Bad Hare Day
Series number: 41
Number of pages: 117
Release date: March 1996
Tagline: That’s no Easter bunny!
Did I Read It as a Child?: No
The Story On the Back
Trick cards, floating scarves, disappearing doves. Tim Swanson loves magic tricks. Someday he wants to be a real magician. Just like his all-time favorite hero, Amaz-O. But then Tim goes to Amaz-O’s show. And he finds out his idol is a total grump. That’s when Tim decides to steal his bag of tricks. Amaz-O’s bag of secret tricks. Scary tricks. The one with the multiplying red balls. And all those hissing snakes…
The Story On the Pages
There comes a point when you’re ranking a large number of things next to each other that it seems nearly impossible to rank the last few that you get to. I bring this up because holy crap was Bad Hare Day a pain in the ass to put on the spectrum!
But there I go, getting ahead of myself like always. Here’s the story of this pun-right-in-the-title-why-did-you-do-this-to-me-Stine story.
We open Bad Hare Day on Tim, a twelve year old amateur magician attempting to perform a small show for his friends. I say “attempting” not because he’s a bad magician, but because his total c-word of a little sister is fucking everything up for him and either revealing his tricks to the crowd or physically assaulting Tim. Bitch just straight up karate chops him at the end of it and it’s just as physically painful for us as the reading audience.
Stine, were you incapable of writing a younger sibling who wasn’t just a pile of sentient shit? I mean, when the POV is the younger sibling you made them tolerable, so what’s your deal with non-POV younger siblings? To make it even worse, the parents are always on the youngest sibling’s side. Listen, I know that’s true to life, and hell, it even manages to create a sense of “POV against the world”, but it sucks to read about in stories where I’ve come to be spooked!
Anyways, Tim licks his wounds after his bad performance by visiting his friendly neighbourhood gag shop. Mister Malik runs it and the two are BFFs. Which is a creepy trope in these kinds of stories. When in actuality has a child ever been best friends with an adult? Even if that adult runs a wacky shop like a magic/gag shop? If I were Tim’s parents, I’d keep him away from this man who is obviously so nice to him to gain access to his underage boy parts.
But I think I’d just be a better parent than any of the actual parents presented in any Goosebumps book.
While at the gag shop, Mister Malik gives Tim a ticket to the midnight show that Tim’s favourite magician is doing in town. Tim is excited beyond belief that he’s going to go see Amaz-O the Magician.
Amaz-O is the greatest magician name ever, clearly a lot of thought went into it, you can’t tell me otherwise.
The only problem is that Tim knows his parents won’t let him go alone to a midnight magic show on a school night, so he has to sneak out. While he’s in the process of sneaking out, Ginny catches him and forces him to take her with him or she’ll tattle.
I can’t get a goddamn moment away from your shitty younger sibling creations, can I Stine?
The two go to Amaz-O’s show and Tim ends up as the volunteer in a disappearing act. And he actually ends up disappearing! Nah, just yankin’ ya, he ends up shoved in a box and then forgotten about until the end of the show when he emerges from said box in the basement of the venue. Side note: I can’t remember what the venue’s name is.
Tim finds Amaz-O’s dressing room, but when he tries to enter to fanboy out over his skills, Amaz-O calls him a punk, tells him to go away, and the door is slammed in his face. Understandably, Tim is upset and none too pleased with his hero. So he nicks Amaz-O’s magic kit and bolts out of the venue for home.
I assume you can guess what happens from this point onwards, yeah? The magic tricks in Amaz-O’s kit are actually magic and Tim has a hell of a time trying to control it and ultimately, make it stop. There are unstoppable balls pouring out of the ball and cup trick and doves pouring out of a jacket. There’s also a carrot that Ginny eats and ends up turning into a rabbit because of it.
Tim reasons that the only person who can help them is Amaz-O and rabbit Ginny and the magic kit are lugged back to the magic venue in the hopes that Amaz-O is still there.
Luck is on their side because after some B&E Tim finds him in the kitchen. But then his luck changes because he touches Amaz-O to get his attention and he crumples to the ground. Turns out Amaz-O is a giant puppet.
But who’s controlling the puppet? Is this a secret Slappy story, ala Night of the Living Dummy with a giant life-sized puppet?!
Nope. It’s the white rabbit in Amaz-O’s act that’s pulling the strings! Turns out the rabbit is Amaz-O. He was turned into a bunny when he pissed off an actual sorcerer and has been using real magic to control a wooden puppet to perform in his place since then.
Because that’s a reasonable plan and a sensible course of action?
Amaz-O tells Tim that the effects of the magic carrot will wear off Ginny in about half an hour and she’ll be fine. Then he forgives Tim for stealing the case, and even offers him what he’s always wanted: his dream job touring and doing magic with Amaz-O!
I’m sure this breaks all sorts of child labour laws, but Tim is happy and agrees right away without finding out what he’ll be doing for Amaz-O.
Oh, that was worded sinisterly, but don’t worry. He’s not the man’s sex slave! He’s the man’s rabbit slave! See, Amaz-O wanted to retire, but not as the magician. He wanted to retire as the rabbit. So now Tim is his rabbit and I guess his kidnapped boy slave because why would even the worst parents on Earth agree to this?
I think, given the time to develop, Tim could have been a much more fascinating character. The perennial neglected-to-flat-out-abused POV who has a dream no one believes he’ll be able to accomplish? This character fits all the characteristics of a power fantasy waiting to be lived out!
Unfortunately, a power fantasy is not what we get. We actually get something even sadder than where Tim starts out. The kid willingly becomes a rabbit in a magic act. That’s fucked up and shows more about his mind than an inkblot test ever would!
Not only does he throw his life away for no recognition, he throws his life away to be something that’s easily bought in a pet store. Just go to the fucking mall, Amaz-O! You don’t need magically transformed children to be the rabbit in your act!
Then there’s Amaz-O himself. Stine does this thing where he creates really interesting adult characters that are shrouded in mystery and leave you asking questions and wanting more. And that’s not a good thing because his main characters are almost always twelve years old (except for maybe once or twice when they were eleven or thirteen due to sequels/prequels). So while we see the story out of the eyes of a protagonist who we’re supposed to relate to because they’re twelve and the target audience for Goosebumps is 9-12, these really intriguing adults pass us by.
Am I saying I want a whole book about Amaz-O? Well, I don’t know, it kind of depends on how much like John Constantine you can make him? Constantine is a fun character because of what an unbelievably selfish prick he is. It’s fun to side with him when he chooses himself over others and also fun to watch him get his comeuppance because of this selfish attitude. The man offers all sorts of power fantasies for his readers.
Clearly Amaz-O is a big enough dick to be cursed by an actual sorcerer at one point in his life, so we’re halfway there to him being a big enough bastard to be John Constantine. Amaz-O and Constantine also both get the last laugh, so that whole Laughing Magician nickname could work for both!
Spooks and Scares
I’d really like to know what Stine thinks (or thought) would be scary about Bad Hare Day. Like all of these low ranked Goosebumps books, Bad Hare Day isn’t scary for me now and wouldn’t have been scary for me as a ten year old when I devoured most of this series in grade three.
There’s not even really any good ideas here. Actual magic in a magician’s magic kit? So what? That’s not inherently scary! Nearly anything can be made scary with the right approach, but Bad Hare Day doesn’t have the right approach. It barely has any approach! What’s scary about a lot of little bouncy balls or doves? Doves are the least threatening of all the birds! They’re docile enough to hang out in coat pockets until they’re needed for magic tricks after all, not exactly something you have to fear.
Then there’s the whole “Amaz-O has been a rabbit this whole time” reveal and what it’s supposed to mean. I guess it’s pretty scary that he effectively kidnapped a child to hold in indefinite servitude as a magically transformed rabbit, but this isn’t a story of Tim being upset with that servitude – he praises it at the end, claiming he’s lucky to have this spot! Talk about Stockholm Syndrome.
There are two ways that I think Bad Hare Day could have been made a scary book (or at the very least an entertaining book). The first option is to have Amaz-O’s act be full of non-willing participants. Have Tim be the rabbit, escape from the position, and then Amaz-O spends the rest of the story hunting him down with all this real magic he has readily available to himself to keep his secrets. Make it a classic cat-and-mouse horror chase and even if the subject matter of a magician with real magic isn’t scary to the reader, there would at least be some tense moments of Tim and Amaz-O doing the old prey/predator hide-and-seek of doom routine.
The second option for Bad Hare Day (the one I personally would have done but Stine never would) is having Tim end up in a different dimension after participating in Amaz-O’s trick on stage. Make it so Amaz-O’s magic is real but at the cost of some human blood. Tone it down by using the word sacrifice or meal if you like, but Tim should have been the unlucky blood of that month, year, decade, however long Amaz-O has in between exploiting real magic and when he has to pay up to continue to do so.
While in the sacrifice dimension, you could get all sorts of weird and scary shit happening. Landscapes that shift based on moods or thoughts, chimera beasts of magic acts passed, Tim having absolutely no idea how to help himself for that classic horror trope of utter hopelessness. I even have an ending for my version of Tim’s journey and it’s the type of twist that Stine was a fan of. Have the being of this dimension (and the supplier of the magic) strike up a deal with Tim. I like stories that take unassuming characters and then reveal their true colours when they’re offered power. Have Tim be offered Amaz-O’s spot (which is what he actually wanted in Stine’s version) as long as Tim becomes the one that feeds the magic.
After the years of neglect from his parents and abuse from his sister, I think he’d take that offer in a heartbeat! And thus a twist ending worth caring about is born! After bonding with Tim, cheering for him to survive the trials of this weird magic place, watching him become the antagonistic force will be a final jarring shock to stick with the reader.
As Bad Hare Day stands now, a joy buzzer gives you a bigger shock and the simplest of magic tricks a bigger thrill.