The House with a Clock in its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt, #1)
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The House with a Clock in its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt #1)

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  3,899 ratings  ·  374 reviews
Lewis always dreamed of living in an old house full of secret passageways, hidden rooms, and big marble fireplaces. And suddenly, after the death of his parents, he finds himself in just such a mansion--his Uncle Jonathan's. When he discovers that his big friendly uncle is also a wizard, Lewis has a hard time keeping himself from jumping up and down in his seat. Unfortunat...more
Paperback, 179 pages
Published June 27th 1973 by Dial Books Young Readers (first published January 1st 1973)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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mark monday
one day when i was about 8 or 9, living in some chilly state, i bundled myself up until i looked like a little gray egg, hood over head, the hood's furry fringe making my face a cameo portrait of a round genderless blob, and proceded to wait for my ride in the lobby of my apartment building. a young man came down to use the vending machines there, looked at me, and asked conversationally, "Are you a little boy or a little girl?"... i died a little bit, then squeaked out: "I'm a little girl".

i l...more
This book scared the tar out of me when I was ten. I could barely fall asleep at night but I loved it. I used it as a read aloud to my fourth graders and they would BEG each day to hear more. Occasionally I would look up from my reading to see 20 horrified faces with their eyes wide open in anticipation of what would come next. Plus cool drawings by Edward Gorey.
Mike (the Paladin)
Here's another book where I bounced back and forth between 3 and 4 stars. There are a few flaws but on the whole an enjoyable little book (I had one caveat, but I'll mention it later after a "Spoiler" warning).

I sort "rediscovered" YA and juvenile books "again" a while back. I usually find myself (when I read one) wondering if I'd have reacted any differently if I still had small kids at home or if I were still sharing them with my own kids. This one was as I said before overall a good book and...more
Leah Adams
Jul 30, 2008 Leah Adams rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Leah by: Self
This is a book that I have read since I was 11 years old. I love it so much, and it has been so influential in my life, that I even have a tattoo of the Ace of Nitwits.

It is the story of 11 year old Lewis Barnavelt and is set in the fictional town of Marshall, Michigan in the 1950's. He is a young boy whose parents have just died. He is overweight and generally an outcast from his schoolmates. He has been sent to live with his Uncle Jonathon, who lives in an old ramshackle mansion next door to h...more
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Angels Weep For Goodreads)
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I liked young Louis and his Uncle and his next door neighbor friend, who both happened to be powerful Sorcerers. They had some fun discussions, and did some cool little magic tricks to keep little Louis from feeling so lonely since he's not terribly popular. The house was a character in itself. Definitely creepy, especially knowing what it was built for. There were some moments scary enough to give a grownup a good start, but not too scary for a kid, particularly...more
Apr 20, 2007 Janine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: folks who like it when their skin crwls and the hairs on the back of their neck stand up.
Shelves: kidsbooks
I actually had a woman come into the bookstore I worked at demanding a refund for this book. She had bought all of them for her nephew and it scared the bejesus out of him. She read one herself and was "shocked that anyone would let a child read such a thing." She said that one of our employees recommended it to her (Don, who is the only source I trust for children's lit. He is a God when it comes to kids books.) but she hadn't actually READ it before giving it to her nephew. Congratulations lad...more
Aug 18, 2013 Scott rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: J.K. Rowling readers
Shelves: horror, childrens
I remember seeing this book when I was in grade school but for some reason I never did read it then. Maybe I thought it looked too spooky? (I was a timid child, though I was perversely attracted to such things.) Anyway, I have always loved stories about weird houses and this particular title always stuck with me, so when I saw this in a library sale a few days back for fifty cents I decided to correct my youthful oversight.

I really, really liked this book and its slightly quirky characters. Desp...more
Michelle Isenhoff
This book was odd. Recommended to me by a friend, I had high expectations that simply weren’t met. It starts out with ten-year-old Lewis Barnavelt on his way to his uncle’s house after his parents’ deaths. Uncle Jonathan is a minor magician, and he lives in an old mansion formerly inhabited by an evil wizard. Strangely, the walls in the house tick. Jonathan’s neighbor, a peculiar old woman named Mrs. Zimmerman, also dabbles in magic. Together they try to learn the old house’s secrets. At one poi...more
i remember reading this book in elementary school and LOVING it. i just barely found it at the library yesterday when I recognized the cover. i've been trying to remember the name of it for years!


Ok, so I've gotten around to finishing it again for the second time. I must say I'm much more picky as an adult reader than as a child.

The book is about a 10-year-old boy whose parents die so he goes to live with his eccentric (magician) uncle in michigan who lives in a home previously occup...more
The first Lewis Barnavelt book is an odd and spooky read. The story takes its time, letting you enjoy your time with our three quirky characters; Lewis, Uncle Jonathan, and Mrs. Zimmermann. They're rather odd people and Bellairs' writing shows us their eccentric weirdness in a way that keeps you engaged even when very little seems to be happening. The scariness comes at you kinda hard in spots, but mostly the story just stays kinda eerie and uncomfortable. Bellairs gives you a little fright and...more
I remember discovering this book during elementary school. I was walking through the many stacks of the public library when I noticed the cover. Edward Gorey's simple, somber illustration graced the cover and the interior pages and matched the atmosphere of Bellairs' writing. I re-read it a few times after that initial discovery — something I rarely do with most books — before I started junior high school. What captured my attention was how I couldn't imagine Bellairs' story without Gorey's illu...more
Soren Narnia
Reading this was the perfect experience for a 10 year old boy with an interest in adventure and ghosts, but I've revisited the book twice as an adult and I still love it. The book reads like a typical young adult novel save for the fun addition of occasional obscure references to world history and 1950s Americana, plus an undertone of genuine eeriness as the characters, led by the hesitant and awkward Lewis Barnavelt, confront evil in New Zebedee, Michigan. Those great Edward Gorey drawings that...more
This was the September book for the children's book club. They liked it a lot and the characters in it are entertaining and scary enough to make a really interesting discussion. The main character has enough of his own problems that it was a great jumping off point for the kids and when you add the issue of good vs. evil and the saving of the world, it makes for a worthwhile story. Hopefully, the kids will go on to read others in the series.
I really enjoyed this one; it was a great Halloween read for me, with some pretty spooky scenes. I loved the characters and the 1940s setting, and it gets points for being illustrated, too :-) I'd been wanting to read this book for a while, and I'm so glad that I finally did--and, I'm glad that there are further Lewis Barnavelt adventures to read as well!
Jenny Greer
When I was 10 or 11 this guy's books were AMAZING to me. really scary, if I remember correctly. . .definitely for any one who, as a child, not only wanted to be a detective, but entertained themselves pretending everything was haunted, and normal, everyday life was just a sham.
I was OBSESSED with all of these books when I was younger. I loved the stories and the characters. Definitely a must read ..if you are not to scared.
Oh. My. God. This is one of my favorite books ever, ever, EVER. I'm almost 40, and I still get excited like a little kid reading it. I cannot count the number of times I have read this book. I remember the first time I saw it, it was sitting in a box outside my parents' garage, I think waiting to go to the used bookstore or something. The cover kind of creeped me out, and I would go by and stare at the cover, but not pick it up. Finally I did, though, and fell in love. I read it so often when I...more
Madeline Smoot
When Lewis goes to live with Uncle Johnathon, a harmless white wizard, at his rambling rundown Victorian-style mansion, he is almost immediately annoyed by a strange ticking sound that he can hear in every room. Clearly there is a clock running somewhere in the house, but Lewis cannot seem to find it. It’s as if the clock is behind the walls. It seems that before Uncle Johnathon, the house had been lived in by a pair of evil wizards determined to destroy the world. The hidden clock has something...more
Aug 05, 2008 Annette rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kids age 9-12
Devin and I listened to this one on cassette a few years ago and we both liked it and thought that Preston would like it too so now I'm reading to him. I'll let you all know how it goes!

This book is a chilling tale and normally I don't like that sort of thing, but John Bellairs is such a talented writer that I enjoyed it anyway. Although there are magical witches and wizards, haunted houses and ghosts, this is not another Harry Potter wanna-be. This book was written long before Harry potter and...more
John Bellairs wrote this as the beginning of a series for children. I prefer his "The Face in the Frost" a little better, simply because it was written for an older audience, or seemed to be. Both books have interesting, very human characters, with humor and gentleness and spooky scenes. In this one (The House with a Clock...) the feelings of the main character, a boy, are explored in detail. He faces the trial of being a fat kid, not being athletic, and being a n orphan and the new kid all at o...more
Patrick Nichols
First in a series of books about growing up with alcoholic parents.

I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb to suggest this as the subtext. Let's consider the evidence. The protagonist, young Lewis, lives with distinctly flawed parental proxies. His wistfully remembered mother and father are gone. They have been replaced by cantankerous substitutes, who are sometimes distant, sometimes mysterious, and sometimes delightfully magical. Lewis retreats into food and escapes into books. His new...more
Ah, the book that started it all.....When I was a kid my mom took my twin brother and me to the library all the time. We practically grew up there. One day as I was perusing the book shelves the distinctive artwork of Edward Gorey caught my eye. The cover of this book looked so cool and spooky to me, and as someone who always loved Halloween it seemed to fit right in. I took a chance and checked it out and loved it immediately. I 've since read all of John Bellairs other books and he has always...more
This was a thrilling little read. From the very start I really cared about Lewis and thought he was a very well drawn character. The atmosphere and the situations he finds himself in were perfectly believable - until the fanstasy elements kicked in. The book was spooky and creepy and suspenseful and funny and full of heart. I felt for Lewis and was glad he found a loving home. I wanted to punch Tarby a few times, but then what boy doesn't have a friend he wants to punch every now and then? Thing...more
This remains my favorite book by John Bellairs. Face In The Frost is wonderful, and intended for an adult audience (this one is meant for kids), but House With A Clock In Its Walls just happens to click with me more. I have a few inklings on why, but I won't go into them right now: the main point is that even though it's a kids book, it's the sort of book that adults can read and be fascinated and taken in by. It's just a good book. A really good book. An at times very scary, at times very funny...more
Steve Wehling
I was really into Jon Bellairs in elementary school. I wrote him a letter asking about a scene in this book that I didn't understand, and he wrote me back to explain it. Pretty awesome to a grade-school kid. His books are suspenseful and filled with occult-style lore. His main protagonists are usually introverted, misfit kids who display great courage and intestinal fortitude in facing their fears. I read every story of his I could find, and I am pleased to see that goodreads lists several that...more
Another author remembered by my son from his elementary school reading is John Bellairs, and this is the first book in a series, published in 1973, about a young boy and his unusual uncle. Set in 1948, 10 year old Lewis Barnavelt leaves the small town near Milwaukee where he has lived happily and uneventfully all his life because his parents have recently been killed in a car accident. With great trepidation, he comes to New Zebedee, Michigan, to live with his Uncle Jonathan Van Olden Barnavelt....more
Luis Marin
In the book, there is a boy named Lewis and he recently became a 10 year old child orphan after his parents died in a car accident. He later went to live with his Uncle Jonathan. At first he didn't like the idea of living with some one he has never met before but when he arrived to his house, or mansion as Lewis would call it he was really looking forward to living there. There was something different about this house and Uncle Jonathan. What Lewis did not know was that Uncle Jonathan was a wiza...more
I am all giddy about having re-read this book, which was even more dark and awesome and fun than childhood-Kristy remembered. Orphaned fat-kid Lewis moves into his uncle's fabulously old and weird and giant house, plays a lot of poker, reads old dusty books, tries some magic, and becomes embroiled in an apocalyptic evil plot conceived by the wizardly former-owner of the house and centered around an unseen clock that ticks and tocks in the walls of the house. Plus illustrations by Edward Gorey!
The one downside to this book is its so-so plot. The characters and setting are very vivid. And best of all, the narrative voice is both confident and relaxed. In other words, it has a leisurely but focused tone of the sort that seems to be rare in today's YA books. I'll certainly read more by Bellairs. However, as this is clearly his most popular novel, I suppose I'll have to do some research to find another with a more satisfying storyline.
Elesa Hagberg
I was thinking about this book the other day and couldn't remember much about it. Though I remembered it was kind of creepy. The feeling of it has always stuck with me. I looked it up to refresh my memory, and clearly I never finished it. The ending was scary and didn't sound familiar in the least. It was probably scary enough that I gave it up. A gothic horror novel for kids? Weird, right?
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John Bellairs (1938–1991) was an American novelist working primarily in the Gothic genre. He is best-known for the children's classic The House with a Clock in its Walls 1973) and for the pathbreaking fantasy novel The Face in the Frost (1969). Bellairs held a bachelor's degree from Notre Dame University and a master's in English from the University of Chicago. He combined writing and teaching fr...more
More about John Bellairs...
The Curse of the Blue Figurine The Figure in the Shadows The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring (Lewis Barnavelt, #3) The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt The Spell of Sorcerer's Skull

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“He invented the Fuse Box Dwarf, a little man who popped out at you from behind the paint cans in the cellarway and screamed, "Dreeb! Dreeb! I am the Fuse Box Dwarf!" Lewis was not scared by the little man, and he felt that those who scream "Dreeb" are more to be pitied than censured.” 26 likes
“He held the book up to his nose. It smelled like Old Spice talcum powder. Books that smelled that way were usually fun to read. He threw the book onto his bed and went to his suitcase. After rummaging about for awhile, he came up with a long, narrow box of chocolate-covered mints. He loved to eat candy while he read, and lots of his favorite books at home had brown smudges on the corners of the pages.” 19 likes
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