After their parents' divorce, the Grace kids - twins Jared and Simon and their older sister Mallory - move with their mom to the decaying old mansion belonging to their ancient great-aunt Lucinda, who has been sent off to an asylum. But before they can even unpack, Jared begins to notice that they're not alone in the house. There's something living there with them. His investigations eventually lead to an old book filled with pictures of fantastic creatures - Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You - and an even bigger mystery - the disappearance of his great-great-uncle and Lucinda's father, Arthur Spiderwick.
The first book in a beautifully produced series of five, The Field Guide sets up the story of the Grace children--13-year-old Mallory and 9-year-old twins Jared and Simon--who with their mother move into the dilapidated Spiderwick Estate only to quickly find themselves sucked into a dark and fascinating world of faeries.
Superficially, the Spiderwick Chronicles smack of Lemony Snicket, with its "true story" setup and breathless warnings ("Go away/close the book/put it down/do not look"). But Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black owe no one for the intensely absorbing world they've created. Black certainly showed fey promise in her slightly freaky debut and DiTerlizzi has weird cred to spare, from his zany Jimmy Zangwow to countless credits for the Magic: The Gathering card game.
By combining their ample skill with thoughtful art direction and demanding production values, the duo has succeeded in creating a series with irresistible appeal. Each book promises a quick read, snappy plot progression, and dozens of DiTerlizzi's imaginative pen-and-ink drawings. So if you're drawn to The Field Guide at all, you might as well save yourself the trouble and make sure you have the second book (The Seeing Stone handy. (Ages 6 to 10) --Paul Hughes
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