REVIEW: When the Ghost Dog Howls, Little Shop of Hamsters, & The Mysterious Matter of I.M. Fine

Originally published 2016-04-06: Ghost hounds, evil hamsters, and reclusive writers of children’s fiction in this throwback multiple book review


I had so much fun reading books written for children again in celebration of my daughter’s birthday that I didn’t stop with just the books I read to review for March. I had to keep going, and I started with some of the books my little reader recommended to me recently.


The book she recommended I start with was R. L. Stine’s When the Ghost Dog Howls (HorrorLand #13).

cover of kids horror book When the Ghost Dog Howls by R.L. Stine

Book Description

In HorrorLand’s eerie gift shop, Andy finds a hound’s-tooth necklace. The big tooth is yellow, has two sharp points, and, according to the shopkeeper, is said to grant wishes.

But Jonathan Chiller knows something else about the tooth. It’s said to be haunted by the ghost of a huge hound. A ghost that’s got a mouthful of sharp teeth–but wants this one back.

My Rating

This wasn’t one of my favorites from the newer line of Goosebumps books, but I can see where it fits into the HorrorLand puzzle. I found the main character to be a little dim, and his counterpart, the deceitful, spoiled cousin he spends his time with despite her bad attitude, extremely unlikable. I think it’s possible that Stine phoned this one in.

When the Ghost Dog Howls (Goosebumps HorrorLand #13) by R.L. Stine gets  two-and-a-half of five stars for being weird and outlandish, but a little too thrown together.



I figured I would read Little Shop of Hamsters (Goosebumps HorrorLand #14) by R.L. Stine second in hopes that I might understand the beast that is HorrorLand a little better. (And, to be honest, it was hard to resist the play on Little Shop of Horrors. I loved that movie.)

cover of kids horror book Little Shop of Hamsters by R.L. Stine
Book Description

Sam Waters is desperate to have a pet. But his parents say that first, Sam must prove he’s responsible. So he takes an after-school job in a pet store called Little Shop of Hamsters. To his horror, Sam soon finds that cute, little hamsters can become very UNCUTE monsters. Suddenly, Sam isn’t fighting for a pet–he’s fighting to survive! Could the souvenir he got in HorrorLand have anything to do with this?

My Rating

This book is classic Goosebumps as I remember it, though Stine has added in iPhones and other modern technology to keep things realistic for kids growing up in a world more technologically advanced than kids in the ’90s had. There’s a little bit of “listen to your parents” in each one of Stine’s books that I’m not sure I noticed when I was a kid, but I definitely notice now.

This series of HorrorLand books reminds me a lot of Stephen King’s Needful Things. With each souvenir from Chiller’s gift shop, the kids in the books pay a terrible price that only gets worse as they try to fix the wrongs they have committed in the pursuit of happiness.

Little Shop of Hamsters (Goosebumps Horror Land #14) by R.L. Stine gets  four of five stars for being cute and perilous, and teaching my daughter that responsibility must come before one can take care of another living creature. I’ll definitely be looking for another HorrorLand book soon to see what else Chiller has up his sleeve. These might be kids’ books, but they’re still a lot of fun to read – even after 30.



The Mysterious Matter of I. M. Fine by Diane Stanley was fun and went with the theme because of the fictional author’s name – a play on R. L. Stine – and the strange, unexpected things that happen when kids read them.

The Mysterious Matter of I.M. Fine by Diane Stanley

Book Description

Kids all over the country are acting strangely after reading the latest books in the mega-popular Chillers series. First, it’s the seemingly innocent Jelly Worm fad. But it quickly turns sinister, with exploding headaches sweeping the nation, and then a serpent surprise that lands several kids, including Franny’s little sister, in the hospital.

Franny is convinced that I. M. Fine, author of the Chillers books, is behind it. With the help of her friend Beamer, she is determined to track down the mysterious author and find out once and for all if the books really are causing all the trouble. After all, a book can’t be that dangerous, can it?

My Rating

I can definitely see why this book appealed to my daughter. I.M. Fine and the Chillers books are obvious references to R.L. Stine and the Goosebumps series. With the typical boy-and-girl-besties-team determined to solve the mystery, Stanley gives us a fun, engaging throwback to the Goosebumps series that deals with fad behavior, fitting in, and fighting through the roadblocks to get to what you want.

The Mysterious Matter of I. M. Fine by Diane Stanley gets  four of five stars for being thoughtful, fun, and sweet. I love the reclusive author trope, and these kids were really likable.


Buy When the Ghost Dog Howls on Amazon | iBooks | Kobo

Buy Little Shop of Hamsters on Amazon | iBooks | Kobo

Buy The Mysterious Matter of I.M. Fine on Amazon | iBooks | Kobo

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