Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1: The Field Guide

Title: The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1: The Field Guide
Category: Fantasy
Grades: 2-5
Author: Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: 2003
Pages: 107

After the divorce, Jared’s mother moves their family to their great-aunt’s ramshackle, rotting house out in the middle of nowhere.  Though Jared is often in trouble at school since the divorce, he certainly isn’t behind the strange noises in the walls.  He didn’t knot his sister’s hair to her bed or destroy the kitchen.  But someone did.  A secret room, a mysterious verse, a visit to a secret hiding place may help Jared solve the mystery.  Or perhaps the answer is in the strange book, Arthur Spiderwick’s Guide to the Fantastical World around You. But if the guide is true, faeries really do exist all around them… and the trouble is only beginning.

The Field Guide is better considered the first chapter of the Chronicles that merely happens to be in book form, as all five of the stories create one entire tale.  Jared is a refreshingly imperfect and unlikely hero.  Young readers will appreciate his frustration and anger over the divorce, and will definitely sympathize with his trials, particularly since he often gets in trouble for things he did not do.  Though the book would be enjoyed by quite young children, even down to first and second grade, newer readers may have difficulty with the vocabulary and benefit from reading with an adult or having the book read to them.  The small size and short chapters make the book appealing to younger readers ready to grow as chapter readers, and also for struggling readers.  The pace is quick, the characters varied, and the telling both humorous and believable.  An auspicious beginning to a great series, and a fun read-aloud.


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