The Spiderwick Chronicles
by Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black
I finally tired of waiting for these five slim, gorgeously illustrated books to come out in
paperback, so I picked up a boxed set of the hardcovers. I figured it would be a good idea to do my
homework before seeing the upcoming movie based on these books.
The first thing I observed about these books is that they aren't really five books, but one book
chopped up into five highly attractive, but probably overproduced volumes. I think I would have gone
crazy reading them one at a time, because there is really only one story between them, and a real or
implied "To Be Continued Sign" is simply not a satisfying ending for a book. I would also be a touch
less grouchy if this story didn't take up so many inches of my precious shelf space. Admittedly, the
books deserve points for their high-quality, original design. But I'm not too nice to take those
points back for the crime of "milking more out of them than they are worth."
Now that I have thoroughly vented my grouchiness, let me add that the pictures are phenomenal, the
three Grace children are cool kids, and the world of fairy creatures they discover while living in
an old run-down house is full of mystery, magic, danger, and fun.
In the first volume, The Field Guide, Jared Grace, his twin brother Simon (who isn't half as
troublesome), and their older sister Mallory are first caught up in this unseen world, beginning
with the discovery of a secret room upstairs, a hidden book, and a brownie (not the edible kind). In
the second volume, The Seeing Stone, Jared is preoccupied with saving Simon, a wounded griffin, and
a relatively friendly hobgoblin from some ravenous goblins and even bigger, nastier things. In
Lucinda's Secret (vol. 3), the children visit a supposedly mad great-aunt who also saw fairies when
she lived in the same house. The adventure moves underground for The Ironwood Tree (vol. 4), when
Mallory is taken captive by dwarves. And the fifth volume, The Wrath of Mulgarath, leads up to a
final confrontation with dragons, ogres, and the elves themselves.
Viewed as one story, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a wonderful achievement. The characters draw you
in, the illustrations fire up the mental movie-projector, and the adventure itself has just the
right balance of warmth, humor, and moderate scariness to suit young readers. It makes
you wonder what purpose is served by making a movie out of it. But that's just my grouchiness
Recommended Age: 9+
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