OK, so I feel a little stupid about this. I had watched the movie “The Spiderwick Chronicles” with Freddie Highmore, and was actually quite impressed. When at the library, I saw this book on the shelf and decided; since I liked the movie version, why not read the original books?
I was halfway through the book and thought, man the book is really, really different from the movie. Can you tell why I felt stupid yet? Yes, this is “Book 1”, but not of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” rather “BeyondThe Spiderwick Chronicles”. Duh! It’s a series that takes place after the original.
So, aside from feeling dumb about my mistake, I can actually say that I’m glad I went with this version first. Having the original movie somewhat still in my mind, I was happy to read an entirely new adventure with new characters. Also, I was glad to see several writing mistakes and “hack” no-nos, which made me feel better about missing the few things I did in the first version of my book (the corrected, 2nd edition is soon to be released).
Eleven-year-old Nicholas Vargas had his world turned upside down after the death of his mother. Not long after he is forced to welcome a new stepmother and an overly imaginative stepsister (Laurie) of similar age. If that wasn’t bad enough, Laurie takes over his room so that he is forced to share with his older, “surfer” brother.
Nick believes that internalizing everything and not bothering anyone is the way to get through life, but he soon finds that ignoring Laurie and her crazy ideas is impossible. After finding a four-leaf clover, Nick soon discovers that he is able to see fantastical creatures and is forced into helping a Nixie called Taloa, who has lost all her sisters.
In his journey to find Taloa’s sisters, both him and Laurie discover a giant that has the ability to breathe fire. They learn that three of Taloa’s sisters were killed by the giant. Accidentally leading the beast back to their home, Taloa is forced to sing to the giant to keep it from killing her and destroying everything else in its path. In the meantime, Nick and Laurie go to a book signing to meet the creators of a book called “Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You,” in hopes of finding an answer to deal with their giant problem (yes, pun intended).
I enjoyed reading this one. The illustrations are very well done, and the larger font size makes reading this book easier for younger kids. The attitude of Nick (the main character) seems very realistic for a boy of his age. I enjoyed the tensions between characters, their misunderstandings, and the imagination or lack there of.
Things to consider:
I would guess this is good for age eight and up. As mentioned, the fonts and illustrations would be appealing to children. Also, there’s really no questionable content that I can think of beyond a few violent scenes.
Opportunities for discussion:
You can talk to your children about death, particularly if they have lost a parent like Nick did. Share with them that they are not a bother, but important parts of your life. Another element of discussion is the difference between telling a lie and using imagination, and sometimes doing the right thing may mean displeasing other people. In addition, even though you may not like a person at first, if you give them a chance, they may become a close companion in the end.