Rose Rita Pottinger

Rose Rita Pottinger

Rose Rita Pottinger, a resident of New Zebedee, Michigan, is the best friend of Lewis Barnavelt and weathers the adventures she and her friend become entangled in, often the stronger and more adventurous of the two.

Introduced at the tail-end of The House with a Clock in its Walls, Rose Rita has long, black, stringy hair, is one year older than Lewis (but in the same grade), and is prone to wearing a black plush beanie covered with cartoon-character buttons. By The Figure in the Shadows we learn that she’s tomboyish by nature: she likes doing things that usually only boys would want to do, such as fishing, climbing trees, or playing baseball. As such, she wears a skirt and blouse to school only because she has to – as soon as she’s back home she’ll be in blue jeans and a sweatshirt.

By The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring, a slightly-older Rose Rita makes it clear Lewis is “not her boy friend but best friend” and that she doesn’t want to attend Junior High school dances or on dates with Lewis or anybody else. Catching her gaze in a mirror, Rose Rita wishes she were born a boy – something all but possible by the end of the novel. It is over the course of this adventure that Rose Rita forms a strong, sisterly bond with Mrs. Zimmermann.

After a time-traveling jaunt to the early 1800s in The Ghost in the Mirror (again, alongside Zimmermann), and staying mostly silent for The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder, Rose Rita’s life is in danger when she’s overcome by the curse of Belle Frisson in The Specter from the Magician’s Museum. After this, she and Lewis are left to explore the strange sights (such as new bridges) and sounds (sinister opera scores) in and around New Zebedee.

Inspiration

The character of Rose Rita is modeled on a slightly older cousin of John’s, also named Rose Rita.

Marilyn Fitschen has a memory of regaling John with the names in the German family of her childhood friend, Rosewritha, and John showing an interest in the strange name – though it’s hard to discern whether this had any part in the genesis of the Pottinger character or if John was thinking of Hrotsvitha, a celebrated nun-poetess of the tenth century.

After two adventures of Lewis, Brad Strickland believes John’s editor was probably “delighted” at having a young, female protagonist in the series that would, in turn, invite more girl readers into the books.