Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Spiderwick Chronicles

There are two reasons why I didn't discover (read READ) this series sooner. The first reason is the whimsy illustrations, hard-cover only editions, coy notes to the "reader", and the pretense that the author is representing the real life experiences of three siblings---all these details reminded me of one particular series that I don't really adore. I know, I know, lots of kids love The Series of Unfortunate Events. Lots of kids I know love The Series of Unfortunate Events, and so I promote it, have read The Bad Beginning with several classes and have occasionally turned my distaste for the series into an effective reverse psychology ploy to get students to read more of them. But by the ninth book, Lemony Snickett's tone, for me, was horribly grating and the plots were unbearably predictable. So, when I first came across The Spiderwick Chronicles I thought, "Oh, great, another Lemony Snickett. Well, let them find it on their own. I don't need to read and promote two of these series."

The second reason I didn't read Spiderwick sooner was that I thought it was just another Harry Potter knock-off. This reason is ironic given the fervor with which I defend the Percy Jackson books. (Just another H.P., being one of the primary complaints lodged against my favorite demi-god). But here's why I'm so glad I finally gave this series an earnest chance: It's an excellent fantasy series for readers whose skills aren't yet up for Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or any of the Deltora series. The plot, language, vocabulary, and magical elements are all perfect for those students who I think of as "bridging" readers. Kids in fourth or fifth grade who've read all the Captain Underpants, but who still need lots and lots of reading experiences before they are ready for more demanding chapter books. So far, this enchanting series doesn't sacrifice any of the bubbling imagination, mysterious creatures, or captivating puzzles that define the fantasy genre. The Secrets of Droon is the only other fantasy series that I know about that's targeted for younger and less skilled readers, but where The Secrets of Droon is perfect for first and second graders whose reading skills are already strong, The Spiderwick Chronicles is perfect for fourth and fifth graders who are still making the leap.

1 comment:

HipWriterMama said...

That's so funny. I haven't read The Spiderwick Chronicles because of those same reasons. Hmm. Maybe a little rethinking is due.