Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi began publishing The Spiderwick Chronicles series TEN YEARS AGO. Color me surprised! And old. I didn’t read the books when they came out – I was just starting college and hadn’t yet reached my rediscovery phase for young adult and middle grade books. I do remember seeing the film, though – on the plane, I think (and many times since on TV). When Simon & Schuster sent me a copy of the 10-year anniversary edition of the first in the series, The Field Guide, I knew I’d need to read it and form my own impressions of this now-classic children's book.
The Grace children want to share their story, but the faeries will do everything possible to stop them…
The Spiderwick Chronicles series stars the three Grace siblings, who have moved from the city to a rickety old house in the country after their parents’ divorce. Older sister Mallory is obsessed with fencing and is very pragmatic (and suspicious!). Simon is one of the twins, and his main goal in life seems to be to collect as many types of animals as possible. Jared Grace is the curious one, the troublemaker, and the main character. When the children discover that all is not as it seems in their new (old) house, adventures ensue. Because something doesn’t want them knowing the secrets of the Spiderwick estate.
The Field Guide is very much an introduction to the characters and their surroundings, but it also contains a concise mystery and sets the stage for continuing adventures. The writing is perfect for lower-end middle grade readers (and those who read aloud to children ages 6-8), and there are accompanying illustrations of fantastical creatures and other, more mundane objects on almost every page. DiTerlizzi’s artwork fires the imagination and adds layers of story to the text. The result is beautiful as well as entertaining. The Spiderwick Chronicles should serve as a perfect stepping stone into chapter book fantasy, even for those who believe they don’t like make believe.
Jared Grace’s story (and frustration) is universal, and his dawning curiosity about the natural (and supernatural) world will light up the imaginations of readers who have long since abandoned belief in the wondrous and unseen. I found the book a charming and brief interlude in a place where fairies are real and clever children might be able to learn about them.
Recommended for: fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro, readers who enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants, and anyone who might be a little young yet to independently read C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.
Fine print: I received a copy of The Field Guide for honest review from Simon & Schuster. I did not receive any compensation for posting this review.