Ever since the first Harry Potter book hit the bestseller list, children’s literature especially fantasy has been a hot commodity with editors. And if a story is strong enough to get people into bookstores, film producers figure it’s a sure bet to draw them into theaters. The success of the film versions of Eragon and The Chronicles of Narnia are ample proof.
Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi’s playful five-book series for middle-grade readers, The Spiderwick Chronicles, is next in line to get the star treatment. On February 15, the story of twins Jared and Simon Grace, and their older sister Mallory, will be brought to theaters by Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Studios in a film directed by Mark Waters. The three Grace children move to an old Victorian mansion in upstate New York with their mother. There, in a secret room, the children find an old book, Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, written by their great-great uncle, that classifies the different types of fairies, goblins, brownies, ogres and other magical creatures. They also uncover a seeing stone, a way to catch a glimpse of the Unseen World surrounding the ramshackle mansion. Longtime friends Black and DiTerlizzi came up with the idea for the series as a way to work together. Black, whose acclaimed novels (Tithe, Valiant and Ironside) are for a teen audience, and DiTerlizzi, a Caldecott Medal winner who writes and illustrates picture books (including G Is for One Gzonk!), found common ground in writing for middle-grade readers. The co-creators collaborated on every aspect of the series. Holly and I would discuss in detail the best way to tell the story, and, at the end of the day, she would go off and actually write the story and I would draw the illustrations, says DiTerlizzi. But, he continues, I helped with structuring the plot, and she offered lots of feedback on the visuals. The duo, who also share executive producer credits on the film, must be pleased that their best-selling series is being brought to life by an all-star cast. Though the Graces (like their creators) are American, the children’s parts will be played by young talent from overseas: British actor Freddie Highmore (August Rush) stars as the twins (both of them!) and Irish actress Sarah Bolger (Stormbreaker) has the part of Mallory. Emmy-nominated actress Mary-Louise Parker plays their mother, Helen. The goblins and other inhabitants of the Unseen World are voiced by other well-known actors, including Martin Short, Seth Rogen (Knocked Up), and Nick Nolte, who plays Mulgarath, the villanous ogre who wants the Field Guide.
Those eager for the release of the film will be happy to hear that Simon &andamp; Schuster has plenty of movie tie-in books ($10.99 each, or $49.99 for the boxed set) in bookstores January 1. In addition to re-releasing the original novels with movie cover images, the publishers have commissioned all-new works, like The Spiderwick Chronicles Movie Storybook and The Official Spiderwick Chronicles Movie Companion, both of which contain stills from the film and interviews with the cast. There are also activity books galore, including a Make-Your-Own Field Guide Carry-Along Coloring Kit and Uncle Arthur’s Art Studio.
So go ahead, lift up your seeing stone and enter the magical world of the Spiderwick Chronicles.