Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I had a weird childhood. My dad worked in children's book publishing. So did my uncle. And my grandfather.

As a toddler, I would roam the halls of Scholastic and run into (literally) the founder of Scholastic, Maurice (Robbie) Robinson. As I grew steadier on my feet, I would peek into the offices of editors and publicists and look for the latest book or a Dynamite magazine.

There was this one guy. Dad called him "Jovial Bob." He was the editor of Bananas. You remember BANANAS - that funny, cool magazine for kids in the 1970s.  Dad would make me walk down the hall to Jovial Bob's office to ask for the latest issue in person. Jovial Bob was funny, but a little intimidating. His humor... dark. My love of Bananas was strong, however. I would muster my courage, enter his office, and brave his riddles in order to win a copy.


A few years ago, I ran into "Jovial Bob" -- my childhood go-to guy for BANANAS. He was signing books after a reading at the NC Literary Festival in Chapel Hill.

I waited for an hour to get an autograph. When it was my turn, I stood before Jovial Bob sheepishly without a book to sign.

 "I'm on an austerity budget," I explained, "Do you mind signing my program?"

"What do you need? A loan?" he said reaching for his wallet.

 "No.  I just wanted to say 'hi.'  Dad sends 'Jovial Bob' his regards."

"Who is your dad?" asked Jovial Bob, aka R.L. Stine, his royal highness of horror, who seemed surprised to hear the name of his alter ego.

After some pleasantries, Jovial Bob realized that I was that little kid who was always bugging him for BANANAS, those many years ago.

I told Mr. Stine that, while I admired his success with Goosebumps, they were too scary for me! I still preferred his work in Bananas. I tried my best to lure him back to the funny side. He looked unconvinced. Someone from the crowd yelled, "I loved Bananas, too!" (The educational publisher's version of "Freebird" at a book signing.)

RL Stine's trick for writing scary stories for kids:  
"How do I make them scary without causing too many goosebumps? The secret is to never make the story seem real. It has to seem like fantasy. The reader can't believe it could ever really happen."

 It was great to see Jovial Bob again. He is the master at what he does.

Time flies. Enjoy your Halloween, my dearies.

Amy C. Spaulding
Sleepy Hollow Books

(Photo credit for Dynamite Magazine cover -- copyright: Scholastic, Inc.)
(Photo credit of fan photo [Amy C. Spaulding with author R.L. Stine] --  courtesy of Sleepy Hollow Books)

No comments: