The First Book To Terrify Me

Jenn's Bookshelf blog has a guest post from Belle Wong, owner of Ms.Bookish.com, that discusses - as the title of the post says - the first book to terrify me. Belle cites Bellairs' The House with a Clock in its Walls and remembers reading the Yearling paperback's tagline ("The thing was ticking away, marking off the minutes until doomsday") and the cover being the "scariest cover out of any book I’d ever read up until then."

I loved the zany whackiness of Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann, the way they sniped at each other good-naturedly, the way they both cared about Lewis. I loved Lewis, too – on the plump side, shy, eager to fit in – and his new best friend, Rose Rita, who was spunky and brave and maybe a little too headstrong sometimes.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls was also my first introduction to the illustrations of Edward Gorey. There are delightful pieces by Gorey throughout the book, and Gorey’s style is a perfect match to the tone of the story.

I read and reread The House with a Clock in Its Walls so many times after that first read. And being a true reader even then, I sought out as many of John Bellairs’ books as I could find. Lewis and the gang appeared in some of them, others were populated by different sets of characters. I eventually read them all, and I loved them all.

But out of all of Bellairs’ tales, The House with a Clock in Its Walls will always hold a special place in my heart. I reread it earlier this year, after a long hiatus away from it, and sadly (but inevitably), the scare/suspense factor wasn’t there any more. I still loved the characters and the relationships, though, and the wave of wonderful memories that accompanied my re-read more than made up for the loss of the scariness.

Belle makes a good point – is what makes these books scary and memorable for the reader in his or her youth gone by the time that same reader is older by 20 or so years? Or do these books still have chills and thrills for your older self? Share some of your thoughts on how Bellairs’ books have aged – and how you’ve aged, as well (if at all) – in our forum.

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