Title: The House with a Clock in Its Walls.
Author: John Bellairs (illustrated by Edward Gorey).
Genre: Fiction, children's lit, YA, mystery, fantasy.
Publication Date: 1973.
Summary: 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, watchng 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!
My rating: 8/10.
♥ There were big heavy English pennies that showed Queen Victoria in various states of chinniness, and there were tiny silver coins no thicker than your fingernail.
♥ "Oh, by the way," he said, "you might bring Lewis a glass of iced tea, and get me a refill. No sugar. And bring out another plate of chocolate-chip cookies."*
Mrs. Zimmermann stood up and clasped her hands subserviently in front of her. "How would you like your cookies, sir? Stuffed down your throat one by one, or crumbled up and sifted into your shirt collar?"
♥ In spite of Jonathan's strange behavior and the eavesdropping habits of Mrs. Zimmermann, he had had a very good time during his first evening in New Zebedee. In fact, for most of the evening, he had had a great deal of trouble keeping himself from jumping up and down in his seat. He had been told that it was a bad thing to do in company.
♥ "As I was saying, old Isaac was a warlock."
Uncle Jonathan looked very serious. "It's the word for a male witch." Lewis shuddered. Then, out of nowhere, a strange thought came to him. "Are you one too?" he asked in a tiny, frightened voice.
Jonathan looked at him with a strange smile. "Would it scare you if I said I was?"
"No. I like you an awful lot and you can be a warlock if you want to be one, I guess."
♥ He had troubles enough of his own.
They weren't new troubles. They were the troubles that a fat boy who can't play baseball carries around with him from place to place.
♥ Uncle Jonathan walked over to the tulip bed, put his ear to the ground, and listened. He motioned for the others to join him. Lewis put his ear to the damp earth, and he heard strange things. He heard the noise that earthworms make as they slowly inch along, breaking hard black clods with their blunt heads. He heard the secret inwound conversations of bulbs and roots, and the breathing of flowers. And Lewis knew strange things, without knowing how he came to know them. He knew that there was a cat named Texaco buried in the patch of ground he knelt on. Its delicate ivory skeleton was falling slowly to pieces down there, and its dank fur was shrivelled and matted and rotten. The boy who had buried the cat had buried a sand pail full of shells near it. Lewis did not know the name of the boy, or how long ago he had buried the cat and the pail, but he could see the red and blue pail clearly. Blotches of brown rust were eating up the bright designs, and the shells were covered with green mold.
♥ "Well, you can think what you like, Frizzy Wig," said Jonathan as he knelt down for another listen. "I say it's an underground stream. Capharnaum County is full of them, and it would account for the fact that Sin-and-Flesh Creek is much bigger when it leaves New Zebedee than it is when it enters it."
"You're full of beans, Fatso," said Mrs. Zimmermann, whose ear was still pressed to the ground. "I think I know the sound of water rushing through a brick tunnel. It's all vaulty and hollow."
"Like your head?"
♥ But when Lewis came home from school that day, he was depressed and worried. He had been thinking about the tomb business all day long. So, when Jonathan pushed back his chair after dinner and asked Lewis if he'd like to go for a nice long ride, Lewis merely shrugged his shoulders and said, "Yeah, I guess I'd like to go" in a dying-cat sort of voice.
♥ So Lewis just sat there, trying to feel comforted by the green dashboard lights and the warm breath of the heater on his knees. Of course, he also felt comforted by the two wizards, whose warm friendly bodies pressed against his in the furry darkness.
♥ And Lewis was afraid to do that. It was not that Uncle Jonathan was such a hard man to talk to. He was easier to talk to than most people Lewis knew, easier by far than Lewis's own father had ever been. Then, why was Lewis afraid?
Well, he was afraid because he was afraid.
♥ It wasn't a reasonable fear, considering the kind of man Jonathan was. But Lewis had not known him for very long, and anyway, people are not always so reasonable.
♥ And there was another thing that added to Lewis's despair. He had lost Tarby. He had lost him in spite of all his sneaking and planning—or maybe he had lost him because of it. It was one thing to say that you could raise the dead, but when you did it—well, ordinary people have never cared much for the company of wizards. Tarby was afraid of Lewis now..
♥ Lewis felt crisscrossing lines of mystery and fear and tension hemming him in on all sides.
♥ 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.
♥ As he did so, he heard a noise. A very faint noise. Something was fluttering around down inside the organ case.
Lewis stumbled backward, knocking over the bench. The papers slid out of his hand and scattered over the floor. What should he do? Run for his life or save the papers? He gritted his teeth and knelt down. As he gathered up the sheets, he said to himself over and over again, "Quia tu es Deus fortitudo mea... quia tu es Deus fortitudo mea."
♥ But what could he say? One thing would lead to another, and before long he would have to tell about Halloween night. When you are hiding something, you get the feeling that every other secret is connected to your secret.
♥ "Do?" she said. "Do? We fight them. What else?"
Jonathan gave a hoarse laugh. It made Lewis feel very uncomfortable.
"Easier said than done, Florence. They're both stronger than we are, you know. We only fiddle around with magic; they gave their lives to it. As for her, she may have quite literally given her life for it."
♥ It was late in the afternoon when Lewis got up. He almost fell over because his left leg had gone to sleep. After he had stomped around in the weeds for a while to get the circulation going again, he set out for home. His mind was made up. All he could hear in his head was the old church hymn that ran:
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide
In the strife of truth with falsehood
For the good or evil side.
♥ Lewis looked at the burning globe, and he looked up the staircase. He felt like turning around and running home as fast as he could. But then how would he save Mrs. Zimmermann and Jonathan and the world, and make up for what he had done?
♥ "But still, it took a great deal of courage for you to rush in and smash the clock. After all, you didn't know what would happen to you when you did that."
Lewis was silent. He had always thought that courage had something to do with riding your bicycle through bonfires and hanging by your knees from the limbs of trees.
♥ "Speaking of bad auras and unclean spirits," said Mrs. Zimmermann, "do you have any idea of what happened to Hammerhandle?"
Jonathan's face grew grim for an instant. He had made a few guesses about Hammerhandle's fate, but he had kept them to himself. For one thing, he knew that the blood of a hanged man went into the making of a Hand of Glory.
"No idea at all," said Jonathan, shaking his head. "He seems to have vanished from the face of the earth."