A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The House with a Clock in Its Walls, originally published in 1973, is the first book in the multivolume Lewis Barnavelt series of creepy tales by the late John Bellairs. A movie adaptation is set for release September 21, 2018. The plot involves a fat, friendless kid who, in a desperate attempt to impress a kid in his class, swipes the books of his warlock uncle, and raises a dead person -- who, unluckily, is the former owner of his uncle's house, a villain bent on destroying the world. Witchcraft (as well as Ouija boards, Magic 8 Balls, etc.) pops up constantly, along with the sinister ticking of a clock throughout the house. The cartoonish darkness (enhanced by the dark cartoons of Edward Gorey) is balanced by a sort of homey sweetness and oddball humor as Lewis finds himself in a strange but loving family.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS is the new home of 10-year-old Lewis Barnavelt, whose parents have just died in an accident. It's 1948, and the house belongs to his uncle Jonathan, a stranger to Lewis, who has been warned that the man smokes, drinks, and plays poker. As it turns out, Uncle Jonathan is also a warlock (a male witch/sorcerer). So was the house's original owner, who may have something to do with the mysterious ticking that never goes away. Lewis is starting to enjoy his new life and even thinks he's made a friend -- but when the new friend turns mean, Lewis is desperate to impress him, so he goes to the cemetery on Halloween to raise someone from the dead. What could possibly go wrong?
Is it any good?
John Bellairs' tale of a 10-year-old orphan, his warlock uncle, and world-destroying villains back from the dead -- first in a long series -- has entertained and spooked readers since 1973. Edward Gorey's classic illustrations manage to be both creepy and endearing. There's more than a bit of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" as young Lewis Barnavelt gets in way over his head raising people from the dead, and a strong sense of loving (if really strange) family and friends to set things right.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the magic spells in The House with a Clock in Its Walls. How does the magic in this book compare with that in other stories you've read or seen in movies?
Do you think you'll go see the movie of The House with a Clock in Its Walls when it comes out? What do you think might be better in the movie -- and what seems like it would be better in the book version?
Do you think that the story being set in 1948 is important? What might be different if it happened now?
- Author: John Bellairs
- Illustrator: Edward Gorey
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Puffin Books
- Publication date: August 3, 2004
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 192
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 26, 2020
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