Kristine's Reviews > The House with a Clock in Its Walls

The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs
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's review
Jul 02, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: mystery-suspense, young-adult, kids-lit
Read in November, 2009

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 occupied by an evil magician. I liked the mystery of the book, but this time around the main character was too whiny for my tastes. He is a social outcast, overweight, etc. . . . . but he seems way too clingy/emotional for me (maybe boys were more in touch with their touchy-feely side back in the 1950s?). One thing I didn't like was the fact the main character never is taught a lesson about honesty when he makes his big "mistake". Parts of it are kind of creepy but appropriately so (not gory or anything).
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01/12 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Rebecca (last edited Jul 06, 2009 08:56AM) (new)

Rebecca John Bellairs wrote a bunch of great kids/mystery books that I read when I was a kid! I loved the cover illustrations, mostly done by the same artist who did the intro to PBS's mystery program in the 80s and 90s. I think his name was Edward Gorey. I love his work!

Annette John Belliars is a talented writer, I read this book to Preston last year and even though I'm not much for creepy type books I enjoyed this one.

message 3: by Trent (new)

Trent Mikesell What's it about?

Annette I agree Kristine, the main character is whiny and can grate on ones nerves. Your also right about the honesty thing, Bellairs kind of missed the boat on that one.
Have you read anything else by this author?

Kristine I remember reading the curse of the blue figurine when I was little but I don't remember anything about it. I think I'm willing to give that one another try just for fun.

Steve I disagree about Louis not learning a lesson about honesty after he tries to resurrect the ghost of Selena Izard, the evil wizard's evil wife.

This will really freak out fans of the book - I figured out the book's secret! :)

Louis' uncle hears about the violation of Selena's tomb, so he goes and investigates, finding Louis' flashlight (the book reveals this). Then he and Mrs Zimmerman decide to teach Louis a lesson in honesty and courage by staging the whole story, convincing Louis that the clock is a doomsday device and that Louis has successfully awoken Selena. They do this by having a conversation about Selena and the clock when they know Louis is listening from behind the secret passage (they hear Louis creeping up behind the bookshelf).

This may sound harsh of them, but the adults know Louis did what he did because he was trying to impress his friend Tarby, who was disloyal and dumped Louis. So they give Louis a chance to be a hero and develop courage and higher, more secure self esteem.

Louis comes through, confronts Selena Izard (who must be an illusion they created with their magic) and destroys the clock, 'saving the world.'
The adults also hired a mean derelict to ransack the house while they were out one night (when supposedly Selena found the key, hidden in the house, to wind up the clock) and to make it look as if the old house across the street was really occupied by Selena Izard. Then they pay him to leave town, telling Louis that he must have been murdered by Selena to make a hand of glory, a magical object which paralyzes those who look upon it.

Cool, huh?

One interesting detail: In order to awaken Selena Izard's ghost, he had to know her name. But he didn't know it. The name Selena occurs to him while he is performing the ritual.

I think Selena might have been his dead mother's name. Maybe he really wanted to get her back. Poor Louis.

Kristine Steve, the thing I appreciate most about literature is its ability to speak to us. As in two people can read the same thing and get a different story and meaning out of it - while in reality we read the same words, the story meant different things to each of us.

I like your take on the story - it's interesting. And while my reading didn't result in the same conclusion you had, it was a good story to both of us.

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