Monday, December 13, 2010

Top 10 News Stories

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary of Bellairsia, we’re using our tragically hip Twitter feed to share some memorable moments and commentary in the form of Top Ten lists.

Monday, December 6, 2010

And Friendship Shall Combine

Every once in a while a fan asks what would happen if there was a crossover and Lewis, Anthony, and Johnny teamed-up. A fan named Jason wrote into our mailing list recently and put a different spin on the question, wondering if the books would have been even more successful had Bellairs only wrote one single series, instead of three separate ones?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Goreyana: The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie

Notes from Goreyana about The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie :
  • I have not seen this artwork in person, but close examination of the printed image reveals how the white paper is left unpainted for the beam of light, while the background is painted all around the glowing stream. Mr. Gorey shows exceptional control of his watercolor paints in this image.
  • I find it amusing that Edward Gorey took the liberty of turning the face of the zombie green in his painting, giving it a "Frankenstein's Monster" look. The description in the book states that the zombie is deathly pale with dead eyes.

Recognizing His Fame

Tom Vartabedian spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer with the Haverhill Gazette.  Now, writing in a recent online edition of the Armenian Weekly, Vartabedian reflects on some of the famous writers he has encountered over the years and how they lived with their fame.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Top 10 Sing-a-long Moments

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary of Bellairsia, we’re using our absurdly rad Twitter feed to share some memorable moments and commentary in the form of Top Ten lists.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Goreyana: The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder

Notes from Goreyana about The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder:
  • The drawing of the maze appears to be lost, but the dust jacket and frontis original artwork are not.
  • Bromer Booksellers sold the dust jacket artwork (two pieces of original art: one large color painting and one hand-lettered title typography) in their now famous 2001 catalog of Edward Gorey artwork, books and ephemera. The dust jacket image does not read particularly well as a single piece of art, but the execution and subject matter are top notch. The skeleton wearing glasses with plants growing up through it on the back cover of the book is particularly delightful.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Andrew Auseon: Coming-Of-Age Stories...But With Zombies

Author Bethany Hegedus's "writer friendly; bookshelf approved" LiveJournal blog featured a multi-part interview with author Andrew Auseon as part of the publication of his latest book, Freak Magnet. When asked about writers he returns to he repeatedly, Auseon notes his long-time appreciation for John's work:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Forgetting Any Other Book But This

Those sites that allow readers to recall hazy memories of books are always interesting. If anything it gives us the chance to welcome them to Bellairsia and experience John’s (and Brad’s) work again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All It Took Was Just One Book

Amy Mascott is the creator of, where she shares tools and resources parents can use to become the best teachers for their children. As part of her All it Took was Just One Book series she asked blogger Amy Kraft to write a post about a great "spooktacular book for October."  Kraft writes about children’s media in her blog, Media Macaroni, and has reviewed Bellairs' books in the past. Here she says her favorite book as a child was The House with a Clock in its Walls:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Mansion in the Mist

Contributor Jay Cook writes that as you pick up some Bellairs or Strickland this fine autumn season, you might want to consider a soundtrack for your reading experience:

Top 10 Horrific Moments

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary of Bellairsia, we’re using our gradually enjoyable Twitter feed to share some memorable moments and commentary in the form of Top Ten lists.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Yet Even More About Widow's Walk Lake

Filmmaker and Bellairs-fan James Strayer got in touch with us again recently about Widow's Walk Lake, a film inspired partly by some of Bellairs’ spooky stories. Strayer gave us an update this week of how the project is progressing:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Goreyana: The Ghost in the Mirror

Notes from Goreyana about The Ghost in the Mirror:
  • This a masterpiece of suspense and terror. If you did not know that it was a piece of dust jacket artwork, you would view it as a wonderfully creepy painting by Mr. Gorey. Barely visible on the printed dust jacket are two faces which appear on the front cover inside the "O" of Ghost and Mirror. They can be seen a bit more clearly floating in the sky on the original art.
  • The dust jacket painting was included in the 2001 Bromer Booksellers catalog of Gorey items. The hand-lettered type for the cover/spine was included as a separate piece of art. I am not aware of the frontis drawing being available from Bromer or Gotham Book Mart.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2010 Living History Portrayal Walk

The 10th Annual "If These Stones Could Talk..." Tour takes place this October in Marshall's Oakridge Cemetery, one of the oldest continuously operated cemeteries in Michigan. The walking tour features actors portraying significant people from Marshall's past at his or her's grave site; this year's "participants" will be named soon.

Where: Oakridge Cemetery, 900 S. Marshall Avenue
When: Saturday, October 16, 2010; 7:00 PM

For more information, including associated costs, please contact the Marshall Chamber of Commerce or visit the events page of our forum.

Walter reminds us that last year’s sojourn was fine until he stopped for gas at a small roadside station. A small black dog kept barking at him from the screened-in porch and when its owner – a big-legged woman that ain't had no soul – finally appeared to accept the money she charged him more than price displayed on the tank. As a result, Walter says, he didn’t have enough money for tickets and had to work a few days cleaning out chicken cages on the woman’s property. It sounds slightly suspect but we’ve learned not to ask too many questions. Maybe this will be the year he makes an appearance?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Goreyana: The Mansion in the Mist

Notes from Goreyana about The Mansion in the Mist:
  • Edward Gorey created a dust jacket design for this title that has a definite front and back which does not blend seamlessly. Because of this, the art from this title was cut in half and the two sections were sold separately by Gotham Book Mart in the mid 1990's. The rear portion of this art (the mansion) sold on eBay in July 2000 along with two other pieces of original artwork. 

Top 10 Humorous Moments

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary of Bellairsia, we’re using our developmentally playful Twitter feed to share some memorable moments and commentary in the form of Top Ten lists.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Time-out for Pocket Watches!

Brer's PowerOfBabel blog has a few words on the fantastic pocket watch:
Pocket watches have been around, surprisingly, almost as long as printing itself; it is not surprising, then, that they keep popping up in works of fiction, and perhaps especially fantasy fiction. Read or view a work of Fantasy (and I include under that unfortunate rubric Horror and Science Fiction as well as works dealing with Magic) and sooner or later characters of a certain port or gravitas will haul out a chronometer to consult. I would like to consider several examples and and explore the uses to which the fantastic pocket watch has been put.
Included in the list of literary figures and their timepieces are Roger Bacon, who has:
"...a turnip-shaped gold watch on a long twisted chain. The large ticking bulb was covered with glassy warts, crystal-domed dials that told lunar eclipse dates, the rate of rainfall on the third planet out from Alpha Centauri A, and, incidentally, the time."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

47th Annual Historic Home Tour

For 47 years the Historic Marshall Home Tour has been called the Granddaddy of Midwest Home Tours and is famous all over the country for its traditions and heritage. Marshall's Home Tour was voted the Best Home Tour by the readers of AAA's Michigan Living magazine.

This year's tour will feature seven homes and will include seven historic museums covering diverse specialties such as unusual architecture, antique home furnishings, Civil War memorabilia, a restored antique post office, Michigan's largest collection of magic memorabilia as well as two art centers. To close out the tour's twenty structures will be one business from Marshall's well-maintained historic business district.

When: September 11-12, 2010
Time: Saturday 9:00 to 5:00, Sunday 10:00 to 5:00

For more information, including cost, please contact the Marshall Historical Society. Visit the Bellairsia forum to learn about other events.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fidgeta, Patron Saint of Facilitators

Ralph Brown, a consultant based in the Minnesota area, wrote us this summer to say he happened upon our site's praise for John's first book, Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies. Brown read the Fidgeta story in its original form, the 1965 edition of the Critic, and tells us he found it "roll-on-the-floor hilarious."

Though he admits to not having seen the story in decades, he still pays tribute to the tiny saint in his own way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Don’t Give Up Your Day Job

In a review of Greg van Eekhout’s Kid Vs. Squid, Elizabeth Bear shares her memories of children’s books growing up:

When I was a kid, children’s books that had magic in them almost always seemed to end with the kids giving up the magic because they had earned their character growth and could be adults now. At the time, I thought this was bogus and lame, and it’s a good part of the reason I liked Oz and John Bellairs so very fiercely.
John Bellairs never made anybody give their magic up to hold down a day job.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Top 10 Awesome Illustrations

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary of Bellairsia, we’re using our wonderfully eclectic Twitter feed to share some memorable moments and commentary in the form of Top Ten lists.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Goreyana: The Secret of the Underground Room

Notes from Goreyana about The Secret of the Underground Room:
  • This is one of Mr. Gorey's disjointed dust jacket covers where the image from the rear panel does not flow smoothly into the front. The outdoor scene on the back makes an abrupt change at the edge of the book's spine, with the front cover showing "the underground room". Even so, the front cover portion is one of my favorite paintings created for this book series. The masterful work has only hints of colors, but the mood evoked by the tones fits the story perfectly. Edward Gorey is quoted as saying he painted in "mushroom colors", and this is a perfect example.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hark! A Vagrant does Bellairs

Hark! A Vagrant is a web comic created by artist Kate Beaton. It often features literary and historical references and it’s something that John probably would have gotten a kick out of (amateur cartoonist that he was, too). Beaton has done a few series involving Edward Gorey illustrations: old book covers drawn by Gorey are augmented by new art by Beaton that further tells the story of what’s seen on the cover. For example, she recently had some fun with Bellairs’ 1990 Johnny Dixon adventure, The Secret of the Underground Room, and injecting some mislaid humor into what is actually a terrifying scene from the book.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Congratulations to Omar Rayyan

Finalists for the Chesley Awards, which honor art and artists related to science fiction and fantasy, were announced by the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists recently.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Believe Only Half of What You Watch

We mentioned earlier this year that 2010 marked the thirtieth anniversary of The Clue According to Sherlock Holmes, the misnamed made-for-television version of The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn. Arthur Tourot wrote into us today to announce he’s posted the program online (in five parts) for your viewing pleasure. This is the full, original version of the program and not the shortened version where they edited out the Holmes/Watson nonsense.

In addition, Arthur says he identified another of the actors: Fred Dent plays the part of the “Library Patron”. We couldn’t think of a better name and that’s the best we could come up with.

...perhaps the same mindset of whoever came up with the title The Clue According to Sherlock Holmes?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top 10 2ndary Characters

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary of Bellairsia, we’re using our blatantly advertised Twitter feed to share some memorable moments and commentary in the form of Top Ten lists.

Goreyana: The Chessmen of Doom

Notes from Goreyana about The Chessmen of Doom:
  • For this title, Edward Gorey created a piece of artwork that is my favorite frontis illustration from the entire Bellairs' series. When Mr. Gorey decided to sell his Bellairs art holdings, I was thrilled to find it amongst the pieces being offered, and this became the first "Bellairs" piece or art which I purchased. I love everything about this illustration. It is detailed, creepy, humorous, and even a little religious! It has all the bells and whistles for a Bellairs or Gorey collector.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Night In Five Dials

Some Bellairsian inspired ephemera found around web:

BiblioFile: Puffin Publishes Barnavelt (Part 1)

You can credit Brad Strickland for many things – continuing the sagas of Lewis Barnavelt and Johnny Dixon, extending John’s literary life, sparking fans to band together on the Internet, and so on – including the push of paperbacks.

When Strickland’s The Ghost in the Mirror was nearing its initial publication in April 1993, the powers-that-be, knowing it would eventually hit paperback, seemingly decided to start fresh with the series. John’s original Lewis Barnavelt trilogy was first released in paperback during the mid-to-late 1970s through Dell’s Yearling imprint and, with at least two new books in the series due out in 1993, there would have to be some changes when those covers went soft. Those Yearlings were approaching being two decades old by this point, for goodness sakes!  What better way to connect the original books with the new adventures than with a new round of paperbacks? What eventually surfaced was published through Puffin with contemporary layouts and artwork by illustrator Brad Goldman.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Raising Up Spirits From Underground

I’ll come clean and admit that there’s always been something about The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt that’s enchanted me. Part of it is that I think it’s the first book of John’s I remember reading (and you always remember your first, right?) but I think a lot of it has to do with Bellairs’ ability to tie together some interesting historical anecdotes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Goreyana: The Trolley to Yesterday

Notes from Goreyana about The Trolley to Yesterday:
  • Gorey's wrap-around dust jacket art is not up to par with most of the other color covers in this series. The front cover portion of the dust jacket art looks undecided and rushed. I do like the painting on the back cover illustration, which has delicately placed clouds.
  • [The frontis illustration with] heavily crosshatched drawing is remarkable for the deep black shadows which were created by line work and not in-painting. This is a drawing that is diminished when printed in the book because all the crosshatching blurs into solid black on the printed page. This drawing is signed in ink.
  • The map is a fantastic example of Mr. Gorey's deft skills at cartography. Mr. Gorey misspelled several words on this map and had to correct the art for publication. This is also a rare instance in which Mr. Gorey drew an illustration larger than it was intended to be printed because of the amount of lettering involved.
  • At one time, I also owned two small drawings that appear as interior spot illustrations for this book, but I sold them some years ago to another collector. The two illustrations were drawn on a single piece of illustration paper. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Top 10 Fictional Books

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary of Bellairsia, we’re using our modestly shared Twitter feed to share some memorable moments and commentary in the form of Top Ten lists.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Time Capsule: 1860

1860: At the northwest corner of Michigan and Kalamazoo Avenues stands one of the most unusual pieces of architecture to be seen anywhere in the United States and it's celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Goreyana: Eyes & Lamp

Notes from Goreyana about The Eyes of the Killer Robot and The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb:
  • The Eyes of the Killer Robot has a wrap-around dust jacket design and a frontis drawing by Edward Gorey. I don't feel that the dust jacket painting for this book is as polished as the art for many of the other titles in the series. The artwork does convey atmosphere, but is not a favorite of mine. The artwork was sold by Bromer Booksellers in 2001.
  • For The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb, the front and back cover of the dust jacket do not read as a continuous image when viewed as a single image. The back of the jacket is daytime and the front is night, and there is a solid break at the spine between the images. This is one of the dust jacket paintings that was cut and sold in two pieces by Gotham Book Mart. An image of the front half of the dust jacket art without the type was included in Gorey Rare, a 2007 spiral bound calendar/date book.
  • The frontis one of the more technically challenging pieces of art created by Edward Gorey for the Bellairs series. To convey the darkness of the room, Mr. Gorey covered the entire surface of the art with his signature line work. Even so, the objects in the room are distinct and clearly visible. It is truly a masterpiece of control and consummate skill. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Author Living in Haverhill

The following article appeared in the Newburyport Daily News promoting one of John’s visits to the Haverhill Public Library to meet his fans, 30 years ago today - May 10.  Anyone reading today that was actually on-hand for this event is more than welcome to share their memories in our comment section.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Top 10 Places to Visit

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary of Bellairsia, we’re using our slightly-worn Twitter feed to share some memorable moments and commentary in the form of Top Ten lists.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cuffs In The Question

A few years ago - when we were retooling the Bellairsia website - we thought it would be fun to add some sort of interactivity in to the mix.  You know, for kids: games or puzzles or something like that.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

2010 Edward Gorey House Exhibition

The theme of the 2010 exhibition at the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts is Gorey-illustrated works by other authors. Goreyana blog author Irwin Terry writes that he has lent a few pieces of original artwork for display [also]:
Included in my loan is all of the art from The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost by John Bellairs. At the request of Rick Jones, director of the Edward Gorey House, Bill Campbell and I have donated a stained glass window hanging which is inspired by the design from the back cover of this book. The window hanging will be on display throughout the exhibition and will be auctioned to benefit the house. For more information on how to bid on this piece, please contact the Edward Gorey House.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Top 10 Favorite Villains

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary of Bellairsia, we’re using our reasonably-new Twitter feed to share some memorable moments and commentary in the form of Top Ten lists.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Ultimate Goose Chase: 30 years without a "Clue"

A few years ago we were revising the Bellairsia website, which meant ripping and creating new images from the television adaptations of The House with a Clock in its Walls and The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn (we had clearer versions of the programs which meant we could create clearer images for the site). No, the programs are not great and the routine of updating the pictures was not an enjoyable task, either. Still, in watching the programs and examining the pictures we realized there were some exterior shots of the characters in front of houses and parks and a cemetery, among other places.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

'Tis Fitz We Understand

The prefix Fitz- is an old word for "son of", especially used for the illegitimate sons of royalty.  Bear that in mind as we lay out this factoid.

We recently came across this exciting book, A Descriptive Catalogue of the manuscripts in the Fitzwilliam Museum, by Montague Rhodes James (yeah, that M. R. James). The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge and was founded in 1816 with the bequest of the library and art collection of the 7th Viscount FitzWilliam.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Goreyana: The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost

Goreyana author Irwin Terry out-does himself with his notes about the various pieces of artwork for The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost:
  • Edward Gorey provided artwork for the full wrap around dust jacket, the hand lettered type for the cover and spine, a frontis drawing, and two interior spot illustrations. I have all of these pieces of art in my collection, and also have the water color sketch Mr. Gorey made for the dust wrapper design.
  • Mr. Gorey often blocked out color paintings by making a loosely painted sketch before proceeding with the final illustration. I am not aware of any other preliminary art which exists from the Bellairs series. The preliminary art shows all the major elements in place for the dust jacket, although the evil floating face in front of Johnny on the cover is inexplicably smiling! This piece of art is a wonderful look into how Edward Gorey sketched out his paintings. Artists often create color renderings before attacking complicated paintings, and Mr. Gorey's sketches are always very loose. This piece has paint liberally splashed about!
  • It has been pointed at Bellairsia that on the first edition hard cover edition of this book, the spelling on the stained glass window is incorrect - "ZABU". It is corrected on the paperback edition to "ZEBU". Looking closely at the original artwork, there is a practically invisible paste-up over the showing where Mr. Gorey corrected his mistake. This misspelling is even more unusual considering the word is spelled correctly on the sketch.
  • The two pieces of interior artwork complete the collection from this title. The smaller of the two could have easily been lost over the years, and the diagram drawn by "Professor Coote" at the end of the story is another example of the care Edward Gorey took for even simple illustrations.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Statues, Figures, and Irving Finkel

In the novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell there is a wonderful passage in which the statues in York Minster Cathedral are brought to life by magic and begin to speak. The Into My Own blog speculates what the "statues and figures that can be seen in Edinburgh" might be pontificating about.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Time Capsule: 1566

March 9, 1566: When you settle down for the night, what sort of book do you dig out of the shelves? History?  Mystery?  Romance?  A book Lewis finds in his uncle’s house is Volume IX of Stoddard's Lectures, labeled "Scotland, England, and London":

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Top 10 Mistypings

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary of Bellairsia, we’re using our moderately-new Twitter feed to share some memorable moments and commentary in the form of Top Ten lists.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hannah Duston, Badass of the Week

Long-time fans will recognize the name Hannah Duston from John’s stories as she is memorialized in Johnny Dixon’s adopted home of Duston Heights. Stephan Kinsella reminds us of her story:
Despite what Riverdale Elementary School’s annual First-Grade Thanksgiving Day Class Play might have you believe, early Colonial America wasn’t all one giant super happy mecha fun time made out of maize, delicious roasted turkey breast, and Pocahontas teaching John Smith the meaning of friendship and cooperation by baking pumpkin pies and putting out on the Sabbath.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Women in Bellairs' Fiction

What's Kate reading? Bellairs, again, as this prolific reader and blogger (who has reviewed more than a few Bellairs titles) has a new commentary on the female characters in John’s novels.

Light and Shade, Alas! Alas!

Vincent Desjardins is an illustrator and a fan of children's book illustrations who noted he was recently inspired by The Dark Secret of Weatherend

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Goreyana: Weatherend & Spell

Notes from Goreyana about The Dark Secret of Weatherend and The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull:
  • The Dark Secret of Weatherend is the second Anthony Monday/Miss Eells adventure. For this title, Mr. Gorey created a beautiful painting for the dust wrapper. Some of the dust jacket designs from this series have a disjointed front and back to them, but this one reads as a single image, especially since the figures are in different clothing on the front and back. The dust jacket painting was included in Bromer Bookseller's 2001 catalog of Gorey items. The hand-lettered type for the cover/spine was included as a separate piece of art. I am not aware of the frontis drawing being available from Bromer or Gotham Book Mart.
  • The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull...I tried to obtain the cover art from this title when Mr. Gorey sold his Bellairs art holdings in 1994, but it was not found in the archives. The frontis drawing failed to make an appearance as well. I really like this dust jacket design, and I would have loved to been able to obtain this piece of art had it been available.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Top 10 Gorey Titles

In preparation for what would have been Edward Gorey’s 85th birthday later this month, we’re counting down what are, in our meager opinion, the top ten strangest sounding Gorey book titles. Who else could come up with something as arcane as The Eclectic Abecedarium?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Time Capsule: February 8, 1910

February 8, 1910: 100 years ago today – February 8, 1910 – William D. Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. Popular legend says that Boyce first learned of the Scouting movement organized by Lord Robert Baden-Powell from an Unknown Scout that gave him directions on a foggy London street in late 1909.