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For Young Readers

‘The Field Guide’ fills gap until final Potter

    Once upon a time, in a world called Children’s Literature, there came into being a series of books that were unlike all the others inhabiting the land. Where the majority of books wore colorful coats and contained large, simple words, these particular books possessed  coats that put far more stock in mystery than beauty, and possessed words that were slightly smaller and much more intelligent. The books were called “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and while alone they were a relative anomaly, they influenced many other authors to create novels with just as much mystery and intelligence.
    One of these books stands out especially well, and combines all the accessibility of the Harry Potter series with the sophistication of Lemony Snicket’s not-so-unfortunate creations. First in a series known as The Spiderwick Chronicles, “The Field Guide” dives into the story of Jared, Simon and Mallory Grace, three siblings whose family troubles have recently forced them and their mother to move into a dilapidated Victorian mansion. The kids are wary of the musty house, which is haunted not only by the image of their allegedly insane grandmother, but also by things that Jared, the story’s protagonist, feels are both magical and dangerous. This being a fantasy tale, he, of course, is correct.
    Through a series of strange occurrences, Jared stumbles upon a hidden study that once belonged to the mansion’s first owner, a scholarly man by the name of Arthur Spiderwick. From the contents found in the office, it is clear that his interests seem to center around things more supernatural than not. As Jared attempts to decipher a riddle he discovered in the study, strange things begin to occur within the house. Mallory’s hair is tied to the posts of her bed during one night; another time, the kitchen is wrecked. The siblings cannot shake the feeling that they are being watched.
    In the meantime, Jared uncovers the secret of the riddle, which leads him to a hidden field guide written by Arthur Spiderwick himself. As Jared finds, the guide does not relate information on nature’s most conventional aspects. Rather, it deals the world of faerie, and not the type that enjoy flitting about and spreading good cheer. The faeries within the Spiderwick Chronicles are straight from European tradition: proud, spiteful, tricky, and not by any means beautiful. And for one reason or another, their wrath is currently focused on the Grace children.
    The books of the Spiderwick Chronicles are less like actual books and more like sections of one large volume. In this way, they make easy, confidence-building reads for kids who might otherwise show reluctance towards the activity. For others, the Chronicles are an excellent way to sustain a desire for the fantastic until the final Harry Potter book hits shelves this summer, and an even better antidote to the grief that may come with completing it.

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