The Spiderwick Chronicles

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Ads for the recent movie based on these books intrigued me, so I read the first two, The Field Guide, and The Seeing Stone. Mallory, Jared, and Simon Grace go with their mother to live in their great-aunt Lucinda’s creepy Victorian house. They discover a field guide from Lucinda’s father, Arthur Spiderwick, about fairies and similar creatures, leading to some unusual experiences, including Simon’s being captured by goblins. The others rescue him with a magical stone, which enables them to see things, which are normally invisible. These books are well written but, in my opinion, not written well. The stories are exciting and would probably be enticing for reluctant readers. However, because the children’s father divorced their mother and left, Jared had begun getting into trouble at school, giving one boy a black eye. Now that they have moved he “hopes things will get better” (as if this kind of behavior were something that just happens rather than the result of making choices), but they do not and he still gets into trouble. Do nearly all-modern writers of children’s fiction think that to be “relevant” they must portray families as broken and dysfunctional, rather than giving children good role models? The children seem to do a lot of arguing and fighting with one another, saying “shut up,” and calling each other unkind names. In the first book, Mallory calls the house “crappier” than she had first imagined. Do we really want to introduce our children to such language? A hobgoblin is said to have (and this is a quote) “urinated on the fire, making the flames blaze green.” And, of course, at the end of the second book, the kids lie to their mother to explain where they had been and why. Some may find such things humorous. I do not.

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