In the midst of the Harry Potter furor one might forget that there are other excellent examples of male main characters and magical wizardry. This sequel to John Bellairs's first young adult book, The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Dial, 1973), is here to remind readers of the others. In 1950, just twelve months after the end of the first book, Lewis Barnavelt, Uncle Jonathan, Mrs. Zimmerman, and Rose Rita Pottinger, Lewis's new friend, are invited by Rose Rita's grandfather to visit him while he house-sits on an island in the middle of Lake Superior. At first, they are aware only that they have happened upon an island that does not appear on any map yet is talked about by local fishermen. Lewis and Rose Rita begin to suspect that there is magic afoot. What actually is going on, however, involves another Izard, the black magic sorceress of Bellairs's book, and another Doomsday clock. Lewis, Rose Rita, Uncle Jonathan, and Mrs. Zimmerman all work against time to find and destroy this clock. The characters, writing, and plot are consistent with the first book. The reader feels a seamless transition from Bellairs's book to Strickland's follow-up. The writing quality remains consistent throughout the story. The suspense is maintained well with an ending in true Bellairs style. Through and through, this book is a delight. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Dial, 144p, $16.99. Ages 11 to 14. Reviewer: Susan Allen
From The Critics
When Lewis Barnavelt and his uncle Jonathan decide to join their neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman and Lewis' friend, Rose Rita Pottinger, for a vacation on an island in Lake Superior, they have no idea they will have to again do battle with a member of the evil Izard family. Ishmael Izard has reconstructed his father's Doomsday Clock, and Lewis, with the help of Rose Rita's courage, his uncles, and Mrs. Zimmerman's good magic, will have to save the world by destroying the clock before it strikes the hour of doom. Brad Strickland keeps John Bellair's characters alive in this sequel to the The House with the Clock in Its Walls. It is a fast-paced story that combines both mystery and fantasy to keep the reader on edge until the resolution. The setting in 1950s Michigan, the likeable characters, straightforward plot, and crisp descriptions make this a fun read for younger students. 2001, Dial Books, 146 pp.,
— Jim Cope
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-This sequel to The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Puffin, 1993) is a thematically rich story pitting good against evil, black magic against white, and life against death. Lewis Barnavelt and his Uncle Jonathan once again encounter danger in the form of an evil wizard. While vacationing near Lake Superior, Lewis begins to see specters summoned by Ishmael Izard. When Uncle Jonathan and their friends Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmerman discover Izard's sinister plan to destroy the world using a new doomsday clock, the group literally races against time to discover how to destroy it. The search leads the friends to an island that only appears when a magical spell surrounding it is lifted. It is there that the group members must face their nemesis and Lewis must confront his fears. The boy's cautious and pessimistic personality contrasts nicely with Rose Rita's adventurous, outgoing nature, and the humorous banter between Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman lends a soft spot to the eeriness of the story. The whereabouts of Izard's clock remains elusive to the group until Lewis discovers that it is the giant sundial on the very island on which they are trapped. This absorbing tale has all the elements of a good mystery: a despicable villain, a dark tower, and a frightening monster. Characters are interesting and appealing individuals, and the chapters are well crafted and descriptive, maintaining a high level of suspense. A wonderful blend of suspense, adventure, ghost story, and friendship that is a sure-to-please page-turner.-Janet Gillen, Great Neck Public Library, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In comparison to the original, this addition to the series begun with John Bellairs's The House with a Clock in Its Walls (1984) falls short. Strickland seems capable of plotting a rousing world's end full of magic and doom, using many of the same characters. Misplaced is that slight touch of self-deprecation and humor of Bellairs that made Gorey the perfect illustrator. We're still in the 1950s and Lewis and his wizard Uncle Jonathan are off for a vacation with Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmerman the neighboring witch. Where to go, but to the exact location of a supernatural tower that threatens the entire planet. Once again the wizard and the witch are caught up in their efforts to extricate themselves from danger and it takes the common sense of a boy and his friend to save not only themselves and the adults, but also the whole world. Tension mounts as events and clues unfold. Each step seems placed into a logical framework if you accept the rules at play, but the cast seems wooden, the narrative flat, and ultimately the fear never manages to creep into your bones. For fans of Bellairs hungry for another dose of his spellbinding mystery, this will serve to deaden the thirst, but not quench it. (Fiction. 10-14)
John Anthony Bellairs (1938–1991) is an award-winning American author, perhaps best known for his fantasy novel The Face in the Frost. He is also the author of many gothic mystery novels for children and young adults, including The House with a Clock in its Walls (which received both the New York Times Outstanding Book of Award and the American Library Association Children's Books of International Interest Award), The Lamp from the Warlock’s Tomb (which won the Edgar Allen Poe Award), and The Specter from the Magician’s Museum (which won the New York Public Library "Best Books for the Teen Age" Award.