Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes
Series number: 34
Number of pages: 119
Release date: August 1995
Tagline: Keep off their grass!
Did I Read It as a Child?: No
The Story On the Back
Two pink flamingos. A whole family of plaster skunks. Joe Burton’s dad loves those tacky lawn ornaments. But then he brings home two ugly lawn gnomes. And that’s when the trouble starts. Late at night. When everyone’s asleep. Someone’s creeping in the garden. Whispering nasty things. Smashing melons. Squashing tomatoes. No way two dumb old lawn ornaments could be causing all the trouble. Is there?
The Story On the Pages
Decorative lumps of ceramic that you put on your lawn.
Gnomes, for the lawn.
Are you scared of these? For the sake of finding this story entertaining, I hope you are!
Our Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes story opens on two obnoxious white families. How do I know they’re white? They’re entering gardening competitions and getting really passionate about tomatoes and casaba melons. Ain’t nobody got time for that except ridiculous white folks.
Our POV, Joe, is the son of one of these ridiculous white men and the enemy of the other. Mister McCall is hellbent on keeping Joe and his dog Buster out of his garden. And Joe is best friends with McCall’s son Moose, so there’s even more drama here with a Romeo and Juliet angle.
Except not really. Most of the drama in Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes is tomato and/or casaba melon related. I’m sure you already know exactly where this story is going. Joe and his dog, already prime suspects #1 and #2 when something goes wrong in Mister McCall’s garden, are… well, prime suspects when casaba melons and tomatoes start getting smashed and destroyed.
Why are they getting destroyed? Because to go along with the silly white nonsense of gardening competitions, Joe’s dad is also one of those people who litters the front lawn with gaudy ceramic figures. He’s got flamingos, a deer, some shrunks – dude loves him some tacky, property-value-lowering lawn decorations. So much that when he sees his tomatoes doing so well, he heads off to Lawn Lovely to buy himself another ornament in celebration.
They haven’t even been harvested. Just growing well. Chill out, dude.
And what does he choose to buy? Hideous gnomes. Hand carved in Europe. Very old. Obviously very cursed. But this is an adult in a Goosebumps book so of course he doesn’t notice the obvious signs that point him towards not fucking buying these ugly things and buys them right away.
They are deposited on the front lawn of his house and the horror begins!
What, is horror not the right word? It’s subjective! There must be someone out there that finds lawn gnomes smashing produce and throwing paint around to be scary… right? Anyone?
The destruction is blamed on Joe because he’s a prankster and a bit of an asshole. To clear his good name, he convinces Moose to stay up with him on a stake-out from some bushes to catch the gnomes in the act once and for all.
See, he knows it’s the gnomes because earlier he blew a dog whistle to get Buster to come and when the dog brushed up against them, their smiles turned to expressions of pure horror. He also found a casaba melon seed on one of their lips, so that’s just hard proof, no doubt about it. They’re clearly alive, Joe clearly isn’t crazy, and Moose is clearly a better friend than I’d be at this moment because he agrees to the stake-out.
The stake-out gets the results Joe wants as he catches the gnomes in the act! The act of… being alive, I guess. How dare they!
#GnomeLivesMatter vs #AllLawnOrnamentLivesMatter
The gnomes tell a sob story of how they don’t mean to do these things, but they have to. They’re mischief elves and are compelled to do mischief when they’re away from their own kind. The rest of their kind happen to be locked up in the basement of Lawn Lovely, waiting to be sold.
For whatever reason (I guess because Joe is an idiot), he believes the gnomes and takes them to Lawn Lovely. Joe, Moose, and Joe’s sister (who has so little to do with everything that this is the first and last you’ll hear about her from me) get into the basement of Lawn Lovely and are almost on the verge of congratulating themselves for a job well done when it’s revealed that the gnomes were lying.
They didn’t want to help the others escape, they wanted to lure humans back to their… nest (guess it’s a nest?), and do stuff to them. “Stuff” is as much as you’re getting out of me because they start saying “tickle, tickle” over and over again and I think the imagination can take it from there.
The kids figure they’re doomed until Buster trots by the basement window. Joe remembers how the gnomes reacted to Buster and blows on the dog whistle to call him over. But it turns out it wasn’t Buster that frightened the gnomes, they actually didn’t like the dog whistle.
So Joes blows and blows and blows…. Yup, does this character ever blow.
They escape the basement and rush home. They don’t even try and kill the gnomes when they turn back into ceramic from the dog whistle. Talk about leaving the job half done.
The story ends with Joe’s dad actually legitimately distraught that his lawn gnomes were “stolen” so he goes back to Lawn Lovely to pick up something else for himself. He comes back with an eight foot tall gorilla.
That gorilla then winks at Joe.
But why though? Why would that gorilla be alive? Who carved a giant gorilla lawn ornament and then also cursed it? Who has that kind of time?
So. Joe. Our main character. If I had to describe this kid in a solitary meme, I’d have to say that this one gets him across perfectly:
This kid spends the first third of the book being a dick and then the last two thirds trying to get people to believe him that it’s the gnomes doing all this dickish stuff and not him. His plight is meant to be what drives the story forward, but it’s meaningless, absolutely meaningless!
Here’s why it’s meaningless: if your kid has a history of lying and prank pulling, what are you more likely to believe? That gnomes are actually coming to life and causing this random property damage or that your child is just a turd trying to trick you one more time for his own twisted sense of humour?
I honestly have no sympathy for Joe. The point of the story The Boy Who Cried Wolf is to not feel sorry for the boy. It’s too learn that being a fuckwad is a terrible personality trait! And to feel a sick sense of joy that he gets his comeuppance and has to watch his flock get eaten and probably mauled by a wolf himself!
Watching Joe flounder around trying to prove his innocence should have been for stunts bigger than smashing some melons and throwing around a little house paint. This bitch should have suffered! I would have made him suffer.
Spooks and Scares
Okay. So. Gnomes.
Doesn’t matter what or who you dress them up as, gnomes are just not scary in concept. Not like a ghost or a vampire or a crazy man swinging around an axe. Google the words “horror movies about gnomes” and the pickings come down to Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes (which is a book Google, get your shit together), a three-part PG-13 rated Stephen King adaption, or a movie from 2015 called Gnome Alone.
That pun is scarier than gnomes themselves.
What could be scary about gnomes? Perhaps the numbers in which they appear. Or perhaps if they sprouted from the ground to surround you. I think the fear of this inhuman, sentient being is plausible. It’s a lifeless creature with life. But in the shape of a fat, little, bearded man? Doesn’t strike fear in my heart like a brutish homunculus crafted of earth or a more realistic wax figure would.
I’m sure there’s a way these little fuckers could have been made scary, but I can’t personally think of one.
Maybe… maybe just give them guns?