Sunday, October 28, 2018

13 Days of Halloween: The House With a Clock in Its Walls

Puffin; 185 pages; Walmart
This will probably sound a bit weird to some of you, but I had never heard of the late author John Bellairs until this summer when I stumbled upon The House with a Clock in it's Walls at a Barnes & Nobles. The book was republished to tie-in with the feature film of the same name that was released in September starring Jack Black and Cate Blanchett. I almost purchased it, but decided not to at the last second. A few days later, I found the book at my local Walmart at a slightly cheaper price, so I bought it. 

First published in 1973, the young adult Gothic mystery centers around Lewis Barnavelt, an orphan who is sent to New Zebedee, Michigan to live with his uncle, Jonathan Barnavelt. Not long after arriving, the boy learns that magic really does exist. Uncle Jonathan is a warlock and his next door neighbor, Florence Zimmermann, is a witch!

To make things even stranger for Lewis, he also learns that his uncle's house was once owned by Isaac and Selenna Izard, a couple who practiced black magic. Before Isaac's death, the man had hid a clock somewhere within the walls of the house. The ticking clock slowly pulls the world into the magical realm.

At school, Lewis befriends Tarby Corrigan, who's the complete opposite of him. In fear that Tarby will lose interests with him, Lewis shows off his own magic skills by raising the dead in a local cemetery on Halloween, which includes Selenna Izard.

There are a total of 12 books in the Lewis Barnavelt series, which only the first three titles were written by John Bellairs. Brad Strickland took over writing the series after Bellair's death, though three of the later titles were based on Bellair's unfinished writings and notes.

I'm surprised I never came across this book before during my childhood. I had read pretty much every book in the county and school library where I grew up at, but I don't remember reading any books by John Bellairs. After reading The House with a Clock in its Walls yesterday, I wish I had been reading his books a long time ago. 

The way the book is written has a very Gothic vibe to it. The descriptions are very detailed and the dialogue is very intelligent. The plot is very original, unlike many modern young adult books that recycles everything. There are many creepy illustrations by Edward Gorey. Additionally, there are 16 movie photos in the paperback I bought at Walmart and I believe these were exclusive to the store.

Overall, The House with a Clock in its Walls is a well-written magical read! 

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