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The Spiderwick Chronicles
Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Volume 1 The Field Guide
Volume 2 The Seeing Stone
Volume 3 Lucinda's Secret
Volume 4 The Ironwood Tree
Volume 5 The Wrath of Mulgarath

The Spiderwick Chronicles
Tony DiTerlizzi
Tony DiTerlizzi was born in 1969 and he grew up in South Florida. He attended the Florida School of the Arts and later at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where he earned a degree in Graphic Design in 1992. His picture book of Mary Howitt's classic poem "The Spider and the Fly" garnered him the 2003 Caldecott Honor Medal and the moniker of New York Times bestselling author/illustrator. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The Spiderwick Chronicles Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You

Holly Black
Holly Black was born in 1971 in New Jersey. After graduating from college, she got a job in New York while working at night on an independent gaming magazine, d8 through which she met illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi. It was also during this time that she began the suburban fantasy novel, Tithe: A Modern Faery Tale. She lives in West Long Branch, New Jersey.

ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a briskly paced story with just enough darkness to chill young readers without scaring them into nightmares. These hardcover books are well-packaged, papered in dark colors with titles in suitably spidery antique font, and Tony DiTerlizzi's artwork is splendid, a bit like classic Disney animation reflected in a funhouse mirror designed by Arthur Rackham. An intimate 7" x 5" in the hand, the books are well-sized for kids' hands -- and older reader's pockets, too.

Book One opens with the Grace family, or what's left of it after the parents divorce, moving into their great aunt Lucinda's decrepit old Victorian house. Mom tries to put a hopeful spin on things, but the Grace children -- daughter Mallory, the oldest, and twins Simon and Jared (our narrator) -- are not happy campers. Aunt Lucinda is in a long-term care facility for the elderly and, rumor has it, is not quite all there. Her house is similarly rundown, full of cobwebs and creaky old furniture, untrustworthy electricity, and a strange scrabbling in the walls that Mom insists is only a squirrel or mouse.

The three kids are a diverse trio. Jared expects Simon, who has a knack for handing animals, to become a vet -- or a lion tamer. Mallory? She'll either end up an Olympic fencer, or in jail for stabbing someone with her sword. But Jared is the odd man out, the sort of kid labeled "troubled," prone to "acting out." All Jared really wants is some control over his life.

While investigating the noises in the walls, Jared discovers a secret room full of pilfered knick-knacks. This is home to the grumpy household brownie Thimbletack, who doesn't want outsiders in his house. Thimbletack is even more angry when, against his advice, Jared hunts down a curious hand-bound book: the Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, written by Arthur Spiderwick, Lucinda's brother.

Despite the brownie's stern warnings, and his sibling's concern, Jared decides to keep the book, setting the stage for the rest of the series. Simon is kidnapped by goblins who want to exchange him for the Guide. Although Jared manages to outwit them, the trouble only escalates. Aunt Lucinda warns them to leave the house, but it's really too late. Other factions of Faire are now involved and fighting over the book. From the elves Jared learns of an ogre named Mulgarath who's scheming with the dwarves to strip the human world bare and rebuild it "in silver and copper and iron." Jared will need quick wits to save his family; even more important, he'll have to earn their trust to get that opportunity.

Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black build tension nicely throughout the series. Adults and older readers may see some of what's coming next, but on the whole the plot is reasonably opaque, with faire characters who are no less dangerous even when they become allies. There's a fair amount of violence of the baff-thud sort, which means you may want your own urchins to wait until they're a bit older, but kids will enjoy the relatively high "grossness" factor. For example, one of the ways to get the Second Sight needed to see Faire kind is to splash your eyes with faire bath water. Goblin spit also works. (And goblin urine makes fires burn green, just in case you were wondering.)

Most kids' fantasy novels seem aimed at middle grade or young adult readers. That makes it all the more refreshing to find not just fantasy, but good fantasy, written for younger fans. The Spiderwick Chronicles is a series both adults and children can enjoy together.

Copyright © 2005 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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