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Lewis Barnavelt #1

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

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Alternative cover edition of ISBN 9780142402573

When Lewis Barnavelt, an orphan, comes to stay with his uncle Jonathan, he expects to meet an ordinary person. But he is wrong. Uncle Jonathan and his next-door neighbor, Mrs. Zimmermann, are both magicians! Lewis is thrilled. At first, watching magic is enough. Then Lewis experiments with magic himself and unknowingly resurrects the former owner of the house: a woman named Selenna Izard. It seems that Selenna and her husband built a timepiece into the walls—a clock that could obliterate humankind. And only the Barnavelts can stop it!

180 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1973

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About the author

Edward Gorey

301 books1,853 followers
Born in Chicago, Gorey came from a colourful family; his parents, Helen Dunham Garvey and Edward Lee Gorey, divorced in 1936 when he was 11, then remarried in 1952 when he was 27. One of his step-mothers was Corinna Mura, a cabaret singer who had a brief role in the classic film Casablanca. His father was briefly a journalist. Gorey's maternal great-grandmother, Helen St. John Garvey, was a popular 19th century greeting card writer/artist, from whom he claimed to have inherited his talents. He attended a variety of local grade schools and then the Francis W. Parker School. He spent 1944–1946 in the Army at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, and then attended Harvard University from 1946 to 1950, where he studied French and roomed with future poet Frank O'Hara.

Although he would frequently state that his formal art training was "negligible", Gorey studied art for one semester at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 1943, eventually becoming a professional illustrator. From 1953 to 1960, he lived in New York City and worked for the Art Department of Doubleday Anchor, illustrating book covers and in some cases adding illustrations to the text. He has illustrated works as diverse as Dracula by Bram Stoker, The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, and Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. In later years he illustrated many children's books by John Bellairs, as well as books in several series begun by Bellairs and continued by other authors after his death.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,308 reviews
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
459 reviews162k followers
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September 26, 2018
This was such a surprisingly fun read! It's honestly one of those adventurous stories that warms your heart. It's full of magic and mystery and it's an all around good time. I'm really curious to see how this translates on the big screen.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,620 reviews4,956 followers
September 24, 2012
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 laugh at the story now but i also can't help but remember the sharp flash of humiliation, the quick decision that it was less embarrassing to be a girl mistaken for a boy than to admit that i could have been a boy who looked like a girl, and then of course the ample self-loathing that followed. it is interesting to think about the complicated emotions that my youthful self had to wrestle with.

i recently re-read House with a Clock in Its Walls and was taken aback by the memory of reading it for the first time at age 10 or so - and the memory i had had back then of my moment of mortification and sudden femininity. a memory of a memory! i was never a bullied or angst-ridden child, so that memory pops out as almost uniquely painful. the protagonist Lewis Barnavelt of House With a Clock was the first time i'd read about a hero who was unheroic, who lied to avoid embarrassment, who rather despised himself. reading about him, reading the story of a boy filled with anxiety and doubt and even self-loathing, was almost like a tonic: now here was an author who lived in the real world! here was a protagonist who knew exactly how i felt that day. Lewis Barnevelt is akin to Narnia's Edmund or Eustace - except Aslan does not step in to help him slough off his self-hating nature. he has to do it on his own. he does not go on a quest and he does not save the day; instead he grows by bits and starts, the shedding of each of his dark layers a small triumph - quickly forgotten by Lewis, almost unbearably affecting to me.
Profile Image for Robin Hobb.
Author 270 books96.3k followers
November 11, 2017
It has become harder and harder, I think, to find books for kids that are appropriately spooky without being gross out bloody or simply horribly dark.

John Bellairs walks that difficult line. The adventure is scary, and the danger is real, as is the magic. A huge plus is the boy's relationship with Uncle Jonathan who takes him in, and his uncle's friendship with Mrs. Zimmermann. Long before we were touting 'strong female characters with agency,' Mrs. Zimmermann existed! It's a pleasure to see adults portrayed as adults with lives of their own in a children's book. And Lewis is a refreshingly real protagonist as he discovers his delight in his unusual new home, and copes with the difficulties any kid finds in being different and the 'new kid' at school.

A great Halloween tale, but good any time.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
651 reviews825 followers
January 19, 2021
“You can’t prepare for all the disasters that might occur in this frightening world of ours. If the devil appears or if we find that the End of the World is at hand, we’ll do something.”

The House with a Clock in Its Walls | The Moviehouse Moviehouse & Eatery

John Bellairs' The House with a Clock in Its Walls is another boy saves the world from destruction adventure that I enjoyed. Should be a fun read for all ages; it has enough creepiness and danger to keep the tension up to its conclusion. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Calista.
3,792 reviews31.2k followers
September 5, 2018
I read this book as a child. I wanted to read it again before the movie came out this month. I have to admit that most of the book faded from my memory till not much was left. It was interesting, as I read this it was like little puffs of smoke which were memories went off in my head and I would think, 'oh yeah', I remember that now. It was almost like reading this for the first time with some deja vu thrown in.

Lewis Barnavelt is an orphan and he goes to live with his uncle in Michigan. I know Michigan is a big state with lots of different settings in it, but the setting felt more like New England to me than Michigan. I love the picture of the house they live in. It is this awesome Adams family or Munsters type house. I dream of a house like that some day.

Lewis finds out his relatives is a witch and he has some magic interest in himself. If you listen to the walls there is a loud ticking you can hear in any room in the house behind the wall. Lewis ends up raising the dead and it sets off a chain of events that lead to the conclusion of the book. There were chills, there were creeps, there were monsters in this amazing beginning for John Bellairs. I think John is super talented and I love his writing. It is straight forward with such a clear voice. I also enjoy the character of Lewis. He is like Johnny Dixon in that he is not popular and he is not normal or into normal things. Lewis is overweight and can't play sports. He is scared of most things accept when it counts and his courage shines through. I can only think that John Bellairs was much the same way as a child. Smart and not as skilled fitting in. It is wonderful to have a different type of hero.

I am excited to see this movie and I hope they do a good job with the movie. I am thinking I might need to go back and read many of my books from childhood as I have forgotten them so completely. It was the same thing with the Egypt game. Stories fade from my mind over time and it's almost like reading it for the first time. Interesting.
March 4, 2016
An outrageous fact: the more magical and creative a book, the more authors gear it to children. If in doubt that there is a grown-up market, let me set it straight! John Bellairs wrote “The House With A Clock In Its Walls” in 1973. I wish I had known of it after I was a child! I would have been even more delighted with every nuance of mystery, suspense, and humour when its protagonist Lewis Barnavelt, matched my age. This book dwells on no sadness but our introduction to Lewis is poignant: he is orphaned and headed to live with his Uncle Jonathan in another town. I can’t contemplate how difficult it would be to leave a home of memories when I needed to wrap them around me.

Fortunately his new home is welcoming and too intriguing to bar enthusiasm. From the get-go this book stands apart because Uncle Jonathan and next door neighbour Florence Zimmermann are best friends; adults with a child’s abandon, who are fun. They might be a comfortable married couple if they didn’t have their own dwellings. The banter between them was unheard of in the 1970s, along with opposite-sex adult pals; immediately emanating whimsy and titillation I would have relished as much as Lewis. I laughed at the way Florence declared: “I get a funny hum that goes dooooo for a while”!

Jonathan’s dense house is peculiar. We wonder what he and Florence worry about within it, strange behaviour delights us, and evidence of magic! My favourite moment is a spell concocted in the backyard. Everyone hears insects underground and disused tunnels or streams. Temporarily, we perceive a host of natural workings and knowledge right where we stand. What a surreal moment! I loved it! Everything but Lewis’s age, makes this the book for me.
Profile Image for Brian.
6 reviews2 followers
July 12, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Janine.
42 reviews10 followers
April 20, 2007
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 lady, you made your nephew cry and blamed it on someone who had better taste and better sense than you.

anyway, it's a creepy little classic and I wish I could find an original 86 edition in the library binding. The illustrations were awesome.
Profile Image for Steven.
1,047 reviews385 followers
July 12, 2018
This was okay. I read it since the movie is coming out soon, but I should have saved the story for the movie, which I'm hoping has a tighter plot and that the clock plays more of a role than a side tale for 95% and then a last minute "big deal" in the last 5%.
Profile Image for Scott Rhee.
1,789 reviews63 followers
October 21, 2014
John Bellairs published "The House With a Clock in Its Walls" in 1973. I was one year old at the time. I had somehow managed to skip over this one when I was a young reader, or, if I had read it, I don't recall doing so. I found a dog-eared, faded Dell Yearling edition at my local library's used book sale recently. I wish I could say that it beckoned me, but, alas, it was merely one in a pile of books that I bought that day. It has, until a few short days ago, rested comfortably, anonymously, on a shelf in my bedroom. I picked it up arbitrarily, as I tend to do with books, and I began to read.

The joy of reading is one that I developed early, thanks in large part to my parents and grandparents, as well as my many elementary school teachers. I was fortunate to have liberal parents who did not discourage me from reading certain types of books. They did not steer me away from the books I tended to like---books with spaceships, green scaly astronauts, haunted houses, werewolves, and unicorns on the cover. They did not tell me my reading choices were "silly" or "immature". They encouraged me to read anything and everything, which I did. I still do.

The reason for stating this is because I had friends who had parents and teachers that, unfortunately, taught them that there are "silly" books not worth reading, as opposed to "serious" literature, the kind that has stood the test of time and taken on the label of "classic". Literary snobs would call these types of books "canonical". Everything else, according to these people, is fluff. "Popular" literature is beneath them. It's sad to say, but many of those friends of mine have children who are probably banned from reading the likes of J.K. Rowling, R.L. Stine, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Stephen King, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Walter Dean Myers. Oh, what they are missing…

Reading Bellairs's wonderful novel reminded me of my days in school, when going to the library was better than an evening at the movies or spending time at an amusement park. It triggered that excitement that I had, looking at the vast shelves upon shelves of ancient wisdom bound within the pages of those glorious tomes, knowing that I had access to all of it. To think that some people purposely deny themselves the luxury and excitement of reading is a depressing thought, and to deny one's children such a pleasure is unacceptable. But I digress...

Bellairs was the forerunner for dark fantasy authors like Rowling, Neil Gaiman, and John Connolly, and his stories were a perfect blend of supernatural creepiness and tween angst black humor.

"THWACIIW" introduces readers to Lewis Barnavelt, a ten-year-old who, at the beginning of the story, has lost his parents in a car accident and is forced to live with his Uncle Jonathon in New Zebedee, Michigan.

Uncle Jonathon is a bit eccentric, to say the least, but he is friendly and is excited to have Lewis stay with him. He has a thing with clocks---the house is full of them, tick-rocking away---and a weirdly flirtatious relationship with the widow next door, Mrs. Zimmerman, with whom Lewis is immediately enamored due to the fact that she is constantly bringing him fresh-baked cookies.

Nights are odd in the large, beautiful, but somewhat eerie house. Before bed, Uncle Jonathon walks through every room of the house, turning off all the clocks. Late at night, in bed, Lewis can inexplicably hear the rhythmic ticking of a distant clock, seemingly within the walls.

After some initial investigating, Lewis discovers some very frightening things. Some of them turn out to be not-so-frightening: Uncle Jonathon, it turns out, is an amateur wizard, and Mrs. Zimmerman is a witch. They aren't bad witches, though. The frightening thing he learns is that the original owner of the house, a man named Izard and his wife, were also practitioners of witchcraft. The bad kind: black magic. They despised everyone in the entire world and hoped to destroy it, but their deaths prevented them from getting around to it. Unfortunately, Lewis accidentally releases the ghost of the late Mrs. Izard, who is searching for her late husband's clock in the walls, which has the ability to end the world. On top of that, Lewis is dealing with bullies at school, and he isn't doing well in math class.

To say that I loved this book is an understatement. It is a truly fun, creepy little Gothic horror story with just the right amount of humor to make it palatable for most children and take the edge off the truly scary bits. It is, also, apparently the first in a series featuring young Lewis Barnavelt. I'm not sure how many books in the series Bellairs wrote, but I am sure that they are all wonderful.

If you don't mind reading something "silly", and if you especially don't mind letting your children read such silly fluff, you could certainly do worse than finding a copy of this wonderful book.
Profile Image for Miniikaty .
498 reviews109 followers
January 4, 2019
3,5

Reseña completa: https://letraslibrosymas.blogspot.com...

El libro me atraía por la trama de magia y misterio y al ver el tráiler de la adaptación cinematográfica mi nivel de entusiasmo aumentó considerablemente y ha cumplido perfectamente con su cometido, ha sido la lectura perfecta para acompañarme en estos últimos días del año donde no hay mucho tiempo por las fiestas, cenas y compromisos varios. Al parecer este libro pertenece a una serie que se publicó hace años -aunque es ahora cuando ha llegado a España- y consta de unas doce entregas, sin embargo "La casa del reloj en la pared" libro con el que se inicia la serie, tiene un final cerrado y así que no hay problemas de comerse las uñas a la espera de que se publiquen las continuaciones ni excusas por ser una saga tan larga en la que no te apetece embarcarte, porque puedes dejarlo en cualquier momento y aun así quedarte con buen sabor de boca.

"La casa del reloj en la pared" es un libro middle grade con un argumento un poco típico pero de esos que gustan porque cuenta con una atmósfera mágica, algo de misterios, aventuras y unos protagonistas excéntricos y perfectos. Una lectura muy amena que tardas un par de días en leer y te hace regresar a la infancia.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,848 reviews3,363 followers
October 28, 2018
I saw this book around last Halloween and decided to read it this year. Then I found out they were making a movie, too. No idea how the movie is, I have yet to see it, but the book was pretty darn great.

It's a children's book but like a famous German entertainer always said: what's good for children can't be bad for adults. ;)

Lewis lost his parents and so comes to live with his uncle Jonathan. Uncle Jonathan is ... eccentric, shall we say. So is his best friend, Mrs. Zimmermann. And they have every reason to be since they are a warlock and a witch!
Lewis feels right at home since both are very loving people but when he tries to make a friend, he dabbles in magic himself with dangerous consequences so he and his new family have to race against the clock (see what I did there? ;P) to save humankind.

The cast chosen for the movie might not really fit with the descriptions in the book but I understand why they were chosen. The banter between uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann is not only hilarious but I can actually picture Cate Blanchett and Jack Black in exactly those moments. :D It's all about how stories make you feel after all (both in book and movie format).






Apparently this is one of those books that many people know (a series in fact). I had never heard of it or its author but am tempted to read on because I like the theme of magic and it was very well done here, plus the characters are quirky and endearing, the plot fast-paced and I mused along with the characters about what would happen how and because of whom.
Profile Image for Elena Rodríguez.
500 reviews229 followers
November 22, 2019
La casa del reloj de la pared nos cuenta la historia de Lewis, un niño que durante los años 40, sus padres fallecen y pasa a estar al cuidado de su tío Jonathan. Él no lo conoce para nada, lo único que recuerda eran los testimonios de sus tías las cuales le decían que Jonathan era un tipo muy extraño. El pobre Lewis, ante esto, solo desea que con este nuevo tutor su vida mejore. Pronto descubre que su tío aparte de ser una maravillosa persona es también un mago justo como la vecina y su gran amiga la señora Zimmermann y que sus aventuras no habían ni siquiera comenzado.
Se trata de una novela muy ligera de leer. Solo tiene 132 páginas y capítulos muy cortos. A pesar de ser una época donde la población estaba bastante descontenta, los personajes se mostraban muy felices y alegres, sobre todo los adultos: ante cualquier problema siempre mostraban una sonrisa. En cuanto al pequeño Lewis, no es el típico protagonista, el héroe que todos queremos encontrar en la novela, al contrario, es un niño súper sensible que a la mínima le saltan las lágrimas.
Por otro lado, en cuanto a su argumento, se debe decir que no es una historia muy compleja. Tiene hasta un toque tétrico pero no llega a dar miedo. Esto quizá se debe al hecho de que el libro está ambientado a un público joven que pueda descubrir el placer que proporciona la lectura.
Lo que me sorprendió de verdad fue el apego que le cogí al libro. Lo devoré en menos de dos días. Así pues, debo comentar que desde un punto de vista objetivo, la puntuación oscila entre las 3-4 estrellas. Sin embargo, desde un punto de vista más personal, yo le pongo sin lugar a dudas las 5 estrellas. Me gustó demasiado y creo que de niña no lo hubiera sabido disfrutar tanto como ahora
Profile Image for Yani.
412 reviews171 followers
October 12, 2018
Las adaptaciones cinematográficas siempre traen cosas buenas. Desconocía este libro y, hasta que no vi el trailer de la película, no figuraba en mi lista mental de libros por leer. Cuando me enteré de qué se trataba, noté que sonaba exactamente como la clase de historias que me gustan: una mezcla de fantasía y terror, con elementos góticos y un castillo o mansión como escenario.

Los hechos transcurren en New Zebedee (Michigan, EE.UU) y corre el año 1948. Nuestro protagonista es el pequeño Lewis Barnavelt, quien se queda huérfano y, al comenzar la historia, se dirige a la casa de su tío Jonathan para vivir con él. Inmediatamente se da cuenta de que tanto su tío como la vecina, la simpática Florence Zimmerman, esconden algún secreto. La casa está llena de relojes pero… ¿por qué Jonathan se levanta por las madrugadas y se preocupa por el tic tac incesante que surge de una pared? ¿Tendrá relación con el antiguo propietario de la casa, el peligroso mago Isaac Izard?

Tal vez la palabra “mago” suene a spoiler, pero en realidad no lo es: esto se sabe desde las primeras páginas. Jonathan y la señora Zimmerman son hechiceros (utilizan magia blanca, mientras que Izard se dedicaba a la magia negra) e intentan integrar siempre a Lewis… hasta cierto punto. Así como los adultos, Lewis también tendrá sus secretos. Este libro no es para nada introductorio a una saga, sino que se siente como un escalón inevitable para lo que está por venir. A pesar de que los lectores solemos quejarnos de los inicios de saga lentos y explicativos, me pareció que este libro perdía fuerza en el apuro: el sistema de magia no queda claro y bien establecido, los magos muestran lo que hacen y no hay consecuencias y a veces se olvida el motor de la historia. En cuanto al sistema de magia, Jonathan tiene muchos libros pero apenas llegamos a conocer el contenido de los mismos. Me pareció un recurso desaprovechado.

Pasando ahora a lo positivo (porque las falencias de este libro se compensan con los aciertos), debo hablar sí o sí de los personajes. Me parecieron muy naturales en todo momento e incluso se ganan la simpatía apenas “entran a escena”. Tanto el tío como la señora Zimmerman ofrecen diálogos graciosos y animados, que le quitan la gravedad al asunto para que el libro sea llevadero, sobre todo pensando en que apunta a un público muy joven. Lewis es un niño que podría ser como cualquiera, que incluso sufre bullying por parte de alguien a quien aprecia y debe adaptarse a una vida nueva. Y Lewis tiene miedo, pero también tiene una gran imaginación con la cual combatirlo. A pesar de lo pequeño que es, se hace responsable de sus errores y la narración se vuelve muy bonita cuando se enfoca en sus sentimientos. Luego están los personajes desagradables, como Tarbys y Mangomartillo, aunque encontré una perspectiva tendenciosa sobre ellos: los malos, los que están para que el público los odie, son personas de clase media- baja. No me pareció inocente. Quisiera hablar de otro personaje que me pareció un desperdicio, pero sería spoiler y es innecesario que lo mencione.

¿Cuáles son los elementos que hacen que esta novela se clasifique como “gótica”? Son los que suelen encontrarse en los libros más famosos de esa corriente del romanticismo, con una vuelta de tuerca del siglo XX. En “La casa de…” no falta la noche de Halloween, ni el cementerio, ni la casa que guarda secretos. Tenemos los fantasmas, tenemos los sueños y la magia que toca cada uno de los capítulos del libro de Bellairs. Esto es meramente técnico, pero es bueno establecerlo. Y hablando de técnica, el estilo de Bellairs me pareció algo sofisticado para los más jovencitos. Sin embargo, eso no quiere decir que quede afuera de las recomendaciones, sino todo lo contrario. Es bueno que encuentren este tipo de textos. La narración se hace cuesta arriba en algunos capítulos donde nada parece pasar y sólo funcionan como un puente entre los hechos. Las descripciones suelen ser mi parte favorita de los libros y, sin embargo, creo que algunas están manejadas con más dificultad que la que deberían tener. Por ejemplo, es el caso de la descripción de las Ilusiones Históricas, que además pone una barrera ante los lectores desinformados sobre esos asuntos.

Creo que he dicho suficiente. La atmósfera de este libro me hizo acordar a otros libros y eso siempre supone un desafío, ya que invita a hacer comparaciones ¿Recomiendo el libro? Sí, lo recomiendo. No siempre la pasé bien leyéndolo, pero me pareció una joya desenterrada del olvido y merece atención por sus cosas buenas. Con lo demás, es sólo cuestión de tener cuidado y ojo crítico, además de saber acompañar a los lectores jóvenes en el caso de que sientan curiosidad. Lewis es un niño cercano a la realidad y los demás personajes son demasiado extraordinarios como para perdérselos.

Reseña en Clásico Desorden
Profile Image for Rachelle.
303 reviews71 followers
May 30, 2022
"The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised.."

Such a sweet little spooky read! This one is a classic in my home and it's still fun and enjoyable to get lost for a bit in the magical world Bellairs' created!
Profile Image for Ken.
2,112 reviews1,316 followers
September 7, 2018
A great creepy story with plenty of magic and mystery that will appeal to people of all ages.
The idea of a mysterious ticking noice from a hidden clock is such a fascinating concept!

This children’s favourite first came to my attention due to the forthcoming film adaptation, theres so many great elements to this book that judging by the tailer will introduce this great story to a wider audience.
I’m looking forward to seeing it!
Profile Image for Coos Burton.
743 reviews1,263 followers
October 10, 2018
4,5

Este libro hizo muy pero muy feliz a mi niña interior. Me dio una especie de nostalgia rara, como mágica. La atmósfera gótica, los personajes tan entrañables y la constante intervención sobrenatural hizo que me sintiera muy de humor para Halloween (si, más aún).
Profile Image for ABookwormWithWine.
1,347 reviews484 followers
October 19, 2018
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

Apparently I am really loving the spooky Juvenile fiction lately. The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs wasn't overly spooky, but there was definitely a scene or 2 that got a little intense. How did I not know these existed?!

What it's about: Lewis Barnavelt is suddenly orphaned after his parents die in a car accident, and he goes to live with his uncle Jonathan. Lewis quickly finds out that both his uncle and his uncle's next door neighbor Mrs. Zimmermann are witches, and Jonathan's house is plagued by a clock ticking in the walls. They try to uncover the source, and along the way Lewis causes a little trouble.

This was such a fun book, and definitely a classic. I'm kind of sad that I didn't realize this was even a book until I heard about the movie coming out. I'm going to be interested to see how the book translates into a movie since from what I've seen from the trailer, they seem pretty different (and the book really isn't all that scary). A lot of what happens in the book focuses on Lewis, and not so much on the house itself. I guess we shall see.

There was one scene that confused me a little bit and I couldn't really picture what I was supposed to be seeing, but besides that I love how Bellairs made The House with a Clock in Its Walls very atmospheric and fun even though it's geared towards a younger audience. I already put the second book on hold so I can read it.

Final Thought: If you are going to be seeing the movie, or even if you aren't, I totally recommend reading this book. It's short and a really quick read, and it was really fun to read too. I loved Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann, and the spooky parts of the book are perfect for Halloween. Witches and Wizards, oh my!
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,676 reviews918 followers
November 16, 2016
Well I read this one and only realized now that it counts towards The Dead Writers Society October 2016 Genre challenge. So that's one less thing to worry about before the end of the month. I am also going to be reading this for the Horror Aficionados Fall Fear Challenge.

I read this as a kid and remember being haunted for a couple of days after finishing. The imagery, the illustrations, everything about the book scared me to (almost) death. I lived at the time in an old steel mill town and all of the homes had some quirky aspects to them. We had Victorian style homes as well as hundred year old houses with random towers and odd shaped roofs. So for me, I was able to picture the town of New Zebedee, Michigan because it felt very similar to my own.

Now as an adult I was hoping to feel those same thrills and chills. Instead I felt mostly annoyance for Lewis who kept doing things in order to keep a friend and who seemed to be almost always crying. His personality does a miraculous change in the end, and we have a random new character introduced who we had heard nothing about before. I know that there are a bunch more books in this series. According to Goodreads there are 12 books. However, I don't know if I would want to continue on since the rest of the books may taint my memory further of this book.

"The House With the Clock in Its Walls" has the main character moving to Zebedee to live with his Uncle Johnathon after his parents died in a car accident. Being met by a giant of a man with red hair all over, Lewis is initially afraid, but is soon enchanted with the home that his uncle lives in. His uncle's best friend and general pain in the butt friend Mrs. Zimmerman lives next door and has the run of the home.

Though Lewis is fascinated by the home, he realizes early on that something weird is going on with his uncle getting up in the middle of the night and looking for something. And pretty soon Lewis due to him trying to impress his friend Tarby puts everyone in danger when he plays with something he does not have any real knowledge of at all.

Lewis is described as overweight and loves to read. You get to see illustrations of him in the book and he is depicted as roundish with his head always pointing to the ground it seemed to me. Lewis doesn't have a lot of self confidence and it seems that when things don't go his way (which is often) he runs away in tears. Things seem to be better when he meets a boy named Tarby who is the most popular boy at his school, who teaches Lewis how to play baseball. However, when Lewis feels Tarby pulling away he does what he can to get him to still be his friend.

Uncle Jonathon seemed clueless about things that Lewis was doing and how he was doing at school. I wanted more interaction with him and Lewis. Heck Mrs. Zimmerman had more sense about what was going on and I wish she had a conversation with Lewis. It would have been great if Lewis had learned earlier on that you can't keep someone in a friendship they are not feeling.

The writing was good, though I can see as a kid why the book scared the crap out of me. Bellairs is quite good at making you feel jumpy while you are reading. There are several points in the book you will hold your breath and be scared to death. The illustrations help with that too.

I think the flow wasn't very good though. It seemed like the book went almost through an entire year. And we really only focused on the summer months and then October and November. There is a significant event that takes place right on Halloween, so those who need to read this book for some bingo squares, it fills quite a few.

The ending was a bit of a letdown. I wanted more an epic battle I guess. And then to have the book kind of just go to Lewis being fine about things because hey he met another friend was a bit funny to me.
Profile Image for Michelle Isenhoff.
Author 54 books87 followers
October 27, 2012
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 point, Lewis dips into one of his uncle’s forbidden magic books, then he and his friend sneak into the graveyard to try a spell to raise the dead. Their success nearly leads to the end of the world.

The whole setup has a bizarre, creepy feel. Yes, Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman are good wizards, but they are so odd. I never warmed to them (or any other character). They have strange personalities and do odd, random things. I never felt I had a handle on who they are or why they did what they did. They didn’t make sense. And some plot events, like the time the three are chased in their car in the middle of the night, are never explained. What was that all about, anyway? It just builds on a series of weird events that don’t really make a solid picture at the end. It feels disjointed.

It was fairly predictable. I didn’t like the characters. The pictures were even stylized in a way that didn’t appeal to me. Twice it put me to sleep. I almost didn’t finish. I don’t usually rate books on my blog, but this one gets a two. That’s mostly because the suspense was okay and the old mansion was really cool. So why did I bother reviewing it? Because I know this book has been highly acclaimed and the series has sold well (maybe later books explain some things?). But I just didn’t get it.

How’s the content? Wikipedia calls it “children’s gothic horror,” though it isn’t terrible. A dead person comes to life via a spell, but most magic is innocent. Scenes from Harry Potter are far worse. Lewis’ hand is once guided by an unseen force. A Ouija board is mentioned but not used. It’s mostly creepy hype. I think there may have been one mild profanity, but I’m not sure. Like I said, I fell asleep twice and had to reread portions.

Can you tell I was disappointed? But obviously a lot of people like it.
Profile Image for Leah Adams.
1 review1 follower
July 30, 2008
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 his best friend Mrs. Zimmerman, who has an obsession with the color purple and anything with "Z" on it. Both Uncle Jonathon and Mrs. Zimmerman are witches. The house has a doomsday clock somewhere in it's walls, left there by it's former residents, the Izzard's, who were evil warlocks. It is up to Lewis, Uncle Jonathon and Mrs. Zimmerman to find it before it winds down and rings in the end of the world.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,728 reviews739 followers
April 22, 2020
This was such a fun read! I really wish I had read it as a kid/young teen because I would have fallen head over heels for it back then, I know that without a doubt. Now don’t get me wrong, I did still thoroughly enjoy it and I thought it was a great magical read! But I did myself thinking more than once that I felt old reading this because the main character was so young. It does still remain a fabulous, spooky little read but I have to deduct a star because I had trouble relating to the main character.
Profile Image for Latasha.
1,259 reviews360 followers
February 4, 2018
Where is that ticking coming from?!

I read this with some friends and glad I did. I wish this series had been part of my childhood. The story was fun & imaginative and just enough scary for youngsters.
Profile Image for Cameron Chaney.
Author 6 books1,808 followers
August 31, 2018
This isn't my favorite of John Bellairs books, but it is definitely charming and spooky. A must if you enjoy children's horror! I'm looking forward to the movie coming later this October.
Profile Image for Selene.
572 reviews133 followers
March 6, 2020
Book #5 for Middle Grade March

Challenge #3 - A book with a mystery
Challenge #5 - A book to screen adaption
Profile Image for Completely Melanie.
579 reviews373 followers
September 27, 2018
This was just ok for me. I read it with my son before the movie came out because we were planning on going to see the movie. After reading it and having seen trailers for the movie, I was guessing that the movie was going to be very different from the book and better than it as well. After watching the movie, my assumptions were correct. The movie was really good, though they changed and added so much more, but in this case, I prefer this movie over the book. The story is about a boy named Lewis who's parent's have died and he now has to go and live with his Uncle Jonathan. Jonathon and his best friend/neighbor are both wizards and he lives in a house that was previously owned by another evil wizard that left this doomsday clock hidden in the house. You can hear the ticking of this clock in every wall of the house. Lewis experiments with some magic and resurrects the previous owner who is set on finishing off the world.
Profile Image for Simona Stoica.
Author 14 books704 followers
October 7, 2018
Voiam atât de mult să îmi placă și să descopăr o (nouă) serie magică și captivantă, dar povestea este plictisitoare, previzibilă și slab schițată, lipsită de originalitate și cu personaje de carton.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,844 reviews470 followers
January 28, 2020
What a magical story! I loved this book!

Lewis Barnavelt lost his parents and he is scared about coming to live with his Uncle Jonathan. He's heard rumors that his uncle is a bit weird....and it's just distressing to a child to be thrust into the unknown. But soon he learns to love his Uncle Jonathan and his eccentric neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman. They love and accept Lewis. Plus, both Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman are witches! The old house abounds with magic and all sorts of exciting things! But.....it also abounds with something darker....after Lewis mistakenly raises the dead, trying to impress a school friend. Bringing back an evil dead person is really not a good way to win friends and influence people.....especially when the evil person has hidden a clock in the walls of the house that could end humanity.

Wonderful story! Wonderful characters! :)

I listened to the audio book version (Recorded Books) of this story. Narrated by George Guidall, the audio is just over 4.5 hours long. Easy listening length! The audio quality of the recording was not very good. It had an audible hiss in the background...like the recording had been copied from an old cassette tape. But, even with the hiss, George Guidall is a superb narrator! I have listened to his recordings of the Longmire series and recognized his voice immediately! He gave a great performance! Excellent voice actor!

I was surprised to learn that this book is just the first in a 12 book series! I'm definitely reading the rest of the books! I already have the second audio book checked out from the library. I like Lewis, Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman as main charaters -- quirky, magical, eccentric....a perfect family!

I have not seen the movie version starring Jack Black (2018). I'm a bit afraid it won't have the magic of the book...but I'm willing to give it a chance. Disc on the way from Netflix.
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