Book Review: “Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles” by Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black

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Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles
by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

The author-illustrator team of DiTerlizzi and Black are back in a three-part sequel to the five-part Spiderwick Chronicles. Based on the same world of fairy folk found in Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide, this new adventure builds on the experiences of the Grace siblings in The Spiderwick Chronicles. In fact, Jared and Simon Grace appear in this story, though they are not main characters. Even the authors themselves “nearly break the fourth wall,” putting in a cameo appearance at a book signing where our new heroes – stepsiblings Nick and Laurie Vargas – go for help and advice. But the setting is new, and a different set of creatures pops up to make different problems for a couple of kids who have enough problems already.

Nick and Laurie have just become brother and sister, after his father married her mother. Now, together with Nick’s surfer brother Julian, they are all crammed into a single house – the single house in a Florida subdivision that is just starting to be built. While the adults and Julian are busy elsewhere, Nick and Laurie have plenty of time to bother each other. Nick is bothered because Laurie is weird, and has stolen his bedroom, and he has to spend time with her. Laurie is no happier with Nick’s selfish attitude. But soon, like it or not, they are caught up together in an adventure with magical creatures.

In Book 1, The Nixie’s Song, the children encounter their first creature, a kind of water goblin who appeals to the children to help her find her lost sisters. The developers have changed the flow of the waters in which the nixies lived, and now they are cut off from each other. Unfortunately, before Nick and Laura can locate Taloa’s surviving sisters, they awaken a fire-breathing giant. More than their home and family are in danger; if a nest of giants is abroad, all of Florida could go up in flames. To figure out how to deal with this menace, the two kids seek the help of Jared Grace (who happens to be in town) and a mysterious really-big-game hunter named Noseeum Jack.

More information on Books 2 and 3 will be added as the books are released. Stand by for updates. But until then, look back at what I said about the first Spiderwick Chronicles. Much of the same goes for this story: it is one story divided between three books, rather than a series; it is fascinating and exciting and full of lavish illustrations, but a bit over-produced for all that; and like an old-time movie serial, the staggered appearance of the installments promises months of anxious anticipation for those who follow it.