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Very Pleased With The Credit John Bellairs Gives His Characters

This first novel in the Anthony Monday series wasn’t quite what I expected, since it didn’t actually have anything supernatural in it (although the rest of the series definitely does.) Unusual for John Bellairs. Otherwise, it has a lot in common with his other books.

Like the other Bellairs heroes, Johnny Dixon and Lewis Barnavelt, Anthony Monday is a bit of a loner. His closest friend is Miss Myra Eells, the elderly librarian in his small hometown of Hoosac, Minnesota. Although he lives with his parents, his father works late at the saloon he owns (”In the town where the Mondays lived, nice people didn’t run saloons, and the Mondays tried hard to be nice people, so they called it a cigar store: Monday’s Cigar Store.”) Anthony’s mother doesn’t work, of course, but she’s a fairly unpleasant person who “always seemed to be bawling him out or telling him that he was worthless and stupid and selfish.”

Everyone in Hoosac knows about the treasure Alpheus Winterborn, an eccentric millionaire, is supposed to have brought back from an archaeological dig in the Near East, although no one knows precisely what it is. After Miss Eells hires Anthony as a library page, he finds a cryptic message from Alpheus Winterborn hidden in a wall carving in the public library, which he designed and had built for the town.

Anthony’s mother worries about money constantly, and Anthony hopes to find the treasure, hopefully worth enough money to calm Mrs. Monday’s fears. Instead, he finds that the treasure may be a hoax, and that even if it is real, he has formidable competition in the form of Hugo Philpotts, vice-president of the Hoosac bank and Alpheus Winterborn’s own nephew.

I’m very pleased with the credit John Bellairs gives his characters. Sure, they do stupid things every now and then, but he takes care to show the enormous pressure they’re under before they do something really idiotic. I only wish some adult authors would do the same.

Oh, and I’m sorry, Judith Gwyn Brown, but I hated your illustrations for this book. They’re too childish and cute for the story. They look like they belong in a picture book or an after-school cartoon. This is a children’s gothic novel, not an episode of "The Magic Schoolbus". Publishers, if you’re not going to use artists whose style suits your book, why bother including pictures at all?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to agree on the illustrations to this book. They're awful. The fact that this Young Adult book is illustrated at all gives the false impression of it being more "juvenile" than it is.

If Barnes & Noble ever reprints the Anthony Monday/Miss Eels books in a hardcover collection (as they should), I'd like to see them drop the illustrations, reset the type and use the Edward Gorey picture from the the cover of the first paperback edition as a frontispiece. Such a fresh presentation would upgrade the whole atmosphere of the story itself.