(hb; 2003, 2004)
This five-book kids’ series is lightweight, and probably won’t be remembered as a landmark work, but it is fun and straightforward. It’s a quick read, as each book is approximately a hundred pages long, packaged like Lemony Snicket’s An Unfortunate Series of Events series.
Review, book by book:
The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1: The Field Guide – Nine year-old twins Simon and Jared Grace, and their thirteen year-old sister (Mallory) move into their institutionalized aunt’s abandoned house with their mother. When things start missing, and malicious pranks are pulled, the children (who have nothing to do with these events) realize that someone – or something – else is also living in the house.
The story is brisk, the characters deftly-fleshed (Simon loves animals; Mallory is a fencer; Jared is plucky), and the fun never lets up.
The Seeing Stone (Book 2): When their cat goes missing, the Grace children search for it in the backwoods, and encounter more nasty magical beings. The suspense and mystery deepens.
Lucinda’s Secret (Book 3): The Grace children, desperate to escape prank-persecution from Thimbletack (a house boggart), visit their great-aunt Lucinda in a local asylum, discover a magical map, as well as the possible fate of their great great-uncle Arthur.
The Ironwood Tree (Book 4): When Jared espies a blond girl, and later, his evil doppelganger, riffling through Mallory’s bag at a fencing meet (which Mallory is participating in), and Mallory is kidnapped, Jared and Simon embark on a trek to save Mallory from the rock quarry dwarves who took her. Semi-grim finish, compared to the previous three books.
The Wrath of Mulgarath (Book 5): With help from Byron (a griffin they found in The Seeing Stone) and Hogsqueal (a hobgoblin, also befriended in The Seeing Stone), the Grace children rescue their mother (Helen) from a shape-changing Mulgarath, goblin leader of the dwarves, forest goblins and dragons. Satisfying, amusing conclusion: memorable.
The resulting film is set for release on February 15, 2008. The authors, along with John Sayles and a few others, are set to co-script. Mark Waters is set to direct.
Freddie Highmore plays "Jared/Simon Grace". Sarah Bolger plays Mallory Grace. Mary-Louise Parker plays Helen Grace. Andrew McCarthy plays Richard Grace. David Strathairn plays Arthur Spiderwick. Joan Plowright plays Aunt Lucinda Spiderwick.
Nick Nolte plays Mulgarath. Seth Rogan voices Hogsqueal. Martin Short voices Thimbletack.