The following excerpts from Michael Dirda in the Washington Post were passed along to us recently. He has a few facts mixed up - and weren't not at all clear on the second half when Bellairs chimes - but it's nice to see the attention:
Oakton, Va.: We have no electricity (now for 7 days). Hardships aside, it has forced us into non-electronic pursuits. My 4th grade son just finished "The House with a Clock in its Walls" by John Bellairs. I was concerned about the effect of reading what seemed to me to be a very spooky book in a dark house by candlelight, but my son finished it and announced it to be one of the funniest books he ever read. We are to go to the library after school today to get the next. What do you know about Mr. Bellairs and his works?Huh?
Michael Dirda: You're in for a treat. Bellairs is dead now, but he wrote perhaps a dozen spooky novels for kids, then other authors added three or four others using his plot ideas. Bellairs also wrote an excellent comic fantasy for adults, The Face in the Frost. He has two heroes for kids in different story lines, but I prefer those in which the boy hero teams up with an elderly librarian. The Hoostanoic library's motto by the way is "Believe Half of What You Read." Some of the books are very scarey--and many are exceptionally well read on audio tape. Check out the audio section of the library.
Bellairs: You thought "The Face in the Frost" was comic? I know it has comic bits, but I thought it was incredibly creepy. Of course, I was an adult when I first read it, which probably affects things.
Michael Dirda: I remember that parts of it are scary, but the rivalry between the two wizards was funny, wasn't it? I confess to having read it 25 years ago and haven't looked at it since.