Book Review: the Spiderwick Chronicles: the Ironwood Tree by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

This is the fourth book in the Spiderwick Chronicles, which is the Spiderwick Chronicles: the Ironwood Tree (Young Adult 109 pages) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.

The summary on the back of the book is covered up with leaves so I can’t give you an accurate summary from there.

In the first book, Jared, Simon, and Mallory Grace move to an old house with a secret library and encounter a boggart. The boggart makes things a little uncomfortable for them and they wind up making amends and learning about a Field Guide written by a relative named Arthur Spiderwick.

In the second book, Simon gets snatched by a group of goblins and Jared and Mallory work to find him and rescue him. Along the way, Jared’s temper gets the better of him again and he winds up being a bit mean to Thimbletack when Thimbletack tries to help them out against the goblins. When Jared and Mallory find Simon, they also rescue a hobgoblin named Hogssqueel who assists with their escape and provides them with goblin spit, which gives them the ability to see the fairy world without use of the Seeing Stone.

The third book shows Mallory, Simon, and especially Jared dealing with increasing pranks around the house. Jared believes the pranks are perpetrated by Thimbletack, who Jared was extremely rough with in book two. In order to attempt to figure out how to stop the pranks and to get more information on Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide, Mallory, Simon, and Jared visit their Great Aunt Lucinda in the hospital. As it turns out, Lucinda is Arthur’s daughter and she is in the hospital because she was having problems with the faeries entering the house and causing her bodily harm while asking about the book. Even though she had no knowledge of the Field Guide, the faeries didn’t believe her and continued to escalate their personal attacks. Lucinda also made the mistake when she was younger of eating a piece of fairy food and can now no longer enjoy or even stomach normal food. The third book ended with Jared, Simon, and Mallory finding the elf forest and tricking them into releasing the Grace youths out of the forest.

This book was obviously intended for a very young audience, as the story-telling is very quick and lyrical with short, descriptive paragraphs. There’s also a selection of character portraits and drawings from the story itself, which gives the book something of a classic feel with a map in the front and continued drawings throughout the story. I liked the drawings and felt that they added a good visual depiction of the characters and events, but I learned to not look at the pictures until after I’d read all the words on open pages because the pictures gave away some of the upcoming plot or character elements in each part of the story.

One of the interesting points of this book is that from the first book through this book, Jared continues having a problem controlling his temper and using violence to resolve issues in his world. This continues to have negative consequences for him and also brings negative consequences to the other people around him as well. His treatment of Thimbletack in book two has lead to increasingly uncomfortable living situations within the house and in a number of small pranks that cause him a variety of minor injuries.

Simon’s interest in animals is extremely fascinating for the sole purpose that he truly wants to help and save all the animals and he may or may not realize that the animals are probably better in their natural habitat. I find his level of enthusiasm and his fearlessness in dealing with animals inspiring, even and especially Byron, the wounded griffin they rescued from the goblins in the second book.

This story takes a much darker turn, as Simon, Jared, and Mallory find themselves captives of the dwarves. One of the interesting things about this series to me is that I often feel as though the faery characters described in each book so far are not exactly like the “normal” or “standard” options. The brownies, boggarts, phooka, elves, sprites, trolls, and goblins are so far mostly unique in their interactions in the Spiderwick Chronicles versus the descriptions of faery characteristics in other works. I also enjoyed the play on Snow White in this particular book because of what happened with Mallory and the six dwarves.

Unlike the other books in this series so far, this one ends with a cliff-hanger and a very unhappy breaking point. If you look at this entire series as one book, then the character arch makes a lot more sense because we’re getting close to the end, so the action and the tension are both building. The conclusion is the next and final book and this book does a great job of motivating you to grab the next book and just keep reading.

Overall, I liked the characters and the world-building is interesting. These are really quick reads and I like reading them when I have an hour to spare, since that’s how long it usually takes me to get through them. I think this book is a low three on my scale, since they’re tons of fun for a quick read, but designed for a much younger audience.

Works cited: DiTerlizzi, Tony and Black, Holly. The Spiderwick Chronicles: the Ironwood Tree. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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