John Bellairs Biography

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Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

John Bellairs was born on January 17, 1938, in Marshall, Michigan, a small, picturesque central Michigan town that has endeavored to sustain its heritage by preserving its magnificent nineteenth-century commercial and private buildings. Bellairs, whose father managed a saloon on Marshall's main street, attended the local Catholic school. A short, chubby child, he lacked the athletic ability to join his schoolmates in playground sports and turned instead to reading encyclopedias, history books, and novels. He would later use his childhood experiences as material for his novels. He left Marshall to attend Notre Dame University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1959; he earned a master's degree at the University of Chicago in 1960 and began working on his doctorate. While doing so, he accepted a series of teaching appointments that took him to Minnesota, Illinois, and finally Massachusetts, where he currently resides.

During this time, he began writing imaginative literature. He published a humorous treatment of his childhood Catholicism, titled St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies, in 1966. He followed this with a short, fairy-tale satire on scholarship titled The Pedant and the Shuffly (1968) and with his first full-length novel, The Face in the Frost (1969), a magical tale pitting good wizards against evil sorcerers in a fantasy setting.

These "adult" tales bore the seeds of Bellairs's later young adult tales. In 1973 he published The House with a Clock in Its Walls, a novel based in part on his hometown experiences. He transformed his hometown of Marshall into the imaginary town of New Zebedee, Michigan, and created a young hero who (like the young Bellairs himself) is pudgy and non-athletic and feels isolated from his playmates and peers. Nevertheless, the young hero finally exhibits the kind of courage and self-sacrifice that can save family and loved ones. Most of Bellairs's subsequent novels share this combination of an outwardly comic but inwardly courageous young hero, and an emphasis on the value of allegiance to family and friends. Two of his novels, The House with a Clock in Its Walls and The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, have been adapted as television dramas for the Public Broadcasting System's "Wonderworks" series of children's television dramas.

Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

John Bellairs was born on January 17, 1938, in Marshall, Michigan, a small, picturesque mid-Michigan town which has endeavored to sustain its heritage by preserving its magnificent nineteenth-century commercial and private buildings. Bellairs, whose father managed a saloon on Marshall's main street, was taught at the local Catholic school and attended St. Mary's, the town's Catholic church. A short, chubby child, he lacked the athletic ability to join his schoolmates in playground sports and turned instead to reading encyclopedias, history books, and novels. This imaginative exercise would later enable him to turn his childhood experiences into material for his earliest novels. He later left Marshall to attend Notre Dame University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1959; he earned a master's degree at the University of Chicago in 1960 and began working on his doctorate. While doing so, he accepted a series of teaching appointments that were to lead him to Minnesota, Illinois, and finally Massachusetts, where he presently resides.

In the meantime, he had begun writing imaginative literature. The first-published of these works was a humorous treatment of his childhood Catholicism titled St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies (1966); this was later followed by a short, fairy-tale satire on scholarship titled The Pedant and the Shuffly (1968) and later by Bellairs's first full-length novel, The Face in the Frost (1969), a magical tale pitting good wizards against evil sorcerers in a fantasy setting of imaginary kingdoms existing during an indeterminate time.

These "adult" tales were to bear the seeds of Bellairs's later children's tales, the first of which appeared in 1973, when Bellairs published The House with a Clock in Its Walls, a novel based in part on his home town experiences. This novel set the pattern for the novels for young adults which would follow: it turned Bellairs's home town of Marshall into an imaginary town of New Zebedee, Michigan; and Bellairs created a young hero who (like the young Bellairs himself) is pudgy and non-athletic and feels isolated from his playmates and peers, but who, nevertheless, finally exhibits the kind of courage and self-sacrifice that can save family and loved ones. This combination of the occult, the outwardly comic but inwardly courageous young hero, and the value of love and allegiance to family and friends was to form the basis for almost all of Bellairs's future novels for young adults. Two of his novels, The House with the Clock in Its Walls and The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, have been adapted as television dramas for the Public Broadcasting System's Wonderworks series of children's television dramas.