"The best children's stories are wisdom dipped in art and words." -Peter Reynolds

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie's Song (Book One)

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie's Song (Book One) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, was published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster Inc. This book is the first book of the second installment of The Spiderwick Chronicles series. This particular series follows new children that the other series, particularly Nick Vargas and his step-sister Laurie Vargas in swampy Florida as they discover a Nixie in their back yard. Trouble begins to unfold as they return the Nixie, named "Taloa" to the lake. She requests they help her find her sisters who have disappeared. But when Nick and Laurie go searching for her sisters, they come across the three burned bodies of her sisters as well as an enormous, fire-breathing beast that is threatening to burn the whole neighborhood. With the help of Simon and Jared Grace from the first installment and Nick's brother Jules, Nick and Laurie may be able to save the entire neighborhood from being blown to smithereens.

I am a big fan of the first five books of the Spiderwick Chronicles series. My second graders and I love to read them for read aloud due to their suspense and fantasy creatures. However, I am extremely disappointed with this second installment. I am so disappointed that I am going to strongly encourage my students to not read these.The characters and story line seem rushed and underdeveloped, unlike the first five books. One minute Nick's dad and Laurie's mom are happy and in love and the next Nick's dad is furious at her? Even their dialogue seems extremely fake and unimpressive. For example, this scene where Nick's dad notices all the sand in his car and suspects Nick and Laurie are the culprits:
 'Did someone put you up to this?' Nick's dad looked over at Laurie.
'What are you implying, exactly?' Charlene asked. 'Are you saying my daughter's responsible?'
'No!" Nick's dad said too quickly.
Charlene put her hand on her hip. 'Of course not. That's the problem with your whole family. No one ever says what they really mean. Well, I'm not like that and Laurie's not like that, either.' She turned her back on him and walked out of the room before he could answer." (66). 

Where did that come from? Maybe this cheesy dialogue and emotional backlash is impressive for children but, definitely not for adults. Personally, I don't want my students reading literature I'm not impressed with. Would you?

 I also am not impressed with the main character, Nick. He is SO angry, ALL the time. Is that really necessary? If he's not angry about his dad getting remarried, he's mad about how "annoying" his sweet stepsister Laurie is, or he's mad about the new house development, or something else. What are we teaching kids here, exactly? I very much prefer the main characters Jared, Simon, and Mallory from the first five books. They were better role models for kids and left a better taste in my mouth. These characters left me uninterested and unimpressed.

Lastly, I am appalled at the offensive language in this book. There are curse words that were not in the first installment of Spiderwick and should NOT be in a children's book meant for ages 7-10. I will not mention the specific curse words in this review, but let's just say I was shocked and really upset. That language was not necessary at all and I'm disappointed in the authors. I will no longer be recommending this second series to my students. Overall, I am not impressed with this first book and I do not plan on reading the second one.

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