Wednesday, September 26, 2012

the spiderwick chronicles

I was happy when the kid took a break from the smart-alecky Wimpy Kid series and became enchanted with The Spiderwick Chronicles. We listened to the whole series on CD in the car, and really enjoyed the characters and the worlds created by authors Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.

Jared and Hogsqueal

The Spiderwick Chronicles are a series of five illustrated books which tell the story of the Grace children, 9 year-old identical twins Jared and Simon, and their 13 year-old elder sister Mallory, who discover that their new home is populated with creatures they never would have believed existed. The books are:

1. The Field Guide - After their parents' divorce, the Grace kids and their mother move into their great-aunt Lucinda's decrepit old mansion and find her father's guide to faeries and other creatures, Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, which leads them into another, extremely dangerous, world.
2. The Seeing Stone - Mallory and Jared must rescue Simon, who has been kidnapped by goblins. They meet Hogsqueal, who becomes a sort of associate, and Byron, a griffin, who Simon adopts as a pet.

Mallory, Thimbletack, Jared, and the seeing stone

3. Lucinda's Secret - The Grace children visit their great-aunt Lucinda at the mental institution where she lives. She tells them how she got there and what became of her father, Arthur Spiderwick.
4. The Ironwood Tree - Jared and Simon must rescue mallory, who is being held prisoner by dwarves, associates of the evil ogre Mulgarath.
5. The Wrath of Mulgarath - Hogsqueal and the brownie Thimbletack help the Grace children rescue their mother, who is being held captive by Mulgarath.

With all of the kidnapping and rescuing the series does have a Saturday morning serial feel to it, but it is all in god fun. It's nice that a book, the field guide, is such an important item. The power of words and pictures should never be underestimated. The illustrations by DiTerlizzi are quite engaging, and the otherworldly characters, especially Hogsqueal and Thimbletack, enchanted my daughter. There is a quite dark side to Spiderwick, as the Grace kids are frequently in deadly trouble. But there is also quite a bit of magic, and some of the creatures they encounter are nice to them and each other. The way that the kids bicker but then risk everything to save each other and the creatures that they meet is very appealing. Especially after the whiny wimpy ramblings of the Jeff Kinney series that dominated the kid's sumer reading.

A griffin from Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You
The kid has since picked up the first two books to read on her own, as well as the beautifully illustrated companion volumes, Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You  and Care and Feeding of Sprites. We checked out the movie version too, which she loved, but it is of course very different and truncated. Most of her favorite parts of the books had to be left out. There is a second Spiderwick book series featuring another group of kids and their adventures. So far she hasn't shown any interest in that (she really loves the main character, Jared), so we'll see how far into Spiderwick she gets ...
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