In The House with a Clock in its Walls, John Bellairs introduces us to Lewis, a young orphan who is sent to live with his uncle. Although another relative is obviously no replacement for parents, Lewis finds much to love about his new situation, including living in a mansion filled with more curiosities and books than a curious boy can explore, a new friend who just happens to be one of the popular kids at school, and…oh, yes…the fact that his uncle knows magic. The real sort of magic, not parlor tricks. And also parlor tricks. But Jonathan soon discovers that even the most interesting and fun circumstances may not be entirely good, as he encounters trouble with friends, trouble with magic, and trouble with one particular curiosity in the house that is not just interesting, but dangerous.
This book is a light, entertaining read, and it goes by quickly. The friendly characters are fun to read about and detailed so that they can be easily imagined, and the villains are just villainous enough to be antagonists without making the story too scary for children. The story is fairly straight-forward, and young readers should find it easy to read and keep up with the plot. However, because the story is so easy to follow, teens and even older children may find it a bit on the boring side.
Lewis and his uncle share a strong, caring relationship. His uncle is fun-loving and forgiving of small faults, which may resonate with children in a generation where pressure to be perfect is rampant in the culture and, sometimes, even from parents and other adults in the family. This family dynamic makes the book particularly heartwarming. And the mystery of the clock should keep most children reading to the end. A pleasant but unremarkable read.
Profanity/Language: 3 religious exclamations; 2 mild obscenities.
Violence/Gore: Children hit each other with toy shovels; a few verbal threats to harm another with magic; an adult grabs a child by the collar twice; a character verbally threatens to cut someone’s throat; mention of someone being willing to pull another person’s teeth out; child threatens to break another child’s arms and head; children have a fist-fight; it is implied that someone was hanged; report of fatal car accident; report of a historical murder (blood mentioned); report of a death by natural causes; report of a death under mysterious, unspecified, circumstances; report of an attempted murder by magic; illusory scene of historical battles, which characters participate in, which involve artillery and ships (no gore or death shown); the impending end of the world is mentioned a few times, with a character wanting to bring it about;fight between a few characters where magic is used with no injury shown; character is killed by magic, leaving only a skull; brief, tense scene where a child looks for a house intruder; frightening scene involving a magic ritual and a ghostly creature; a character has a scary dream; spooky scene involving someone returning from the dead; tense scene where character explores a hidden area; a character carries a severed hand as a magic item.
Sex/Nudity: A character makes fake kisses while joking about someone being in love.
Mature Subject Matter:
Death (family), gambling, bullying, robbery, vandalism (mention).
Alcohol / Drug Use:
A joke about a driver being drunk (he’s not); a joke about drinking beer; a character is reported to drink alcohol; adult characters smoke cigars, pipes, and a hookah; a character’s breath smells of whiskey; characters bottle brandy.