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The House with a Clock in Its Walls

(Lewis Barnavelt #1)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  17,056 ratings  ·  2,088 reviews
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 name ...more
Paperback, 180 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by Puffin Books (first published 1973)
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Maria Erika TBH the start and the middle is great, I love the cozy but the ending for me is not that good, it's hanging

TBH the start and the middle is great, I love the cozy but the ending for me is not that good, it's hanging


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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  17,056 ratings  ·  2,088 reviews

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Jesse (JesseTheReader)
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. ...more
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
Robin Hobb
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 adu
J.L.   Sutton
May 07, 2019 rated it liked it
“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.
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 M
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018, fantasy, ya
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%. ...more
Scott Rhee
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
JV (semi-hiatus)

"You may be wondering why I don't just tear down the wall and rip out the clock. Well, it wouldn't do any good. It sounds like it's behind every wall: up in the attic, down in the cellar, in the closets and storerooms and parlors. And sometimes it seems to be slowing down. I keep hoping it will stop. But then it picks up and keeps going. I don't know what to do."

Orphaned Lewis Barnavelt always felt there's an unusual phenomenon going on in his Uncle Jonathan's Victorian-inspired mansion in New Z
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ev
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 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,
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
Leah Adams
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Michelle Isenhoff
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Ashley Daviau
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ch ...more
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.
Just as fun, creepy, and magical re-reading it for the 3rd time!! Now off to re-watch the movie :D
Cameron Chaney
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. ...more
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Book #5 for Middle Grade March

Challenge #3 - A book with a mystery
Challenge #5 - A book to screen adaption
Completely Melanie
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: unhauled
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 ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.....
Wart Hill
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
love John Bellairs. creepy, fun, kind of sweet in spots. great read.
Tyler J Gray
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it

I really enjoyed my first John Bellairs book!

I really enjoyed the character of Lewis. Well I enjoyed his uncle Johnathan and his next-door neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman too. Lewis felt like a real 10 year old to me. He wants to have a friend, he gets teased for being fat, he cries and it's ok. Uncle Johnathan is a good uncle too and I enjoyed seeing their friendship between him and Mrs. Zimmerman.

I also really liked how, yes there is evil people using magic but Johnathan and Mrs. Zimmerman use mag
Lauren Stoolfire
I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation and thought it looked like a lot of fun, so naturally I wanted to try the book before I saw it. Unfortunately I wasn't as big of a fan as I thought I would be, but either way I'm still really excited for the movie. ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Aug 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-fantasy
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
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
Jun 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Adult readers who like Harry Potter
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
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I reread this on audiobook this weekend but didn't mark it on goodreads till now but i loved it just as much i did before i can't wait to see the movie now ...more
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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 ...more

Other books in the series

Lewis Barnavelt (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • The Figure in the Shadows
  • The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring
  • The Ghost in the Mirror
  • The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder
  • The Doom of the Haunted Opera
  • The Specter from the Magician's Museum
  • The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge
  • The Tower at the End of the World
  • The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost
  • The House Where Nobody Lived

News & Interviews

  As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of...
38 likes · 8 comments
“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.” 34 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.” 29 likes
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