I avoided these for a while because I first came across them as I was picking up A Series of Unfortunate Events. ASOUE was about $5-6 cheaper than the Spiderwick novels, about four times thicker and had a promotional buy-one-get-one-free offer up to a certain number within the series. I loved ASOUE and don’t regret my purchasing choice, but a recent seredipitous calamity of film re-branding has landed me with books 1, 3, 4&5 of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Discounted from $20 down to $2.50 due to the photographic film tie-in dustcovers, I was able to get all but one of the books very cheaply.
And they are delightful. Though they match ASOUE‘s formula quite well at times, they really aren’t so much a series as a lovely American-style gothic early reader. Short on pages and words, it’s really one novel masquerading as five. I imagine this is partly due to profits and partly out of consideration for children who are scared of large page-counts.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story and characters, particularly the strong young female who dislikes dresses and does like pummeling younger brothers with swords. The fantasy elements of the books were quite lovely, though I think that I’d have liked to have seen more about each individual fantastical creature rather than simply having the volume there to enhance the atmosphere of the world.
The only real weak points in it were that the novellas really didn’t end very well; most conclusions were run-on and rushed, so the series only truly works as one novel. I can imagine how frustrated I might have been if I hadn’t had the rest of them in my lap. And you can fit them all in your lap, of course. They’re priced so highly compared to other books that length and age-group that I’m concerned that coupled with the one-plot problem far less children are going to be enjoying these books than there really should be. I was also frustrated that a lot of the story seemed to side-step the more interesting parts and rush ahead, though that could just be because I’m more used to YA novels.
In the end the art and story and characters were glorious. I only wish that volume #2 had been on the discount shelf! These books are beautiful, and are going straight to my bedroom pile for a re-read. They make me want to revisit the Baudelaire orphans, too, and to take exultant delight in the beautiful construction that goes into some books aimed at younger readers.