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By Brad Strickland

Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2008 ($16.99)
ISBN-10: 0803731515
ISBN-13: 978-0-8037-3151-6

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

A John Bellairs mystery featuring Lewis Barnavelt...

Lewis Barnavelt has had a hard year, what with battling evil sorcerers and ancient Hawaiian ghosts, saving the world -- twice, and surviving grade school. School’s out, and he’s hoping for a nice relaxing summer. Of course that’s too much to ask. The story takes place in the mid-1950’s, in the small town of New Zebedee, Michigan.

Lewis’ parents were killed in a car crash and he is being raised by his eccentric uncle, John Barnavelt, who happens to be a wizard. Next door neighbor Mrs. Florence Zimmermann, who loves all things purple, is a good friend and a Good Witch.

Lewis and his best friend, Rose Rita Pottinger, who knows about Uncle John and Flo’s special abilities, meet the new boy in town at the end of school party thrown by Uncle John. They take pity on Hal Everit, a socially awkward kid, and invite him to pal around with them. Hal is very interested in Uncle John’s magic show, and in magic -- real magic. They tell him Uncle John is just performing tricks, nothing more, but he doesn’t buy that.

Lewis finds an interesting book in his uncle’s library, an old book about mystical beliefs and omens. He comes across a reference to the Curse of Three, the idea that bad things happen in threes, and pretty soon he’s having his own bad luck. Then his uncle goes to check on his old teacher and disappears. Lewis, Rosa and Flo, with some help from Hal, have to break the curse and bring Uncle John back home. Will Good triumph over Evil? Of course it will! Lewis and Rose are likable characters, and the plot is solid.

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