My mother had a sneaky way of getting me to read when I was a kid. Whenever I did something that warranted being taken off television for a while (more often than I care to admit), she always had some book conveniently lying around which I would then be required to read in its entirety before I could watch any more television. (And more often than not, the books she chose were initial books in a series. She knew what she was doing, all right.) One of the authors to whom I was thus introduced was John Bellairs, a wonderful writer of gothic novels for children. Bellairs died in 1991, but an author named Brad Strickland has carried on his characters in new books. (Strickland also finished a couple of works Bellairs had going at the time of his untimely passing.) Bellairs had three main series: the Lewis Barnavelt books, the Johnny Dixon series, and the Anthony Monday series. The first books of each series, respectively, are: The House with a Clock In Its Walls, The Curse of the Blue Figurine, and The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn. All of Bellairs’s books are wonderful, full of interesting detail and quirky, memorable characters. And some of these books are downright scary, but never violent or gory — Bellairs is a master of atmosphere and creating a sense of malice. They are a great alternative to those Goosebumps books, and will also come in very handy now that it’s looking like the fifth Harry Potter book will be longer in coming than originally thought.
For more information on Bellairs, check out The Compleat Bellairs.