R.L. Stine combines science and obsession in a winning formula with his second Goosebumps novel, Stay Out of the Basement.
Casey and Margaret's father, Dr. Brewer, has been spending an unusual amount of time down in the family's basement, working on his experiments with plants. He doesn't talk to his family much anymore -- he doesn't seem interested in anything except his scientific studies. One day the two siblings sneak down to the basement when their parents are away and discover their father isn't working with ordinary plants....they seem to be alive. On top of that, one day their father's cap accidentally falls out and he is sprouting green leaves! What has their father created? What has he done to himself?
Oddly enough, I didn't really care for this book as a child. I didn't actively dislike it, but it was never one that really stood out in my mind when thinking of my favorite R.L. Stine books. It wasn't until this reread that I was able to appreciate the way Stine created this man, a recently-fired professor, father, and mad scientist, and his downward spiral into obsession with what he calls "something the world has never seen." He is trying to create a plant-animal hybrid, and that's all he cares about. He's on the verge of a major break-through! This is a very smart guy, no doubt, but he neglects his family and they soon become suspicious, leading to what is probably the most gruesome ending of any book in the Goosebumps series (no spoilers!).
Is Stine obvious about all of this? Well, no -- this is a kid's book, after all. However, one thing this book has is subtext. Stine slips things in I never noticed as a child, but I don't think that was the point. On the surface, it's a creepy-but-not-too-creepy story for children about a scientist dad doing weird stuff in the basement, but even scarier than his experiments is the obsession that drove him there.
Next time: It's green and slimy -- it's Monster Blood!