Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Field Guide: Book One - The field Guide

The Field Guide: Book One - The field Guide

Holly Black
Illustrator:   Tony DiTerlizzi 
Fiction  Series
For ages 7 to 10
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2003   ISBN: 978-0689859366

When you are young you very often expect, and may even want, things to be uncomplicated, easygoing, unchanging. For the three Grace children: Jared, his twin brother Simon, and his older sister Mallory, life has been positively full of changes of late. Their father is no longer living with them, they have moved to a house that looks as if it might collapse at any moment, and Jared has been getting into all sorts of trouble. Time for a fresh start you might think. The problem is that something, or is it someone, seems to be trying to make life very difficult for the new residents of the Spiderwick estate.

A pair of peculiar letters at the beginning of the book gently, but firmly, pull the reader into this story about very three very ordinary children. We are invited to share in their problems, ones that we can easily relate to; until Jared decides to explore the old house they are living in that is. Then Jared?s problems cease to be familiar and become stranger and stranger. Unfortunately he is blamed for everything that goes wrong and the authors have brought him to life so well that the reader swells with indignation at the injustice of it all. Jared discovers a hidden room, a yellowed parchment that we too get to look at, and a field guide to "the Fantastical World Around You."

Do you know what a Bogart is? No? Neither did Jared until he had done some reading in the field guide. Nor does Jared see that he and Bogarts have something in common - they are unpredictable and sometimes thoughtless when they are angry and unhappy. Jared, then Simon, and finally Mallory all come to realize that there is more to this world than meets the eye. There are all sorts of strange and possibly dangerous creatures all around us.

This is both exciting and yet it also is slightly worrying. What are the children to do with this bizarre field guide and with the knowledge that lies within it? Presented to look a little like a personal diary or journal, the reader will find this little book beautifully illustrated throughout with drawings in the style of the great illustrator Arthur Rackham. This is one volume that cannot, once it has been picked up, be put down.