The Spiderwick Chronicles (Boxed Set) : The Field Guide; The Seeing Stone; Lucinda's Secret; The Ironwood Tree; The Wrath of Mulgrath

by Tony DiTerlizzi, Holly Black
ISBN: 0689040342

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A Review of: The Spiderwick Chronicles (Boxed Set): The Field Guide, The Seeing Stone, Lucinda∆s Secret, The Ironwood Tree, The Wrath of Mulgarath
by Olga Stein

This set of five books in which nine-year-old twin boys, Jared and Simon, and their thirteen-year-old tomboy sister Mallory, discover a magical but dangerous world in their own house and the woods surrounding it, is a wonderful reading experience for kids seven to ten years of age. Solid writing, great character and plot development, a realistic portrayal of the Grace family still shaken by the parents' recent divorce, combined with quality illustrations of the children and the faerie-world creatures they encounter, turn this series into old-fashioned kids lit-C.S. Lewis or K. Rowling for the very young set. Each book is just over one hundred pages in length and offers its own adventure and excitement, but all are part of a larger story that readers will want to complete. The fifth book, in which the Grace children confront the terrible Mulgarath, a powerful Ogre who's raising an army of goblins in order to take over the world of man and faerie folk, is where all of the preceding adventures of the Spiderwick Chronicles culminate. The authors, Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, do a fine job of balancing the climax, and the narrative throughout, so that it's gripping without being overly frightening for young readers.
An intelligent premise serves as the narrative basis for the series: Knowledge is power, and in this case, detailed knowledge of the faerie world and its inhabitants, their habits, strengths and weaknesses, as recorded in Arthur Spiderwick's (great-uncle to the Grace children) Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, is a powerful tool that the various members of the magical world aim to possess. Troubles start soon after Jared, considered the most difficult of the three Grace kids, discovers the Field Guide, hidden in a chest in the attic of the run-down Victorian mansion to which he, his two siblings and mother Helen have moved from New York. He is warned by Timbletack, the tiny brownie, who lives in the secret study Arthur Spiderwick left behind when he disappeared, that keeping the Field Guide will endanger the family, but the lure of Arthur's illustrations and the fascinating notes on a multitude of creatures Jared could never have imagined existed outside of faerie tales, is too great for the curious nine-year-old. Timbletack's prediction proves accurate, and hair-raising adventures follow: Jared's twin, Simon, is dragged away by goblins. Only the seeing stone enables Jared to follow the otherwise invisible creatures into the woods. With the aid of brave sister Mallory, an expert fencer, and the hobgoblin Hogsqueal, whose spittle rubbed into the eye makes the unseen world of faerie visible to humans, Jared frees Simon. But this is just the beginning. Elfs are desperate to get hold of the book and are willing to imprison the children forever if they don't cooperate. Dwarves, assisting Mulgarath, abduct Mallory, hoping to exchange her for the Field Guide. The final, decisive battle occurs in the last book, in which the three kids and the Griffin they rescued after their initial encounter with the goblins, defeat a fire-breathing dragon and Mulgarath.
The Grace children are well realized, each with their own endearing quirks. I enjoyed the characteristic sibling squabbling, as well as the way the three protectively pulled together in moments of danger, showing through deeds what children can't put into words. I recommend this set!

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