This series was fun to read. I started it last year but stopped when I realized that it’s broken up over several books. It was annoying to finish one book and have to wait until I purchased the other to continue. Of course, I could have read the e-books but since I began with a physical book, I wanted to continue with that trend.
Quick summary (some spoilers):
Book 1: The Field Guide
When the Grace children move to their great aunt Lucinda’s abandoned Victorian house shortly after their parents’ divorce, they are introduced to a world of strange creatures. In this book they meet the house brownie Thimbletack, who seems to have gone slightly mad from living alone in the old house for so long. When they arrive at the Spiderwick estate, their Mom orders them to begin cleaning to make the house livable. While doing so the children discover Thimbletack’s home in the wall. However, they didn’t know it was someone’s, or rather something’s, home so Simon and Mallory destroy it throwing most of the contents in the garbage. Thimbletack takes offense to this and assaults Simon and Mallory. Since Jared always got into trouble at the old house, his Mom automatically assumes that he is abusing his siblings. After discovering Arthur Spiderwick’s field guide of extraordinary creatures, Jared becomes convinced that they had upset a brownie. With advice from the field guide, the Grace children are able to appease Thimbletack.
Book 2: The Seeing Stone
Thimbletack warns the Grace children to destroy the field guide but Jared doesn’t see why they should destroy such a magnificent thing. Since he has taken to carrying the book everywhere he goes, goblins jump at the chance to kidnap him and get the field guide for their boss, the evil ogre Mulgarath. But they grab the wrong Grace kid — Simon, who’s Jared’s twin. Since the children are unable to see faery creatures, Thimbletack tries to help by leading Mallory and Jared to a Seeing Stone, but Jared offends him by being gruff and rude. With the help of the Seeing Stone, and later the spit a hobgoblin, Mallory and Jared are able to rescue Simon and a griffin.
Book 3: Lucinda’s Secret
After an argument about whether or not the field guide should be destroyed, the Grace children decide to visit their great-aunt Lucinda, who’s being kept in a psychiatric hospital. Obviously, they believe, she would be able to determine whether the guide was too dangerous to keep. At the hospital the kids learn that Lucinda isn’t crazy at all but had fallen prey to faery food — once you pop, you can’t stop, and all human food tastes gross. She tells them about her father’s disappearance, which later leads the kids to his office in the attic of their home. There they discover a map with a note about a meeting in the woods. They follow the map and bump into elves, who demand that the kids turn over the field guide to them for safe keeping or remain with the elves forever. Using his wits, Jared helps his siblings escape.
Book 4: The Ironwood Tree
The Grace children attend Mallory’s fencing tournament. While watching Mallory, Jared notices something odd—a girl riffling through Mallory’s bag. He tries to confront her but is waylaid by the coach. While walking away, he sees a boy who looks exactly like him going through Mallory’s bag. The coach, thinking it’s Jared, runs him off. Jared confronts the boy and realizes that it’s a faery creature. When Jared threatens it with his pocket knife, the creature turns into a younger boy and begins to cry. Unfortunately, the principal enters the hall at that point and Jared gets in trouble for threatening a child with a knife. While their Mom speaks with the principal, Jared and Simon search for Mallory. Soon, they realize that Mallory was abducted so they sneak off to a quarry nearby to rescue her. There they happen upon dwarves, who have placed Mallory under a spell and in a coffin, like Snow White. Again, using advice from the field guide, along with help from a weird creature called a Knocker, the boys are able to rescue Mallory and escape the dwarves but not before seeing them all executed by Mulgarath and his army of goblins.
Book 5: The Wrath of Mulgarath
When the kids return home from the quarry, they find their home in shambles and their Mom gone. The hobgoblin, who was cornered by the griffin, informs them that their Mom was taken by Mulgarath and his army of goblins. They quickly hatch a plan to rescue her and set off for Mulgarath’s lair, a junkyard, with Thimbletack, the hobgoblin, and the griffin. At the junkyard, the kids battle the army of goblins (Mallory kills their leader which leaves her shaken) and kill Mulgarath’s pet dragons (the griffin kills the mother while Simon stamps on the kids). They then infiltrate Mulgarath’s palace, where they find their Mom and Dad in chains. Unfortunately, it was after loosening their Dad that they discover that it was Mulgarath in disguise. Again, using his wits and lessons from the field guide Jared learns Mulgarath’s plans (to use the guide to rule the faery creatures) and tricks the ogre into making himself more vulnerable. After all is set aright, the kids are able to reunite Lucinda with her father and reconcile their relationship with the elves.
It was the movie that made me want to read these books. And also because I realized that I didn’t have many children/young adult books from Simon & Schuster. Usually I don’t think about the publisher when I buy and read books but because I was cataloguing my books when I discovered this, I decided to fix it by purchasing and reading the Spiderwick books. It’s probably a silly reason that second one but there it is.
These books were quick to read so it’s possible to complete them all in a day if you find the story interesting. There are various illustrations throughout to heighten the reader’s enjoyment as well as fun chapter titles that make you curious about its contents. Though I enjoyed the story, it wasn’t at all what I expected. For some reason I thought the story was longer so I was a bit put off by how short it is, which, in retrospect, makes no sense since the books aren’t intended for adults but for middle graders. Silly me.
It was the inclusion of faery creatures that attracted me to the story—the movie and the book—but when I later discovered the reason for the children’s relocation to the Spiderwick estate, it piqued my interest. The story doesn’t focus on the divorce or what led to it; however, it touches on how the children react it: Mallory becomes more aggressive and focuses even more on her fencing, Simon seems to lose himself in his animal friends, and Jared reacts with anger, which is slowly cooled by the drawing skills he picks up at Spiderwick. The focus of the story is on the children’s adventures and the divorce is simply an addition to the story’s foundation. I like that it didn’t overpower the story and I like its inclusion, that it’s not a random event that introduces the children to the world of the faeries. Still, it is interesting that Mulgarath chose to impersonate the children’s father and how Jared came to realize that it wasn’t his father that he had rescued gave the impression that his dad isn’t very considerate. It all makes me curious about their relationship with their Dad.
Overall, a fun read for middle graders and a quick one for adults who enjoy visiting faeries.
- Top 5 Fairy Books (breelark.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie’s Song by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (cajacobs.com)