"The House with a Clock in its Walls": News | Reviews | Discussion

Spooky And Distinctive

Recently I brought home The House with a Clock in Its Walls, a book I remembered only very vaguely from my own childhood. The paperback edition I got is billed as "A John Bellairs mystery featuring Lewis Barnavelt." What I remembered: it is spooky and distinctive. What I learned, reading it to my daughter at bedtime: it is definitely both of those things, with illustrations by Edward Gorey (love!) and a gothic spirit you don't usually see in children's books. This is no Goosebumps, with gross-outs (not that I'm against those). It is truly scary, and the magic in it seems very real.

At the same time, it has a heartwarming goofiness to it that made me want to hug the author. The main character, Lewis, is a chubby crybaby of a kid who, guess what, turns out to have enough inner courage to save the world. Oh, and he's an orphan, too, like a certain mega-popular wizard you may know. He writes his own spell to solve the mystery of the clock, and his made-up magic is as goofy, loving, and lovable as the main characters of the story.

I don't remember reading other books by Bellairs as a kid, but my daughter has requested ALL the Lewis Barnavelt books, so I guess we can call that a success.
Jessy Randall /

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