Good Reading : March 2008
y Simon and Jared, 9 – to live in the spooky, crumbling old mansion called Spiderwick, owned by Great Aunt Lucinda, now in a nursing home.The children hear scratching noises in the walls of the old house and discover a strange ‘nest’ decorated with found objects.The home of a squirrel, perhaps? But what kind of squirrel strings dead cockroaches up in a sort of garland? Then, in an old trunk in the attic, Jared finds a book titled Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You . And so begins a series of weird and wonderful adventures that sees the Grace children pitted against an array of creatures, both benign and malevolent, that belong to the world of the fey – the sprites, goblins, boggarts, trolls, hobgoblins, dwarves, dragons, phookas, gargoyles and griffins that inhabit the hidden world of the faeries.The house brownie Thimbletack gives Jared a ‘seeing stone’ that will give him ‘the sight’. Armed only with this, their wits, and the swords Mallory uses in her fencing practice, they set off to save the book from the ogre Mulgarath … The five little ‘Spiderwick Chronicles’ books are rich in imagery, courage, imagination and humour, and contain innumerable references to the fairytales and folklore that captured the hearts of their author Holly Black and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi. And now the bestselling series has been made into a brilliant live-action/animated film, out here next month. Both Tony and Holly are thrilled with the film. ‘We were fortunate in that as the books were being developed, they were optioned by Nickelodeon and Paramount and so they were multaneously being developed as a film,’Tony told me by phone from his home in Massachusetts. ‘That was very exciting. I think a lot of studios were looking for other children’s fantasy stories that could do as well as Harry Potter. I thought the really great film adaptations were very much in the spirit of the book.We said to the filmmakers, we don’t expect you to make a facsimile of the books; we want to help you guys make a cool, great, entertaining movie that retains the spirit and themes of the books.That kind of letting go and understanding helped everybody.There were certain aspects I wanted the creatures to have, but it wasn’t “make the eyes this colour like they are on page 35 of the field guide”; it was more, everything needs to be organic, the spirit of nature, so the sprites are like insects and exotic flowers; let those artists go and have fun with that.’ Holly is equally generous with her praise. ‘I’m very happy with the film,’ she said, also from her home in Massachusetts. ‘I think they captured the essence of the characters, and that really organic feel of faery magic.The family conflict is present, and I think on the whole it is a really good movie, which is something separate from being a good series of books. There are different things books have to do: you’re very engaged with characters figuring things out in books, and it’s fun to work out what they’re thinking and how they’re going to solve things; in a film you want to see them run around a lot more.’ It’s unusual for two people to collaborate in the way that Holly and Tony do, especially when both have written other books – Holly a series of young adult fantasies,Tony some fun picture books for younger children.They met when Holly magic web As the film adaptation of the magical ‘Spiderwick’ books comes to Australian cinemas next month, ALISON PRESSLEY asked author HOLLY BLACK and illustrator TONY DiTERLIZZI about their series.