The Field Guide

The Field Guide (The Spiderwick Chronicles #1) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

The set-up is juicy.  In a very convincing letter to the reader, Holly Black claims to have been approached by three children with a story to tell, a story about fairies and danger.  And just like that, the story begins.  (NB: Don’t skip these letters which occur before the beginning of Chapter 1.  So many children just page forward to find that first page, but they’ll miss some good stuff!)

Jared Grace has found things particularly difficult after his father left.  The strange old Victorian house their Aunt Lucinda is letting them stay in is just the latest in a string of not-so-pleasant happenings in his life.  So it’s no wonder that when odd things start happening his mother does not accuse his twin brother Simon, nor his thirteen year old sister, Mallory, she suspects him.  Jared knows he’s not responsible for the pranks and mischief and a series of clues has pointed him in the direction of the real culprit.  His siblings might take some convincing, but Jared’s sure they’ll come around.

This book is a bit of nothing, but I mean that in the best possible way.  It goes so quickly that I dare kids to not want to read on after the first book finishes.  It’s a teacher’s dream as well.  The reading level is right at a third grade level, but the writing is so much better than similarly leveled books and the content is safe for even younger students who might be reading above grade level.  I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to read the second in the series this month, but it’s a task I would not mind in the least.

Age Recommendation: This is on-level for third grade readers.  The writing is straight-forward but there are some excellent vocabulary words as well.  There are frequent, interesting illustrations to help lure readers along.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – “crappier”, “shut up”,
Death, Violence and Gore – Mallory uses a sword and Jared thinks there’s a possibility of her stabbing someone with it.  One of the boys has a black eye.  Mallory threatens to give him another.  A girl has bruises.  Tadpoles are frozen in ice cubes.  A boy got into a fight and broke someone’s nose.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – A child is trapped in a dark room with no door and something that leaves threatening messages.  A girl is tied to her bed frame by her hair.

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