Spiderwick Chronicles: The Next Generation

The Nixie’s Song (Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black; published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2007; 162 pages.

Nick Vargas is not happy.  His mother has died, his father remarried quickly after her death, and his stepsister took his bedroom.  Now Nick has to share a bedroom with his jock-of-a-brother, surfer-dude Julian.  Jules is okay, but since Nick is a clumsy, chubby kid that enjoys building models, they don’t have much in common.  Stepsister Laurie is weird; she has a collection of books about faeries, including a large book entitled The Spiderwick Chronicles. Laurie has a way of manipulating her mother, Nick’s father, and Nick.  Before he knows it, Laurie has convinced him to go on a faerie hunt with her.  Amazingly, a four-leaf-clover gives them both “the sight” and they find a dying nixie, then a giant.  Helpless to stop the giant from destroying their housing development, Nick and Laurie find Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black at a book signing, seeking their assistance.  But the authors are condescending and skeptical.  However, Simon and Jared Grace, 2 of the 3 protagonists in the first series, are also in the bookstore.  Jared agrees to meet them and with the long-distance help of Simon and Mallory Grace, the children locate a giant hunter/killer.  With his giant trap in hand, they end the imminent destruction of their community.  But as with the first Spiderwick series, the story doesn’t end there….

The inclusion of the authors as characters in this book was just the alteration of literary reality that I would expect from this duo.  What an interesting twist to get a chuckle from the reader: even the authors don’t believe in the faerie realm!  Holding back information about the Grace children also added an element of suspense.  Just when my patience had worn dangerously thin, two of the Grace children were re-introduced and their appearance in Florida, the setting for this series, was explained.  Even the faerie creatures were different from the first series, perhaps even better developed and more interesting.

I started reading this series because I was working in the children’s department on a slow night and wanted to read something.  I was looking for Kate DiCamillo’s new title, The Magician’s Elephant, and this series caught my attention (hooray for serendipitous browsing!).  I read the initial Spiderwick series out loud to my kids when they were in elementary school.  Now they are middle schoolers and I think they will be interested in continuing the story on their own.  In fact, I found this book a good read on many levels: humor, adventure, fantasy.  Although elementary students (perhaps as young as third grade) will be interested in this series, I think older students who developed their reading chops with the Grace children, will pick this up to continue the saga.  They won’t be disappointed nor will they find this as easy a read as the first books.  The authors and the story have matured to provide entertainment for readers in a wide age range.

This wouldn’t be a thorough review without discussing the format of the book.  Like the original Spiderwick series, the book is smaller, the pages rough cut like an old tome, and the style of writing and layout are also old-fashioned.  Combined with the art on the cover and contained within, the reader is drawn into the world of old Arthur Spiderwick before the first words are read.  In all ways, this book transports its readers into the faerie world of nixies, giants, and Spiderwick’s Field Guide.  Boys and girls alike will be clamoring to read this book.

4P     4Q     Grade Level: 3-9 and up

the_nixies_songCover Art: As stated before, the cover is compelling.  It is textured (the veins on the leaves of the cover are embossed) and layered with information.  My favorite aspect of the cover is the note from Nick on the back cover, which acts as the book talk summary, with an almost hidden, glossy embossed message from Taloa, the nixie: “SAVE MY SISTERS.”  Ooh, that’ll pique a tween’s or teen’s curiosity!

Suggested Reading List: The Way It Could Be (Science Fiction or Fantasy)

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