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Stay Out of the Basement by R. L. Stine

Stay Out of the Basement (1992)

by R. L. Stine

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1,336229,088 (3.31)7
Dr. Brewer is doing a little plant testing in his basement. Nothing to worry about. Harmless , really. But Margaret and Casey Brewer are worried about their father. Especially when they "meet" some of the plants he is growing down there. Then they notice that their father is developing plant-like tendencies. In fact, he is becoming distinctly weedy-and seedy.… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
#2 "Something's waiting in the dark...."
Margaret and Casey continue to worry about their father and his strange experiments on Plants he's doing in the basement. They are just harmless experiments... Right? ( )
  TheReadingMermaid | Oct 2, 2018 |
Good story, but the narration was a little flat, especially for the mother. ( )
  bookwyrmm | Aug 22, 2018 |
This is way better than the newer versions of Goosebumps. I think having everything in a more third person narrative made the story come alive more. The writing was better and the plot was interesting. I liked the twist and mystery. The siblings acted like they were supposed to without being overly bratty or dramatic. ( )
  AdrianaGarcia | Jul 10, 2018 |
As a child I grew up with Goosebumps. I was never obsessed enough to watch the show and collect the merchandise, but the books were a staple for me at the libraries. I was into them enough to be rather excited when the film was announced. The trailer was downright adorable, but it left me wondering - how well do the books hold up now?

If you’re someone curious about rereading these for the nostalgia factor, or a concerned parent wondering just how frightening these books may be for your child, I’ve got you covered. Book by book I’m covering the Classic Goosebumps series.

Reader Beware You’re In For A Scare

Title: Stay Out of the Basement
Tagline: Something’s waiting in the dark...
First Sentence: “Hey, Dad -- catch!”

The book opens with Casey throwing a Frisbee to his dad, from hereon referred to as Dr. Brewer, who fails to catch the Frisbee.

“Not today, I’m busy,” Dr. Brewer said, and abruptly turned and loped into the house.

Wow. Harsh.

It turns out, this is just merely one more example of the way Dr. Brewer has been neglecting his two children - Margaret, 12, and Casey, 11. The family moved to California from some unspecified area about six weeks ago so their dad could work for Polytech. Unfortunately, after a week or two working for Polytech he was fired for unspecified reasons. He’s continued his experiments in the basement of their house, where he’s basically locked himself now much to the rest of the family’s chagrin.

You can see where this is going.

The kids, being kids, decide to check on him in the basement and try to connect with him by taking an interest in his experiments. This results in their dad appearing out of nowhere, nursing a wound on his hand and screaming the title of the book at them.

“Stay out of the basement,” he repeated, holding his bleeding hand. “Don’t ever come down here - I’m warning you.”

But what would this book be if they listened to him?

Two weeks pass without incident, besides noticing that their fathers hand is still heavily bandaged for no good reason. Their mom's sister (Aunt Eleanor) is in the hospital for no well defined reason and she decides she's going to visit her, necessitating Dr. Brewer drive her to the airport. While the parents are away, Margaret's friend Diane decides she wants to see what's in the basement. The kids, evidently forgetting their dad's rage the last time they tried to go down there, listen to her and go exploring.

Diane, you're a true rebel. Where would we be without you?

You're also an idiot.

The basement is hot, hot enough that Casey feels compelled to remove his shirt. Dr. Brewer has created a strange, jungle environment full of large tropical plants. The plants appear to be breathing, making low moaning sounds, and moving of their own accord. This book appears to be something out of The Happening.

The plants feel more animal than human. I wonder why that is. The kids freak out, and leave the basement around the same time Dr. Brewer gets home. Casey then recalls that his shirt has been left behind.. and goes to get it. In the process of retrieving his shirt he's grabbed by a plant and briefly held hostage. Margaret rescues him. Their dad catches them and is furious. Diane is no longer anywhere in sight. Oops.

Nevermind all that, though. Dr. Brewer is calm enough to promise to explain things to the children later. Then he disappears again. And avoids them for another week or so. Surgery on their Aunt Eleanor goes poorly, mom’s delayed a longer time. She excuses his behavior saying that he’s under a lot of pressure wanting to prove the people who fired him wrong.

But what about how he's acting even stranger You can't explain this:

“Dad. He’s wearing a Dodger’s cap. He never takes it off.”
“Really?” Mrs. Brewer sounded very surprised.
Margaret laughed. “We told him he looks really dorky in it, but he refuses to take it off.”

Compelling evidence that dad's an impostor.

Luckily, she gets better evidence of her dad's transformation when she catches him eating breakfast the next morning.

“Watching him gulp down that disgusting plant food, I - I had this horrible thought that he’s turning into a plant!”

But she doesn't confront him about it. She's far too disgusted and confused. Luckily, Diane has some helpful news. Gossip has it that Dr. Brewer was fired for not stopping his strange experiments and may have killed a man.

That night, Dr. Brewer gets hit with a frisbee, which somehow knocks his hat off:

In place of hair, Dr. Brewer had bright green leaves sprouting from his head.

“I guess you two think your dad has gotten pretty weird, huh?”

Er. She caught you eating plant food and now you have leaves growing out of your head. You’ve passed the point of being weird.

Luckily, he decides now it's time to explain his experiments.

“You mean you’re taking cells from an animal and putting them into a plant?”

He nodded. “I really don’t want to say more. You two understand why this must be kept secret.” He turned his eyes on Margaret, then Casey, studying their reactions.

“How do you do it?” Margaret asked, thinking hard about everything he had just told them. “How do you get these cells from the animals to the plant?”

“I’m trying to do it by breaking them down electronically,” he answered. “I have two glass booths connected by a powerful electron generator… One booth is a sender, and one is a receiver,” he explained. “I’m trying to send the right DNA, the right building blocks, from one booth to the other. It’s very delicate work.”

Okay, maybe that wasn't the most compelling explanation. When he explains away his leafy hair as just being a side-effect of the experiments, his children are even less satisfied. As a result of this, Margaret ends up going to confront him around 2'30 AM and sees him bleeding green over the sink. Suitably unnerved, she abandons all hope of dealing with him reasonably that night.

The next morning she goes to his bedroom to speak to him only to find the bed covered in dirt, insects, and worms.

Desperate for an explanation, she and Casey decide to do what needs to be done.

“Diane thought I should call the police.”
“Huh?” Casey shook his head. “Dad hasn’t done anything wrong - has he? What would the police do?”
“I know,” Margaret replied. “That’s what I told Diane. But she said there’s got to be some kind of law against being a mad scientist.”

Right. Don't call the police.

Time to break into the basement again and see if that offers up better explanations.

Only after Dr. Brewer attempts to feed them some mushy green mashed potatoes, that all agree is very likely a form of plant food.

Mr. Martinez, Dr. Brewer's boss, stops by in time for them to hide the disgusting food. He apologizes - it was the board’s decision to fire Dr. Brewer, after all - and seems very enthusiastic to see how his experiments are going.

An unspecified amount of time later Dr. Brewer is going to pick their mom up at the airport. They take this opportunity to break into the basement, again, and the inevitable occurs. They find Mr. Martinez's coat, and then his pants. The knocking from the supply closet is enough due cause for them to break in... where they find Mr. Martinez, a bunch of human/plant hybrids, and their father - or is it?

She releases him either way, and Supply Closer Dad wastes no time in getting an ax. She gets the ax from Supply Closet Dad but can’t decide if he, or the newly arrived Leaf-Head Dad is the real one. Somehow in the melee her brother gets a knife and she just.. stabs Supply Closet Dad with it. He bleeds red. He must be the real dad!

So she gives him the ax. He slices Leaf-Head Dad in two. I imagine it looking like this

Only with plants.

A thick green liquid oozed from the wound. And as the man fell, his mouth locking open in disbelief and horror, Margaret could see that his body was actually a stem. He had no bones, no human organs.

Mr. Martinez is fine and offered him his job back, as in spite of these disastrous occurrences his work is undoubtedly historic...

“I was working on a super plant,” he said, “trying to electronically make a new plant using DNA elements from other plants. Then I accidentally cut my hand on a slide. I didn’t realize it, but some of my blood got mixed in witht eh plant molecules I was using. When I turned on the machine, my molecules got mixed in with plant molecules - and I ended up with something that was part human, part plant.”

“That’s gross!” Casey exclaimed, dropping a forkful of mashed potatoes.

“Well, I’m a scientist,” Dr. Brewer replied, “so I didn’t think it was gross. I thought it was pretty exciting. I mean, here I was, inventing an entirely new kind of creature.”

That's right, Casey. Scientists don't ever think anything is gross. In true [a: R.L. Stine|13730|R.L. Stine|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1194380070p2/13730.jpg] fashion, this isn't entirely the end. Although the miserable human/plant hybrids have been killed some of the normal plants remain. One day, coming back from school, a flower speaks to Margaret...

“Margaret,” the flower whispered, “help me. Please - help me. I’m your father. Really! I’m your real father.”

So, how does this book rate?

Well, the pace was much better than [b: Welcome to Dead House|125553|Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps, #1)|R.L. Stine|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328867798s/125553.jpg|448935]. The action starts right from page one and never really lets up. The only trouble is that even a child wouldn't have too much difficulty seeing where the book is going. The twists never quite feel like twists, which makes the book a bit boring this time around.

It's a good book, and likely a great one to give a kid to whet their appetite for reading. It just lacks reread value, really.
( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
I feel as though RL Stine's early works are before he found his footing, not as a "writer" but as a story-teller. It isn't as entertaining or gripping as his later works. ( )
  benuathanasia | Dec 2, 2017 |
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"Hey Dad - catch!"
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AR 3.9, 3 pts.

(Review by Charles Duff below)

Goosebumps is a classic series that has been read by many children, including this LibraryThing member.  It’s a fantastic series for children in the upper elementary grades.  This one is about a father who conducts strange botany experiments in his basement and his naturally curious children.  Although it should mainly be used for independent reading, it will at least get kids to keep reading, as it is a hook read for sure!  Here are some fun Goosebumps games for kids to get them curious in reading more: http://www.scholastic.com/goosebumps/...
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Average: (3.31)
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