in an explanation dump, along with the fact that there problem won't be a problem in a half an hour. It sorta lets the steam out of the climax of this story. The twist of the magician being a rabbit is moderately interesting, as you would think the sister turning into the rabbit is the allusion of the "hare" in the title... but the fact that they didn't have to do anything to reveal it... Just feels like R.L. Stine sorta hit the right page count and needed to wrap things up.
When it comes down to it, I don't think the ending completely ruins the story. In some ways, any mix up of the Goosebumps formula kind of feels like a relief, but I still found it a little disappointing. The use of magic which is supposed to be an illusion but in fact real, maintains enough allure to save the story. What kid hasn't wondered in the back of their head if maybe that guy getting sawed in half was REALLY getting sawed in half?
This is a decent Goosebumps entry, just not top tier.
Rating: 3 rabbits out of 5
So my tentative plan for that update will just be to do the next book in the series. I kind of want to at least close out all the original books sometime within my lifetime. So next up would be #42, Egg Monsters from Mars. Those are the scariest types of egg monsters in my humble opinion.
Anyway, thanks for reading this. It's fun to relive these silly books with people who have memories of them, however vague those memories may be. I am actually pretty surprised that every so often I get comments from people I don't actually know. I am glad some people get some fun out of this besides myself.
Until next time Goosebumpers! (ok I am rethinking calling my readers that.)