The Best of John Bellairs by John Bellairs


Bellairs, J. (1998). The best of John Bellairs. New York: Barnes & Noble books.


This collected work contains three of John Bellairs’ children’s works: The House with a Clock in its Walls 1973 Illustrated by Edward Gorey, The Figure in the Shadows 1975 Illustrated by Mercer Mayer, and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring 1976 Illustrated by Richard Egielski.

All three of these stories (which are kind of a series but can be read on their own) are wonderful. They feature the orphaned boy, Lewis Barnavelt who goes to live with his uncle, Jonathan Barnavelt after his parents are killed in a car accident. Jonathan lives next door to Mrs. Zimmerman (Florence). Both Florence and Jonathan are witches (also referred to as wizard or warlock). Florence has her Doctorial degree in magic Doctorus Magicorum Artes[?] or D.Mag.A. from a German University while Jonathan is a “parlor” magician—he does real magic, but just not as powerful as Mrs. Zimmerman. These wonderful stories are great in their attempt at providing positive female and male role models who don’t need to follow the traditional role society sets out (especially in the 1970s). Although in the later books Mrs. Zimmerman does lose some of her powers when her magic staff (disguised as an umbrella) is destroyed. This is unfortunate since it was quite refreshing to see a single (although she had been married) woman with more advanced knowledge and power than the males in the story.

An absolute wonderful read – all of the books. The illustrations are equally wonderful. These books stand the test of time and are just as wonderful in 2009 as they were in the 1970s!!