Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Tribute to the Late John Bellairs

John Bellairs
by Amy Martin (Jul. 4, 2009)
(Originally published at bookstove)

It seems little recognition is given to the late John Bellairs who died in 1991. Hollywood, with its remakes of Friday the 13th and paranormal vampire romances, seems to have overlooked the young adult classic Gothic thrillers by John Bellairs. However, I do not understand why some of his books have not been made into movies because, to me, many of them are nothing short of genius.

Therefore, it is my great pleasure to familiarize readers with the works of John Bellairs. He wrote a few works for adults such as The Face in the Frost and The Pedant and the Shuffly. However, his Gothic thrillers written for young adults became far more popular. They were a big success in the 1980’s just as the Harry Potter series has been during this decade. He wrote three different series of books based on the adventures of three sets of the three sets of characters he created for his series for young adults which are the Louis Barnavelt, Rose Rita Pottinger, Florence Zimmerman, and Johnathan Barnavelt, and secondly, the Johnny Dixon, Byron Ferguson, Professor Childermass, and Father Higgins, and thirdly, the Anthony Monday, Myra Eells, and Emerson Eells.

All of these books provide great Gothic entertainment on a chilly October night when you are in the mood for a chilling but warm-hearted tale of ghost hunting where good always prevails, where each tale always ends with a piece of chocolate cake or a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies and laughter among friends. These books take you back to the “good ol’ days” when life was simpler for both children and adults, and I think anyone who loves a suspenseful tale of terror with a happy ending, would cherish these books. I know they have been a wonderful part of my reading experience from my preteen years till now when I am pushing thirty-one. I was devastated, as a kid, when I found out about the loss of Mr. Bellairs in 1991 and realizing there would be no more tales about Lewis Barnavelt, Johnny Dixon, and Anthony Monday. But a ray of light beamed in my boring rural American life when I found out a long-time Bellairs fan and fellow author, Brad Strickland, would be taking over the characters of John Bellairs and composing more of their adventures. The first one I read by Mr. Strickland was The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder; all I can say is it was awesome. He does a terrific rendition of the shy John Dixon, the cranky Professor Childermass, and the daring Byron Ferguson. I am so grateful he kept the magic of Bellairs alive.

Regardless of what age you are, whether you are a teenager just discovering the magic of John Bellairs in your local library, or an adult wanting to take a break from this bleak time to take a trip back in time to the 1950’s with a Bellairs’s book you cherished as a kid, and you want to experience Peter’s Sweet Shop, Gothic chills, and New England homemade cooking once again, Bellairs will not disappoint. As you are browsing for your favorite Bellairs work you read as a kid, and you stumble upon that eerie pen-and-ink Edward Gorey illustration you were looking for, and you know you are on a “time trolley” back to an era when things were not so complicated, and just for one night you can be thirteen in the 1950’s and fall asleep with a cup of cocoa or tea with a John Bellairs book and relish the scary thrills and cozy winter nights that always end with everyone “feeling at peace with the world. Some suggested John Bellairs titles you may want to explore: The House with the Clock in Its Walls; The Figure in the Shadows; The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring; The Curse of the Blue Figurine; The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt; The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull; The Revenge of the Wizard’s Ghost; The Lamp from the Warlock’s Tomb; The Dark Secret of Weatherend; and The Mansion in the Mist.

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