Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tick Tock, The Mystery Starts With A Clock...




For those of you who are missing a certain bespectacled boy wizard, The House With a Clock in Its Walls may provide a happy diversion. Not that it really compares, but it's a fun Gothic story about magic, ghosts and a mysterious clock.


The star of the novel is 10-year-old Lewis Barnavelt, who lived with his parents near Milwaukie until the day they were killed in a car accident. Now, he is traveling to New Zebedee, Michigan, to live with an uncle he has never met. Although his maiden aunts have warned him about Uncle Jonathan, Lewis finds the man warm and friendly, if a bit eccentric. Jonathan lives in an old mansion, filled with wonderful, odd items, like stained-glass windows that change their scenes and a coat rack with an ever-changing mirror. Lewis soon realizes that his uncle Jonathan is a wizard, though he claims to be "pretty much [only] a parlor magician, though I have a few tricks that go beyond rabbits and playing cards" (34). With this realization comes another: Jonathan's chocolate-chip-cookie-baking housekeeper and best friend, Mrs. Zimmerman, is a witch. Together, they are determined to unlock the mysteries of Jonathan's mansion, which once belonged to a dangerous magician couple. The foremost mystery concerns a clock hidden somewhere behind the walls, a clock that never stops ticking, a clock that may lead to the destruction of all humankind.


Lewis loves his new life with Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman, who make his days fun and interesting. Outside of the mansion, however, Lewis is having a little trouble. He's always been overweight, and thus a target of other kids' taunts. Then, one day, he meets Tarby, a popular boy and athlete who's banned from baseball because of a broken arm. Bored, Tarby decides to tutor Lewis in the fine arts of catching and throwing. Lewis is thrilled with the friendship, until Tarby's arm heals and he assumes his former place as star athlete, a position that doesn't include consorting with nerds like Lewis. Desperate to keep his friend, Lewis decides to show him a little magic. His tricks work better than he can ever imagine, unleashing a powerful ghost intent on destroying the world. Terrified, Lewis keeps his secret from Uncle Jonathan, meaning he must face the menace alone. The key to its destruction seems to be Jonathan's clock, but where is it? Can Jonathan find it in time? And, most importantly, can he destroy the ghost and save the world from obliteration?


Like I said, the story lacks the depth of Harry Potter, but it's a fun read. Yes, it's predictable. Yes, the mystery is solved with relative ease. Still, it's a worth taking a peek at the indomitable Lewis and his quirky world.


Note: If you just can't get enough, you will be happy to know that The House With a Clock in Its Walls is the first in a series. Although the book was published in 1973, I believe it and its sequels have recently been reissued in paperback. John Bellairs died in 1991, but he penned numerous books during his lifetime; I, for one, am going to the library to search for more!


Grade: B +

2 comments:

  1. This is a very popular series at the library I work at. It just goes to show that good books never go out of style!

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  2. Speaking of 'bespectacled' (from your opening line) - I think you should have a pic of you in your glasses on your book blog . . .

    ReplyDelete

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