About My Book Reviews

Saturday, September 29, 2018

House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

Image result for house with a clock in its walls bookTitle: The House with a Clock in its Walls

Author: John Bellairs

Published: 1973

Genre: Fantasy

Grade Level: 3th-5th Grade

-Movie Rating: PG for bulling and positive images of smoking from a hookah

(This review will only be over the first half)

Blurb (from goodreads):

Orphaned Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his Uncle Jonathan and quickly learns that both his uncle and his next-door neighbor are witches on a quest to discover the terrifying clock ticking within the walls of Jonathan's house. Can the three of them save the world from certain destruction?

My Scores:

Writing Style: Good

I love the way sound is incorporated in this book.

For example: “whip-whip” or “zzzzzit!” or “whirr.”

Books usually focus more on sights and scents, so we don’t get a whole lot of unusual sounds. 

I also loved the way Uncle Johnathan’s dialogue was written.

For example: “Hmh…hah! Hrumph! Ooh! Sorry, Lewis, I…I just remembered that I had…that I had left a kettle boiling on the stove.”

I love all the sounds and the pauses and the missteps. It makes him feel like a real person to me.

And I can definitely tell it was written in ’73. There are phrases I have never heard of before.

For example: “moony fat face” or “get bawled out.”

I just don’t feel that the writing style is unique enough to be given a solid. The voice is very flat otherwise. Had the book been written in first person, instead of third, I think most of the problems I have with this book could have been averted.

Characters: Underdeveloped

I adore how Uncle Jonathan is written. His personality leaps off the page from his thick red hair to his bright multicolored clothes. All of his actions from his hesitant dialogue to his odd mannerisms make him feel like a real person trying to hide a big, dangerous secret.

Lewis, the MC, is so inconsistent it drove me nuts! We’re told that he’s a ten-year-old boy who just lost his parents in a sudden car crash and being sent to live in a different state with his uncle who he’s never met.

It might just be me, but that seems like a lot of trauma to get through, but it never seems to get addressed. This would not be this first children’s book to do so, but it just irks me.

On one page he’s teary-eyed over the mention of his old house, but on the next he’s perfectly fine reading a historical passage about Scotch nobles murdering Rizzio by stabbing him fifty-six times in front of Mary Queen of scots.

Overall, Lewis just doesn’t make any sense.

And then there’s this...

“Lewis sat down, and Jonathan lit up his hookah. Lewis always liked to watch him do this. The hookah was shaped like a Spanish galleon, and the crow’s nest on the mainmast was the bowl. The body of the ship was full of water for cooling the smoke, and up on the bow stood the tiny ceramic figure of a boatswain with his pipe to his lips. A long hose was plugged into the mouthpiece on the end…”

I don’t think ten-year-olds should think hookahs are cool. I don’t think adults should freely use them in front of ten-year-olds. 

Messaging in children’s books is extremely important to me. By all means, have your adult characters have flaws. It important for kids to understand that adults aren’t perfect. Who else remembers being so relieved when Marrilla told Anne she was sorry about accusing her of stealing her broach? Who else remembers being over the moon when the Wormwoods let Mrs. Honey adopt Matilda?

My point here is that authors have a responsibility to their readers, and that their readers love a good redemption story. 

Plot: No Plot

I mean, it has a plot… it's just really poorly done. As talked about in the blurb, the main plot is to find out the mystery behind this creepy, old mansion with walls that tick like a clock.

And I like that aspect of the book, there just isn’t enough of it. Instead of everyone getting together and trying to discover more things about the house, it's like they all tried to forget about it and go on about their lives. 

It got really frustrating, so I just stopped reading.

Overall: Boring

Overall, I was bored with the plot and frustrated with the characters. I truly wanted to love this book, but compared to Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book or Roald Dahl’s The Witches, it let me down big time. While I loved the set up to this book, there was no momentum given to the plot to hold my attention.

Extra Notes:

If they went through the trouble of remaking the cover, they should have changed ALL the illustrations. ‘Cause, I mean, look at this…

Image result for house with a clock in its walls illustrations

They’re just so lame compared to the pictures in my head. Well, maybe except for the first one. I kind of like that one.

Goodreads Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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