The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring

She didn’t want to stay in Oley’s house for another minute. She wanted to bundle Mrs. Zimmerman into the car and make her drive them back to New Zebedee, even if they had to drive all night. But Rose Rita didn’t say anything. She made no move. Whatever the spell was that lay over Mrs. Zimmerman, it lay over Rose Rita too. She felt utterly powerless.

The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring is the John Bellairs’ third gothic novel featuring the New Zebedee characters, written in 1976. It takes place about half a year after the prior events, but unlike the first two this story focuses on Rose Rita.

While Lewis is away at scout camp, Mrs. Zimmerman receives a deathbed letter from her cousin, claiming he had found a magic ring. She invites Rose Rita along for the trip up to the northern part of Michigan, which turns out to be quite an adventure. Someone has ransacked the farmhouse before their arrival. In addition, strange things are now happening to Mrs. Zimmerman, whose powers are still weak after her last bout with evil. It’s up to Rose Rita to get to the bottom of these events and rescue Mrs. Zimmerman before it’s too late.

Though the books  in the series are chronological, each is a complete volume so that they could potentially be read out of order (as I did with some when younger). The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring is actually my favorite so far. No offense to Lewis, but as a girl I find Rose Rita a more appealing protagonist, who is always willing to seek out adventure. The plot also had a closer resemblance to a mystery. I love that in a 1950 setting she still gets accused of reading too much Nancy Drew!

As in previous books, Bellairs focuses on a personal issue in addition to the main plot. Here tomboy Rose Rita struggles with the fact that she will be entering junior high as a seventh grader in the fall. She wonders if dances and skirts will have to replace her love of baseball, and worries that others expect her friendship with Lewis to change. There aren’t any easy answers, but she does need to learn that the important thing is to be comfortable with who she is.

The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring, which is my third book for the R.I.P. IV Challenge, is the last Bellairs himself wrote about these characters. If I have time before the end of the month I’d like to squeeze in one more.

Published in: on October 27, 2009 at 11:21 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What did Rose Rita want to wish and why did she not want Mrs. Zimmerman to tell Uncle Jonathan.

  2. why does rose rita want mrs. zimmerman to tell uncle jonathan what she wish for? was it magical powers? was it fitting in at school? was it wanting lewis to like her?


    Audrey-I looked in the book and it’s not quite clear exactly what Rose Rita was going to wish for, but Mrs. Zimmerman said it could have been much worse. Most likely it had something to do with her own confusion and wanting to fit in. My guess is she might have wished to be a boy instead, judging the the baseball game and her reaction to Aggie. She was probably too ashamed for Uncle Jonathan to know.

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