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The House with a Clock in Its Walls (1973)

by John Bellairs

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lewis Barnavelt (1)

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2,383756,046 (3.91)1 / 99
A boy goes to live with his magician uncle in a mansion that has a clock hidden in the walls which is ticking off the minutes until doomsday.

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 Name that Book: Horror Series read as kid12 unread / 12Nerilka, November 2010

» See also 99 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a delightful read for middle graders.

Last year I finally got to see the film adaptation and I was blown away! I had so much fun with the legendary tale that was packed full of colour and imagination. Naturally, I wanted to give the book a go to see where the adaptation came from. Lucky my found this book on accident, and ever since I've been staring at it on my shelf. I finally picked the book up, and it was a nice, little binge read for me!

This book is fantastical. It is littered with magic, wizards, witches and friendship, giving it just enough 'umph' to keep the reader glued and enchanted. Lewis is a kid we can all relate to. He does have a tragic back story with the loss of his parents, but he just wants to be friendly and fit in. Lewis isn't amazing at sports, but he tries! He's kind of awkward, but he's super curious. This young boy wants to learn magic and have fun with his family. He works hard to impress others to gain their friendship, but it turns out when he's just being himself and meets the right people, everything falls into place.

Uncle Johnathan and Mrs. Zimmerman are kooky, spooky and filled with fun. They bring an Addams Family friendly vibe to a spooky middle grade tale. Uncle Johnathan is a wizard. He's not the most powerful, but he's fun and eccentric in all the best ways! He's a caring figure who does his best to help Lewis. He's not mean, but he can be strict. Uncle Johnathan never comes off as cruel, instead he seems like the guardian Lewis needs after such an incredibly sudden loss. Mrs. Zimmerman is Uncle Johnathan's friend, and she's a mighty great witch. She's not scary either. Instead, she's wickedly smart and always down for a great ride or game. The two together make for a fabulous set of guardians to help Lewis grow and learn. You don't see that too often in middle grade and young adult books, so extra applause here please.

Lewis gets himself into a little trouble when he starts investigating the death of the former owner of Uncle Johnathan's house. This house is mighty special, like the title suggests. There seems to be a clock in it's walls! But why? Lewis goes on investigating, and starts more trouble than you could ever imagine... But don't worry, with Lewis, Uncle Johnathan and Mrs. Zimmerman, there will definitely be a way to sort out the mischief! They make one great team.

This book isn't scary in the sense of flesh, gore or blood. It's mighty friendly! It's spooky due to the mysteries, twists and turns that the book does and can take. You don't know for sure what is happening until you start unravelling the mystery.

I applaud John Bellairs. This book was mighty fun and not scary. Middle graders deserve spooky and fun books! I highly recommend this book for a introduction to the land of spooky, creepy, crawly and kooky!

Four out of five stars. ( )
  Briars_Reviews | Aug 4, 2023 |
A chubby, awkward kid that likes to read, and uses what he learns from books to triumph over evil. ( )
  LynnMPK | Jul 7, 2023 |
Spooky! ( )
  tmilaandlc | Apr 9, 2023 |
“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.”
― John Bellairs, The House with a Clock in Its Walls

I am so sad to find out that this book has been around almost as long as I have and I have never heard of it much less read it and the book series it inspired. In this book, Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his uncle after the death of his parents. His uncle lives in a delightfully spooky mansion complete with magic and mysteries, the chief of which being the sound of a clock that can be heard ticking in the walls of any room of the house.

Lewis is overweight, socially awkward, and of course, the new kid so making friends, indeed just navigating the schoolyard, is a bit difficult for him. He finds a ray of hope in the halfhearted friendship with the popular boy Tarby and it is to keep this friendship that Lewis takes the actions that make this story flow as he tries to raise the dead on Halloween night.

I am not a huge fan of the art style, though it fits the literary style of the book perfectly. The story is wonderful in all the magical ways that a kid should enjoy such a mystery. My own son is currently plowing his way through the series. At least he won’t have any regrets about having missed it as a child. It is a great book for middle-grade readers but is also perfect for a Halloween scare for the younger reading circle/bedtime story crowd and honestly any teen or adult who has enjoyed books like a Wrinkle in Time will enjoy this story.

Let's talk more about kid's books at I Read Kid's Book Journal ( )
  Ireadwhatuwrite | Jun 23, 2022 |
DNF @ 20%
Because I did not sign up to suffer.

The thing is - the book does not make sense. It meanders. It drags. It drones and keeps piling useless details we can do without. It made me want to scream from the page one. And characters are far from likeable. Lewis is insufferable. His uncle and the old lady are not eccentric, they are COMPLETELY CERTIFIABLY MAD.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure how this book got published, let alone evolved into a series.
*looks at the publishing date*
Okay, I can see the How.

  QuirkyCat_13 | Jun 20, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bellairs, JohnAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schmitz, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, David K.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Priscilla, who lets me be myself
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Lewis Barnavelt fidgeted and wiped his sweaty palms on the seat of the bus that was roaring toward New Zebedee.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A boy goes to live with his magician uncle in a mansion that has a clock hidden in the walls which is ticking off the minutes until doomsday.

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Average: (3.91)
1 4
1.5 1
2 18
2.5 8
3 97
3.5 26
4 166
4.5 16
5 124

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