Best of John Bellairs 2: Johnny Dixon Mysteries by John Bellairs

Bellairs, J. (2005). The best of John Bellairs 2: The Johnny Dixson mysteries. New York: Dial Books.

This collection includes three Johnny Dixon mysteries: The Curse of the Blue Figurine 1983, The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt 1984, and The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull 1984. All feature young Johnny Dixon whose mother died of cancer and whose father has agreed to go on active duty again for the US Air Force during the Korean Conflict. This places the time period in the early 1950s. Johnny goes to live with his grandparents in Massachusetts and becomes friends with an old professor (Professor Childermas) who lives across the street.

In The Curse of the Blue Figurine, Johnny find a hidden Egyptian figurine with a curse put on it by a former priest –turned “evil” sorcerer. This mysterious creature meets Johnny and gets him to put on a ring which then gives the sorcerer control over Johnny.

In The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt Johnny goes away to scout camp but finds a secret path to a mansion which contains a hidden mysterious will. Along the way, Johnny annoys a powerful sorceress who is the relative of the deceased and does not want a will to be found. She controls a creature which has killed several other people and which she now aims at Johnny.

In The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull Johnny and the Professor go on a trip to see an old clock build by the Professor’s father. During the night bizarre things happen and in a semi dream state Johnny goes into the room with the clock and disturbs a miniature skull that was in a diorama in the clock. He puts this skull in his pocket where it allows evil forces to control him. After they return from the trip, the professor mysteriously vanishes. He has been kidnapped by the Ghost/ sorcerer of a man who had a grudge against one of the professor’s ancestors. Johnny, a friend Fergi, and the local parish priest go on an adventure to Vinalhaven, Maine to rescue the professor.

These are all fun stories but it is interesting to note that in Bellairs’ earlier works (Lewis Barnavelt mysteries) the witches and warlocks were good as well as bad. In the later books they seem to be leaning to the bad side. This is unfortunate as I prefer the older more balanced stories.

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The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs

Bellairs, J. (1969). The face in the frost. London: Macmillan Company.

The Face in the Frost is one of Bellairs’ works for adults (as opposed to his children’s and YA –young adult literature) It features two friends who are wizards (Prospero and Roger Bacon) who live in a land with the North Kingdom and the South Kingdom. Strange things start happening to Prospero while Roger is visiting (strange shadows, creatures creeping out of the night to get him, etc.). They figure out that a wizard Prospero once had as a classmate, Melichus, is trying to bring destruction to the land and kill Prospero since he is the only one who can stop Melichus. Prospero and Roger start on a quest to find Melichus and stop him but are separated in the process. We follow along with Prospero on his supernatural quest as he is attacked and frightened by too many creatures and things to mention. Of course in the end he reunites with Roger for a while and they find Melichus. Then again they are separated while Prospero is transported to another world with Melichus on his trail trying to kill him. Fortunately all ends well. I won’t tell you the ending or more of the plot because it is something that really must be read for oneself. This is Edgar Allen Poe with humor and wonderful illustrations by Marilyn Fitschen. Enjoy!

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!!