Week 24: The Face in the Frost

The Face in the Frost, by John Bellairs

I've always been a big fan of John Bellairs, who is mostly famous for writing spooky children's books. He just has a great style. The Face in the Frost was his first novel, and it was aimed more at adults, but really you could give it to a kid who already likes his books. It's not much scarier than the others, and it's only a little longer.

This is the story of Prospero ("and not the one you're thinking of either") and his friend Roger Bacon (yes, that one), wizards who realize that a mysterious evil force is attacking Prospero. Who is behind the attacks, and why is it all happening? The two friends go on a journey to find out and stop their enemy from throwing the whole country into war and destruction.

This is a great example of Bellairs' quirky, hodge-podgey style and it's fun to read, so any fan will enjoy it. Although it sounds like the usual sword-and-sorcery kind of thing, it isn't at all--but it is considered a classic of fantasy literature. This book isn't very easy to find any more, though. I was lucky to find my copy--which does not look like this cover--at Dark Carnival in Berkeley years ago.

If you have a kid who likes scary books, and you don't want him reading awful YA horror yet, John Bellairs would be an excellent choice (William Sleator too). My theory is that a kid who has already developed a taste for Bellairs' erudite silliness will be pretty immune to the lure of trashy horror. Bellairs wrote three character series: Lewis Barnavelt starts off with The House With A Clock in its Walls, Johnny Dixon begins with The Curse of the Blue Figurine, and Anthony Monday finds The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn.


  1. That sounds interesting. I have not read anything by that author before, I will have to check out his books. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Sujin has already developed a taste for trashy Children's horror, with a particular emphasis on ghosts. (The last I recall her reading was "Mostly Ghostly" by RL Stine) Do you have any recommendations?

  3. That's a tricky one. Most of the better children's ghost stories are also scarier and at a higher reading level. She might like those "Short and Shivery" collections, which aren't bad. There are some pretty good stories by Vivien Alcock! Joan Aiken also did some good ghost stories, and as a bonus I bet Sujin would love Aiken's "Arabel and Mortimer" stories even though they're not spooky. I'll have to think more about it.

  4. Oh, and check your library for the old Three Investigator series. They nearly always have a fake ghost. Katie loves those.

  5. Well, my library doesn't seem to have anything by Vivien Alcock or the Three Investigators series. Their collection of Joan Aiken is fairly spotty as well. I guess I'll request "Go Saddle the Sea" and "The Kingdom and the Cave."

    And two "Short and Shivery" books.


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