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Book Review: Who Let the Ghosts Out? by R.L. Stine

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Who Let the Ghosts Out?, by R.L. Stine is the first in the series, Mostly Ghostly. It tells of a brother and sister who find themselves in a rather unusual situation.

Nicky and Tara are coming home from school one day when they begin to notice some strange things: Nicky can’t seem to remember when school started, Tara has leaves in her hair, they are freezing and it’s unusually late. When they arrive home things are even stranger: the name on their mailbox is "Doyle" but their name is "Roland." After unsuccessfully opening the front door with their key they ring the doorbell: “Mom? Dad? Are you there? It’s us.”

Stine’s books are wildly popular. He knows how to write horror for elementary school kids. As the book begins, you think you’re in for a kid zombie story. But as you’re drawn deeper into the story, you find yourself lost in a twilight zone. By the end of chapter one, you’re hooked.

What makes this story so appealing is the immediate sense of a problem in the opening paragraph. Tara and Nicky are dressed for summer even though it’s a freezing cold night. You are instantly intrigued by these two people. What has happened to these kids? Are they the victims of some cruel Halloween prank? Or is something far more sinister at stake? Enter Max Doyle. Tara and Nicky decide to seek his help in discovering what has happened to them.

Stine also uses the setting to grab our attention in the opening paragraph: “Clouds floated across the moon. We ducked our heads as a cold wind whipped our cheeks. Above us, the bare tree limbs rattled like skeleton bones.”

Who Let the Ghosts Out? is everything a scary story for young readers should be: scary and fast-paced with no blood or gore. Readers beware: There is some torture in this book. An evil spirit named Phears is trying to get at Nicky and Tara through Max. Max, however, refuses to give him anything, or anyone so Phears resorts to a little teeth drilling (imagined, not real). Those who fear the dentist’s drill might do well to fast-forward this part.

There is much to like about this book – it’s scary and intriguing. By the end of the book you’re rooting for Max, Nicky and Tara but are left wanting more.

“Tara sighed, ‘I hope.’ She raised her finger to ring the doorbell. I heard footsteps. The knob turned from inside. And then the door swung open.” Will Tara and Nicky find their parents behind the door? Why is the name "Doyle" on their mailbox? Read Mostly Ghostly by R.L. Stine to find out.

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About Kate McCarthy Bond

  • Kate

    Thanks for reading my review. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I haven’t really read any of Stine’s books until I read this series and I loved it! There’s another one that he wrote which is sillier than his usual fare: The Big Blueberry Barf-Off! It’s the first in the Rotten School series. Check it out if you like RL Stine.

  • I’ve been a fan of Stine’s for years and think it’s a shame so many adults dismiss his writings out of hand. He knows what he’s doing. Thanks for your review.