Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Goosebumps #13: Piano Lessons can be Murder

Jerry and his parents are moving into a new house because that’s how most Goosebumps books start. He’s a pretty big practical joker and within the first few pages, he manages to convince his parents that clumps of gray dust are actually mice. After deciding to investigate the attic, he comes across a gorgeous old piano. Within a few hours, he and his parents decide that he should take lessons.

They hire a guy named Dr. Shreek since he’s the only one listed in the newspaper. He looks like Santa Clause, complete with a red face, white mustache, and big belly. At their first lesson, he gushes about how Jerry has perfect hands and that after a few lessons, he can start coming to the music school. Jerry starts hearing the piano playing at night, but no one believes him.

He meets this girl Kim from his school and once she hears where he’s taking lessons, she runs off in a panic. Jerry keeps hearing the music playing and one night sees a girl ghost sitting on the bench. Each time he hears the music, he finds the piano bench warm, but his parents think that it’s an elaborate prank.

Dr. Shreek finally invites him to the school and he’s stunned by the number of students practicing and pianos playing every day. He sees a “monster” chasing him through the halls, which turns out to be a floor cleaner. Mr. Toggle, the janitor, admits to making the cleaner and putting a face on it because he’s really good at electrical stuff. Before his next lesson, Toggle shows him some of his other inventions.

Jerry eventually runs into Kim again and invites her to his house. She admits to hearing weird stories about monsters in the basement of the school. After he explains about the cleaners, she tells him that kids have a habit of going to the school and never coming out. Then he sees the ghost, who shows him that she no longer has hands and warns him about taking lessons.

After breaking down one too many times, his parents send him to a psychiatrist. Then he breaks down again after seeing the ghost and they decide he can stop taking lessons, but he has to take one more class to be sure. When Jerry tells Dr. Shreek that he’s quitting, the teacher flips out and chases him. Screaming for Toggle, he runs into the ballroom and finds a shocking sight.

Dozens of pianos are in the room, with an instructor beside each one. But, the only thing playing the pianos are hands, no people. Shreek attacks and Jerry screams for help. Toggle rushes in, hits a switch and he stops moving. Toggle explains that Shreek was just another of his inventions. When Jerry tries to leave, Toggle explains that he can’t because he has perfect hands.

Toggle perfected human looking robots, but he can’t figure out the hands. He keeps kidnapping students to get their hands and shows Jerry his future piano. The ghost suddenly appears and shouts at the hands, which quickly attack him. She explains that he once lived in his house, until they took her too.

Jerry manages to get out and get help. He explains that he made new friends, his parents sold the piano, and he started playing baseball. Everyone thinks he’s perfect for the game because after all, he does have perfect hands.

*Okay, so his parents are so worried about him that they send him to a shrink, but keep forcing him to play the piano? If my kid only freaked out when he came within 10 feet of a piano, I’d probably worry.

*The shrink thing shouldn’t even exist in this book. His mom suggests it, he goes to one session and it’s never mentioned again. The story feels like filler to me.

*Their house has three extra bedrooms on the second floor and no plans for those rooms. Yet they move the piano down to the living room. Why not turn a room into a music room?

*Jerry wants to use one of the rooms as a Nintendo room. That kind of cracked me up.

*How is the police not involved in all this? If dozens of people went missing and each one was last seen entering the same building, don’t you think they would investigate?

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