Sunday, August 24, 2003

40th Annual Historic Home Tour

John Bellairs's hometown is celebrating 40 years of its Historic Homes Tour on September 6 and 7, 2003.

The Marshall, Michigan home tour continues offering exquisite private homes and businesses for public viewing and enjoyment. The tour will feature eight vintage homes and will include five historic museums covering diverse specialties such as unusual architecture, antique home furnishings, Civil War memorabilia, and a restored antique post office. To close out the tour's sixteen structures will be three businesses from Marshall's well-maintained historic business district. The event takes place every year on the weekend after Labor Day.

For further information call the Marshall Historical Society or the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Inside the Cronin House, 1977

As a fifth grader growing up in Marshall, Michigan, author Bryndis Rubin had a class interview assignment.  Being extremely fond of John Bellairs' books, she talked her classmates into doing something involving the Cronin House, the inspiration for the house with a clock in its walls. Upon calling the owners, the Misses Elizabeth and Virginia Cronin, she explained the project and was granted a tour and interview.

"As visuals were a requirement, I borrowed a Polaroid camera from my friend's mom. It was 1977 and Polaroid's were not common then, as I recall, so we thought it was really neat to be able to have such a high-tech aid for our project."

The classmates ended up touring the house with the Cronin sisters, learning interesting trivia and getting photographs of the interior and exterior of the popular Marshall landmark. "Some of the shots are a little blurry because I was 9 or 10 at the time, and not that great a photographer. Most are clear and not too bad and as a result I have used the pictures in my work as a librarian – nothing turns a kid on like visuals."

All this talk of the interior made us wonder if there was a coal pit and a boarded up tunnel behind it somewhere in the basement. We're joking, of course (and we hope you could figure that out), but like most old houses, coal was very much present in the house at one time. "There was a coal area somewhere but we were not allowed to see it because the Cronin sisters wouldn't let us go down into the basement. She said it was very dirty and the stairs leading down were rickety. The house had been converted from coal to gas and eventually electricity; it still had most of the original gas fixtures." We have to wonder how much of what the pictures show still existed at the time of Virginia Cronin’s death last year and how much of that was put up at the estate auction.

Rubin says she kept the project all this time because she loves the books. She kindly has allowed us to share her project to allow others a chance to see what the popular house looked like in the years following the publication of The House with a Clock in its Walls. She tells us, too, that the descriptions (below) are verbatim from the project (“and definitely in the fifth grade style!”). Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2003

Book Alert: The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost

After two years of staying silent in New Zebedee, the latest adventure of Lewis Barnavelt and company has been released: The Whistle, the Grave and the Ghost. This is the tenth book in the Barnavelt series, coming 30 years after the release of the first, The House with a Clock in its Walls. Cheers to Lewis and Brad.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Authentic Author To Be Cited

Ruth Martin passes word along that John Bellairs will be profiled in the upcoming Favorite Children's Authors and Illustrators, part of a 6-volume reference set aimed at middle-school readers.