Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: child abandonment, children’s literature, estranged parents, fairies, fairy tales, holly black, language, literary infanticide, magic, quotes, spiderwick, the field guide, tony diterlizzi
After running errands, I found myself with an hour or so to kill before I had to be at work. Because of the rain and cold weather, I gave in, went to the store early, and spent some time exploring the fantasy books in the children’s department. Always looking for something fun yet engaging to cool my brain but warm my heart, I picked up the first book in the Spiderwick series The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.
This novelette is the story of three children Jared, Simon, and Mallory. They move into the Spiderwick Estate with their mother and after some strange noises and bizarre occurrences, Jared must impress upon his siblings that rather than a squirrel they have a boggart (or brownie gone bad) living in the house. Jared discovers a field guide written by a long lost relative Arthor Spiderwick and after the boggart incident, the children realize that all of the creatures listed in the guide must be real.
I was not expecting Spiderwick to be such a darling story. I jotted down that it was “short” and “sweet,” but it is engaging and remains complex in its simplicity. I was slightly amused to see “crappier” pop up in Mallory’s vocabulary, as I know some parents are so easily riled and I had not previously heard any complaints. The illustrations in the book are superb and range from a handful in color on glossy paper to inked pictures on the book page.
One thing I found particularly interesting is how much children’s fantasy books depend upon a rift, neglect, and/or absence between child and parent. Perhaps it all goes back to Hansel and Gretel and the all too plausible concern of child abandonment and infanticide. Jared, Simon, and Mallory’s father has left them and their mother in the Spiderwick story. Harry Potter’s parents were murdered. In the Sister’s Grimm, the parents are thought of as dead and later discovered to be under a magical sleep. Perhaps the absence is not outrageously important, but something to keep an eye out for.
I am definitely interested in reading more of the Spiderwick series. I admit, I was a bit shocked at the sticker price for such a small volume, but it is such a well-crafted volume you never know.