The Spiderwick Chronicles (The Original Series 1-5, Plus Tie-Ins)

Spiderwick 1 By Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi [Series at LibraryThingSeries at Amazon]

When Jared Grace’s mother decides to move Jared, his identical twin Simon, and their older sister Mallory out of the city, their Great-Aunt Lucinda’s house seems like the perfect place. After all, it’s lain dormant since Lucinda Spiderwick was carted off to a mental institution for claiming to talk to faeries. But soon the Grace children start to notice strange things happening on the Spiderwick estate. Faeries, it seems, are real…and not all of them are nice. Armed only with their Great-Great-Uncle Arthur’s handwritten guide to the faerie world, they must protect their home, themselves…and the entire human race.

Spiderwick 2 I’ve never really been a fairy person, which may explain why this series didn’t really grab me as much as it could have. This is not in any way a reflection on the books themselves. You know how you can appreciate Citizen Kane for a masterwork and yet not personally enjoy it? Or how you can accept that someone makes a mean eggplant parmigiana, even though you yourself are not a big fan of eggplant? The Spiderwick Chronicles are like that for me. I’m not necessarily saying that they’re the Citizen Kane of children’s fantasy, but they’re darn good books that for whatever reason didn’t manage to engage my heart.

Spiderwick 3My brain, however, was well pleased. Black pens a masterful manuscript, dealing with plot, character, and world-building with precision and skill. Jared, Simon, and Mallory leap off the page; they’re essentially Everykids, but they’re Everykids with personality. Jared’s anger about his parents’ recent divorce is especially well done. The minor characters are handled well, too, particularly the children’s mother, who remains a sympathetic character despite the fact that her role throughout the books is mostly that of a disciplinarian. I also really like that Simon is the sensitive nurturer of the children and Mallory is the stubborn warrior, which is a neat inversion of gendered expectations.

Spiderwick 4My eyes, too, were well pleased. DiTerlizzi’s art isn’t simply there to give distractible kids something to help them through the text; it’s in very definite symbiosis with the words. The books are exquisitely formatted: the distressed pages so popular nowadays actually serve the series instead of seeming like yet another bell and/or whistle, and the captions on the full-page illustrations, along with the table of illustrations in the beginning, are charmingly antiquated. Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You and Care and Feeding of Sprites are particularly stunning (although the latter gave me a few qualms, since it appears to be a handbook to keeping sentient beings as pets).

Spiderwick 5My main complaint? The books are ridiculously overpriced. The main series is priced at about $12-$15 everywhere I’ve looked, which, considering how short and quick-reading the books are, seems fairly unreasonable. The story is strong and the art is wonderful, but $75 for just the main series? I don’t think so.

The Spiderwick Chronicles get four cupcakes. They may not have been precisely my cup of tea, but I recognize quality when I see it. I’m going to try to get my hands on The Nixie’s Song, the first of the new series, and I am definitely looking forward to the movie.

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    2 Responses to “The Spiderwick Chronicles (The Original Series 1-5, Plus Tie-Ins)”

    1. Hannah says:

      I liked these books too. I wasn’t rushing to get them at the library but I still liked them (even though I forgot how they ended) I didn’t know there where new ones?????

    2. Jessica says:

      There is apparently going to be a new series that starts with The Nixie’s Song. I don’t think the one after that is out yet.

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