cover image Slappy Birthday to You

Slappy Birthday to You

R.L. Stine. Scholastic, $6.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-338-06828-3

Chuckles blend with chills in this first book in the Goosebumps SlappyWorld spinoff series, which resurrects Slappy, the ventriloquist dummy featured in some of Stine’s earlier novels. In his new incarnation, Slappy is a 12th-birthday gift to Ian from his father, who refurbishes broken dolls; Slappy was sent to him to repair—in a package with no return address. Information that Ian’s younger sister, Molly, discovers online casts an eerie shadow on Slappy: a sorcerer carved his head out of wood from a cursed coffin, and six words uttered aloud will supposedly bring the dummy to life. After one of Ian’s obnoxious twin cousins shouts out the magic words, it unleashes pranks and insulting quips from the wisecracking Slappy, all of which are blamed on Ian. Stine again deploys a string of cliffhangers to close out many chapters, creating a jittery cycle of scares and relief. The author’s many fans won’t mind the fairly formulaic plot that unfolds, and the finale suggests that more mischief is ahead from other not-so-inanimate dolls. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)