One of my most distinct memories of first grade takes place on a rough concrete driveway. I was 'duelling' my best friend in the sti...

One of my most distinct memories of first grade takes place on a rough concrete driveway. I was 'duelling' my best friend in the sticky heat of a Thai summer, and got struck by the tip of his foam sword. "No!" I cried. "That's not fair! I'm Mallory; I always win." I then proceeded to force him to let me win every time.

Clearly I was a national treasure.

The 'Mallory' I was obsessed to play as came from none other than 'The Spiderwick Chronicles'; she was the sharp-tongued and talented fencer who used her sword to defeat the wicked faeries who tried to attack her family. I admired her bravery, her strength and her inner compassion.

Two days ago, I reread her story for the first time in twelve years. Did I love it as deeply as my first grade self did so long ago?

A few weeks ago, I announced each month in 2020 I would be rereading a childhood favourite of mine. When I brainstormed the list, 'The Spiderwick Chronicles' was the first to come to mind. For many years the books, and later the movie, captured my imagination and sparked a deep love of fantasy in me.

I decided to see if they held up to the test of time.

Rereading the first book in the series, and the amazing bestiary that accompanies it, 'Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You', opened my eyes to the sheer depth of worldbuilding in this series. The bestiary described all the creatures, their habits and vices, and intertwined it all with snippets of narrative that hinted at the hidden world's darker side. 

This week I spent hours pouring over the illustrations and mannerisms of creatures strange and familiar. Even if you aren't interested in the book series, I highly recommend buying the bestiary for the beautiful watercolours; they are sure to inspire any writer developing their own fantasy world!

The first book in the series, 'The Field Guide', was a little disappointing in comparison, to be honest. While I loved the world and the intermingling of lore, the characters didn't grab me the same way they used to. From a writing standpoint, there was a lack of internal monologue and showing what Jared's (the POV) thoughts were.

But the highlight of 'The Field Guide' was the atmosphere. Even with only a few descriptive scenes, I could all but feel myself wandering an abandoned mansion still touched by magic and hidden forces. Holly Black focused on tiny details to make it the setting seem like it could be the house around the corner, or down a bend in a eerie wood. 

So was it as good as I remember? Unfortunately, no. Technically perfect? No. But it still resonated with me, and I think there are two reasons why.

The book and bestiary begin with letters that play with fact and fiction, stating the story is a narrative of true events told by the Grace siblings to the authors, and that the bestiary is a gift from them. The authors are welcoming the blurring of truth and lies. They invite each reader to believe that there is magic hidden in this world, that there are other creatures who we may not be able to see, but are there.

I feel this is so, so important. We need to encourage imagination and creativity in children, to let them be open and silly and wild in their ideas; to stretch them as far and wonderful as possible. I think my first grade soul loved to dwell on the fact that these creatures in a book might be real. It was the might that mattered.

The second reason is that Mallory is the definition of a strong female character. Upon this reread, I realised how lucky I was my first grade teacher read this series aloud to my class; she was teaching all of us so much. Mallory's activeness was never called boyish, her dreams to be a professional sportswoman never called foolish. She had her flaws, as do we all, but was emotionally strong. She helped her mother and stood up for her siblings. Mallory was the kind of girl little first-grader me could admire and look up to.

It's sad 'The Spiderwick Chronicles' doesn't dazzle me as it once did twelve years ago, but it's still an incredibly important story. I like to think every word I read leaves its mark on me, and this series left a heart-shaped fingerprint. 

Have you ever read 'The Spiderwick Chronicles'? If so, did you enjoy it? What are some of your childhood favourites? Have you re-read any of them lately?
Have a wonderful day! <3

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  1. I only ever saw the movie and at first I loved it because of the world building (though I didn't realize it at the time) but after a while I got tired of it. My sisters wanted to watch it all. the. time. so I made excuses that it was scary. Now, I think that I'd want to give these a try! I really liked reading your thoughts, Melissa!

    1. Hahaha I think my sister might be in the same boat as you; I forced her to watch the movie often because I loved it so much. xD Thank you! I suggest finding them at the library since they're all so short; hope you enjoy them! :D

  2. I love the Spiderwick Chronicles. They're such fun books and you make great points about Mallory.

    1. Yay a fellow fan!!! So glad you enjoy them too. :D Thank you!

  3. I need to get the bestiary it's beautiful! It's sad how we outgrow things.

    1. It's GORGEOUS! Probably the most beautiful book I own. xD Yes, it is. Hopefully my other rereads prove more fruitful!

  4. I love this! That bestiary is gorgeous! My younger sister was inspired by Mallory to fence!