Monday, December 10, 2007

#51 Beware, the Snowman

#51 Beware, the Snowman

Front Tagline: He's got a heart of cold!
Back Tagline: No Melting Allowed!

Official Book Description:
Jaclyn used to lived with her aunt Greta in Chicago. But not anymore. They've moved to a place called Sherpia. It's a tiny village on the edge of the Arctic Circle.
Jaclyn can't believe she's stuck out in Nowheresville. No movie theaters. No malls. No nothing. Plus, there's something really odd about the village.
At night there are strange howling noises. And in front of every house there's a snowman. A creepy snowman with a red scarf. A deep scar on his face. And a really evil smile...
(Sometimes I wonder how many readers of the blog bother to look at the Official Book Description, which is transcribed from the back of the book. If you don't usually, treat yourself for this book. It contains two amazing errors, which will be revealed at the end of the entry.)

Brief Synopsis:
Well, in what has to be a first, the book opens with a poem. Jaclyn DeForest is reciting a little ditty about a snowman, one slightly less disturbing than the Burl Ives song. The rhyme warns against the snowman, as he brings the cold. I thought that was Jack Frost, but I guess that's another book (Note to RL Stine: Please don't write that book):

When the snows blow wild
And the day grows old,
Beware, the snowman, my child.
Beware, the snowman.
He brings the cold.

Jaclyn is a Goosebumps character, so naturally she's just moved. Aunt Greta, Jaclyn's legal guardian, decided that they needed a change from the blistery winter of Chicago, so they moved to the Arctic Circle. Being that Greta is her only living relative (her mother passed away when she was four and her father has mysteriously disappeared), she has no say in the matter and so she finds herself making the lateral move to the small arctic village of Sherpia. While driving into the village, Jaclyn notices that every yard features an identical snowman, one with a crimson scarf, twisted branches for arms, and a mysterious scar carved into its face.

They pull up to their new home, a small, modest building with a flat roof. Now, I'm no architect (no no, it's true), but it's my understanding that in climates where you expect a lot of snow or rainfall, the houses have sloped roofs. This allows for the snow/rain to drain off, rather than accumulate, thereby preventing a horrible roof cave-in. But I guess in a village in the Arctic Circle doesn't get much snow.

Jaclyn looks out at all the snow covering the village. Her new bedroom is actually the attic, and the ceiling is so low that she can't stand up inside. But, she does have that window. After looking outside for a while, she gets antsy and goes back downstairs.

Jaclyn wonders what her friends are doing back in Chicago. She imagines they're at a Bulls game. Hey, maybe they're also watching a White Sox game, eating a hot dog, performing in a titular musical, riding the El, releasing an album on Drag City, and watching a Cubs game, all while standing in front of a big poster that says "Chicago" on it.

Jaclyn offers to help her aunt unpack but Greta insists she go out and investigate her new neighborhood. Jaclyn already saw most of what the town had to offer driving up to their shack: a church the size of a garage, a schoolhouse the size of a garage, a general store the size of a garage, a garage. She decides to investigate the other side of the village, the side with the enormous mountain at the end. As she treks through the thick, heavy snow towards the mountain, she notices more snowmen identical to the one in her front yard. Red scarf, gnarled branches, facial scar. Jaclyn treks a little deeper towards the outskirts of the village when she meets the Edward Burtynskys responsible for these creations: The preteen sibling duo of-- Lord, give me strength-- Rolonda and Eli Browning. And before you think I posted this information in the wrong section of the blog, they both have blue eyes, so wrap your head around that one.

The kids are very friendly until Jaclyn presses them about why they make all of the snowmen look alike. They get even unfriendlier when she tells them she's going to climb the mountain at the end of the village. They try to dissuade her from ascending the snow-covered peak by half-joking about how cold it gets, but Jaclyn suspects there's another reason for their apprehension. Jaclyn stays to talk a little longer with the kids, who remain mostly friendly, then heads off to continue her investigation of the far-side of the village. As she leaves she reassures the siblings that she is not going to climb the mountain.

She starts climbing the mountain. After walking for some time and leaving behind the other houses of the village, she happens upon a little shack nestled within the woods near the bottom of the mountain. The door is ajar and she peeks her head inside. Suddenly, a ferocious white wolf attacks her. A voice cries out, "Down Wolfbane!" Wolfbane.

In the scariest moment of the book, the wolf's white-bearded owner is revealed to be wearing a denim shirt. The lanky man, who has long gray hair tied in a ponytail behind his back, accuses Jaclyn of breaking into his shack. She gets spooked and runs away, towards the mountain. The old man gives chase and shouts at her "Beware, the snowman!" She stops and they face each other from opposite sides of an icy road. He tells her that she can't climb the mountain because she will not want to meet the snowman who lives in a cave on the top of the mountain. If she meets the snowman, she will never return. Please meet the snowman, please meet the snowman, please meet the snowman.

Jaclyn does what she waaaaants and turns to head towards the mountain again. So the old man sics his wolf on her. Jaclyn runs as fast as she can up the icy, winding mountain road. But apparently it's a bad idea to run on ice. Thumpety thump thump, thumpety thump thump, look at Jaclyn skid into a jagged culvert! After she gets her bearings and makes her way back to the road, she sees that Wolfbane has stopped his pursuit. Jaclyn eases her way back to the village, picking up pace and running through the neighborhood until she arrives at her house.

Rolonda catches up with Jaclyn and asks her why she so rudely ran past her house without saying hello. Jaclyn tells her about what the old man said and Rolonda tells her that his name is Conrad. I miss the days when a Goosebumps character was just named Hannah. Rolonda quietly reveals that he might work for the snowman. Jaclyn asks her to repeat that, presumably so she can mock her properly. Rolonda refuses, as her younger brother Eli is within hearing range and might get spooked. She tells Jaclyn to meet her at church (!) the following afternoon.

Once safely inside her new home, Jaclyn asks her aunt if she'd ever heard anything about an evil snowman who lived on top of the mountain. Wow, look at that sentence I just wrote. Aunt Greta acts nervous but tells her niece no. Jaclyn then sings the entire refrain from the beginning of the book again for her aunt, to see if she recognizes it. She will repeat this song in full several times throughout the course of the book, probably for the same reason a college student would use block quotes in an essay: There's simply not 112 pages worth of material here.

Later that night. Jaclyn is having trouble sleeping so she decides to take a small walk outside in the snow. She spies one of the many identical snowmen in the yard. It slowly nods his head towards her until it falls off-- it was just the wind! She hears a wolf howl and gets spooked, so she decides to retreat back inside, only she's locked herself out. So she climbs back in through the window and decides to go through her boxes of unpacked books to see if she can find the poetry book the snowman rhyme came from, as she is convinced there is a second verse. Greta hears her making a racket. She scolds her Jaclyn for going outside at night and insists she go back to bed. It's a miserable life for nieces. The next morning, Jaclyn's poetry book is nowhere to be found.

Now, I've been doing this blog coming up on two years now, and as such there are certain words I expect to not find in a Goosebumps book... "Church" would certainly be one. After scaring herself for what has to be the tenth time by mistaking one of the identical snowmen for a horrible monster, Jaclyn joins Rolonda inside the church. They sit in a lonely pew and Rolonda tells Jaclyn the history of the village. Marvel as the book goes from zero to stupid in record time:

"Years ago, two sorcerers lived in this village. A man and a woman. Everyone knew they were sorcerers. But everyone left them alone."
"Were they evil sorcerers?" I interrupted.

There are also words I'd hope to never read in a Goosebumps book... "Sorcerer" is high on that list, falling just below "leprechaun." One day, the two sorcerers were playing around in the snow. For fun they brought a snowman to life. Only once they did, they couldn't control the snowman. And also the snowman was evil. So everyone in the village chased the snowman up the mountain where he still lives in an ice cave. Conrad moved his shack to the bottom of the mountain and no one knows if he's there to protect the village against the snowman or to work for the snowman. Oh and the reason why there are all those identical snowmen is because everyone in the village is afraid of when the evil snowman comes down at night to wander the village, so they made the copycat snowmen to serve as a tribute, hoping he'll be honored and not harm them. As soon as Rolonda finishes the story, Jaclyn bursts out laughing. Rolonda gets upset but I think there's an unspoken contract that whenever you mention "sorcerers" in conversation, you're going to be laughed at. Rolonda insists it's true and says goodnight.

As Jaclyn exits the church, Eli shows up to tell her about why he's so scared of the snowman. Turns out he not only saw the snowman but the snowman saw him. At first I thought the kid was cracking wise but then he keeps talking. He and some of his friends snuck up to the ice cave, went inside, saw the snowman, were chased by the snowman, ran away to safety. Eli hasn't told his sister about it because it's simply too terrifying.

Speaking of terrifying, that night Jaclyn dreams about dozens of cute kittens with blue eyes and fluffy white hair. That's not a dream, that's a Lisa Frank folder. Then suddenly the kittens grow red scarves and turn evil, hissing and clawing at each other. If the scarves were purple it'd still be a Lisa Frank folder though. Upon waking, she decides to sneak away and climb the mountain. Even though she had promised her aunt the night before that she wouldn't go near the ice cave, she simply has to see for herself. But Aunt Greta keeps Jaclyn inside for most of the day. When she finally gets to leave the house, she runs into Rolonda and Eli, who are there to help her build her safety snowman. They get very upset when she tells them her plan to visit the ice cave.

Jaclyn strikes a deal with them: If she agrees to build a safety snowman for her house, they agree to come with her and keep Conrad busy while she sneaks up to the top of the mountain. The siblings reluctantly agree.

The plan works and while Rolonda and Eli distract Conrad by running up the mountain in the opposite direction, Jaclyn ascends the peak and makes it inside the ice cave. She manages to get a few feet in when she sees a large white mass moving towards her: it's the snowman! No, really, it is the snowman. She backs away from the cave and falls off the cliff, but manages to grab onto the icy ledge. As she hangs from the mountain, the snowman yells at her, demanding she identify herself. She does and the snowman informs her that he's her father.

Safely back inside the ice cave, the snowman explains what really happened. Ten years ago, her mother turned her father into a snowman. Her mother tried to reverse the spell but couldn't. Now Greta has come back because-- Well, not only is Jaclyn's mother a sorcerer, but so is her aunt! The spell wears off every ten years so Greta has to return to renew the spell. The snowman tells his daughter that there is only one way to cure him, but he can't tell her what that way is. If he tells her how to reverse the spell, then the magic actually gets stronger and lasts longer. But he can give her a hint. He then recites the song from the beginning of the book. Jaclyn had her doubts but now that he also knew that rhyme, she knows he's telling the truth, and she also knows what will reverse the spell: the second verse! She races out of the cave to find her poetry book, only to run into Greta. Greta is very angry with Jaclyn for coming up to the ice cave, but Jaclyn figures that since her aunt is responsible for imprisoning her father in snow, she loses this argument.

Greta insists that she's done not a sorceress and produces Jaclyn's poetry book. Jaclyn begs for the book so she can free her father, but Greta laughs, telling her that the snowman isn't her father at all, but is actually a monster. This is followed by one of the better exchanges in the book:

"We ran to save you from the monster's horrible evil!"
"YOU ARE A LIAR!" the snowman raged.

Jaclyn doesn't believe her, but that hardly matters because Greta tears out the page with the poem on it and throws it over the ledge. However, the wind picks up and blows it right into Jaclyn's hands. The snowman encourages her to read it aloud. She gets almost all the way through when Greta advances and rips the poem out of her hands, tearing it to shreds. She tells her niece that she can't have her freeing the snowman. Luckily for Jaclyn, she already saw and memorized the last line of the poem. She recites in whole the final verse of the poem while Greta shrieks in anger:

When the snows melt
And the warm sun is with thee,
Beware, the snowman--
For the snowman shall go free!

Jaclyn watches as the snowman begins to melt, revealing...

But the Twist is:
...not her father, but a horrible monster! Whoops. The red-scaled beast cackles and heaves the poetry book off the cliff. Its yellow eyes gleam as it prepares to throw the Jaclyn to her death. She pleads with the monster, reminding him that she freed him. "Is that my reward?" she asks, and I guess monsters don't get rhetorical questions because he agrees, that is her reward. He clutches her and her aunt in each hand and holds them over the cliff. However, he quickly throws them back into the cave as his attention turns to the activity outside the ice cave.

A parade of snowmen line the entrance to the cave, extending all the way down the mountainside. One by one they march inside the cave, pushing the monster back further into the cave. Dozens of the snowmen pile up inside until they pull back, revealing the red monster has been safely frozen inside the wall of the cave.

Jaclyn wonders who cast a spell on the snowmen if Greta wasn't a sorceress. Why, it was Conrad who cast the spell! He pokes his head into the ice cave and reveals that... he's Jaclyn's father. He had stayed behind to keep an eye on the snowman out of guilt, but was very glad to finally be reunited with his daughter. Their reunion hug is interrupted by the cadre of snowmen still lining the entrance. One of the snowmen angrily speaks. He asks if they can go back down to the village, it's too cold on top of the mountain. Wokka-Wokka.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Jaclyn DeForest pals up mostly with Rolonda, which is of course not a Boy-Girl relationship. She does disappear halfway through the novel though, so we'll call this round a draw.

Questionable Parenting:
Why did her father wait ten years to cast the Snowmen Pushing The Monster Into The Ice Spell? Also, way to abandon your daughter for a wolf, a shack, and a snowman.

Questionable Grammar:
Pencils down:
01 "used to lived" (should be "used to live")
02 "No nothing." (should be "No anything.")
I don't want to turn this into another meeting of the Internet Gaffe Squad, but by book 51, apparently Scholastic had even stopped reading the back of the books.

Questionable Grammer Parent:

Religion Alert:
An important scene takes place in a church, though it lacks all identifiable aspects of a church save the wooden pews. Make your own Parson Brown joke here, because this entry certainly does not need a third Frosty reference.

Early 90s Cultural References:
Jack Frost, Jack Frost,

R.L. Stine Shows He is Down With the Kids:
Kids love poetry.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 6/7:
Jaclyn watches as Wolfbane approaches her. Well, to clarify, she watches as Wolfbane does not approach her.

Great Prose Alert:
The cave is cut in ice. Everyone calls it the ice cave.

Beware, the Snowman is so bad that I feel embarrassed for the book. Try typing some of the plot out and see how ridiculous you feel.


Alex said...

I love your blog.

I've been working on collecting all the Goosebumps again and I can't find this one anywhere.

Didn't realize how ridiculous it was haha

eric said...

The moment where the snowman reveals he is Jaclyn's father lacks the subtle grace and gentle surprise of Darth Vader's confession in The Empire Strikes Back.

Excellent blog as usual, but one quick note:

Chicago = White Sox
Boston = Red Sox

I suspect they are actually the same team, but for the sake of the joke I thought you might want to know.

P.S. Love the Calvin and Hobbes reference.

Justin Brett said...

Even as a kid I thought this one was weird. Really, a Giant, Demonic Monster...masquerading as a Snowman. Seems a bit redundant.

Rainbowfeet said...

Glad I never read this one. I'm happy that not all of the later books in the series were terrible, but sometimes I can't believe what goes on in these books.

I laughed the hardest at the list of Chicago-specific things. The Bulls- man, that fits the early 90s cultural references section for me, because I remember a large number of kids were wearing Bulls attire in my school. In Michigan. (You mean we were supposed to be into the Pistons?)

Lastly, regarding the blog-specific news, I'm really excited about Monster Blood month- The first one was the first Goosebumps book I ever read, and at the time it was my favorite.

VFDcommander said...

I actually remember liking this one. Guess it was dumber than I thought.

Hooray for Monster Blood month! I liked the first three books but really hated the fourth one because it was so different. Terrible way to end the series.

endoskeleton said...

you have to do why i'm afriad of bees in the next two updates

eponine said...

Hahahaaa, I love this blog.

Monster Blood ones were my favorite! I've been waiting for those :]

Anonymous said...

YES... why I'm afriad of bees is sheer ridiculousness, I'd love to see your comentary on it.

Anonymous said...

The only Goosebumps book I have left and yes I agree it sucks, a lot.

Peter said...

Matthew Friedberger reference for the win.

Dracobolt said...

Jeez, you have my respect for getting through a book as ridiculous as this one. It's like he wasn't even trying at that point in the series. Nice summaries, though. Hilarious. Points for the Reefer Madness reference.

Anonymous said...

Excellent as usual. I remember this book being so terrible, I thought at the time that Stine was trying to make it bad on purpose.

Looking forward to the Monster Blood ones. :-)

Rhomega said...

The cover reminds me of an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, also featuring an evil snowman.

Glad to hear about Monster Blood Month, but I'm interested about what's going in between, and I'm also looking forward to the Night of the Living Dummy trilogy.

Anonymous said...

Loved this entry, too.

Did you know on the site, you can read Goosebumps books for free? It's awesome...

endoskeleton said...

also, that joke should've been "questionable grammer parenting"

Laura said...

Yay John Mahoney reference!

This entry was amazing. I loved "'You are a LIAR!' the snowman raged." Absolutely brilliant.

And it is weird that religious entities like "church" are never mentioned in these books.

Madeline said...

What about "Nowhereseville" as a mistake on the back cover? That doesn't even make sense.

troy steele said...

Ha, that was MY typo.
Scholastic: 1
Blogger Beware: 84

Ensis said...

Hate to bash your blog, but the arctic circle really doesn't get much snow. It snows a few inches per year. I love the reference to Reefer Madness, although Romeo and Juliet is a better song.

TxZ said...

Early 90's Cultural Reference:

Lisa Frank folders.

VNightmare said...

I actually just finished reading this one. I did like the little poem, but in terms of plot, this one was more snark bait than anything. I figured I was not the only one who thought of Darth Vader.

Loved the Muppet reference, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I also got a kick out of the Chicago Bulls references. Growing up in Wisconsin in the 90s during the Bulls dynasty, there were so many people always wearing Bulls gear at school, and it drove me nuts because I have always cheered for my home team, the Bucks (Fear the Deer!), and the Bulls bandwagon annoyed us greatly. And I've always hated Chicago teams. Bulls, Bears, Cubs, and Sox all suck!

But I was obsessed with the Packers more than anything else, and it's funny because I remember this book better than most because it was released right around the time the Packers won the Superbowl in 1997.

Martha said...

What the heck is up with that comma? "Beware the snowman" is a complete sentence. "Beware, the snowman" is not. Just... why?

Marc said...

lol, when the snowman told jaclyn that he was her father, I was like... WTF! JACLYN'S MOTHER HAD SEX WITH A SNOWMAN!!!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog , it is fantastic . Thank-you for posting it , I was asked to do a report on this book and you really helped me .
Although many readers thought this book is radicioulas , I actually enjoyed some of it .
haha the really good part was when I found out the smowman is her father , I was in a complete shock.

great reffrences by the way (:

Anonymous said...

benny here. wow nothing that i can say but it just keep getting better and better. well not this one nessecarissly(did not spell that right)but still good. I loved the ending. It's so funny how it says that it is cold up here. Hilarious ending. all and all 7/10 funny and scary.

Madhura (India) said...

I was not excepting that the snowman will really turn into a monster.And that the aunt can be evil or something. still a good one:)

Katy said...

I have another grammar alert; Shouldn't it just be "Beware the Snowman," with no comma?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the snowman's name is "Beware."

Anonymous said...

well its a really nice story n i luv readin it R.L Stine is ma fav. writer n i luv all his books then y not dis n do u guys no dat dis is d 50 buk of him

Anonymous said...

its a luvly story