Friday, November 6, 2009

Book Review - Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi's A Giant Problem

A Giant Problem: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles Volume 2 by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
Published by: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication Date: September 16th, 2008
Format: Hardcover, 154 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

The past few weeks Noseeum Jack has been trying to teach Laurie and Nick the ways of giant slaying, only Nick can't help thinking that they are too young and too few. When that night while watching two giants brawl, to avoid their brawling parents, Jack is injured and Nick realizes that not only are they too young but also too old. Laurie on the other hand is thinking that they should increase the number of the fighters, by covertly giving Jules a four-leaf clover. Early the next morning Nick hears what he assumes is a cat in the garbage, only to find a faery. The "sandspur" races to the water and proceeds too eat the parting message Taloa left the kids saying they will regret not helping her. After they capture the faery and are all sitting pretty in the house the giants attack. While they are not attacking Mangrove Hollow, per sae, it's in the path and it goes up in smoke, with a rather shell shocked Jules saving Nick, Laurie and her new pet. Jules demands an explanation for the giants, and the scary merefolk he saw while surfing earlier that day. Laurie and Nick explain to him about faeries, all the while Nick is furious at Laurie for tricking Jules into having the sight. They meet up with the parents at the hotel that is now their home, but shortly thereafter have to ditch them to stop this "giant problem." They go to see Jack but he is being taken away by his son, Jack Junior, seeing as Jack is old and injured. Jack says he left the kids something out back but all they see is a kiddy pool and leave his house, barely avoiding a sink hole. That night Nick can't sleep and reads some of Laurie's books that were saved from the fire, one of them being a fairy tale book including the Pied Piper of Hamlin. The next day they go to the devastated development where Nick recovers a viking ship he made from a kit his dead mother gave him. Back at the hotel Jules introduces Cindy to "the sight" by showing her Laurie's new pet that lives in their bathroom. Nick tells them that he might have a plan to get ride of the faeries, based on the Pied Piper and the merefolk Jules saw. If they could lure the giants to the ocean, perhaps that would solve their problems. They all sneak out and steal Nick's dad's car and head for the sea. The mermaids agree to help by singing for them if they bring them a fish that they have never seen before dawn or Jules dies, otherwise known as sending them on a fool's errand. Nick decides that a fish from a landlocked sea would be the best bet, and as it luckily and incredulously turns out Cindy's dad has just the fish, which they then have to steal and barely get away with. But with the fish the mermaids still try to trick them, but Nick saw this coming and tricked them in the plan might still work...but what if the giants weren't the problem? What if they were rising to fight a greater big bad?

I did not enjoy this second installment nearly as much as the first. Second installments in a trilogy have a bit of a bad lot, they are not known for resolving anything and are usually just a bridge to the final confrontation. Of course I'm not saying that things didn't progress, they did, but they progressed in a way where the kids made a bigger mess, so not only will they have to solve the overall problem, but also the problem they created by banishing the giants to the bottom of the ocean. Also, once again, being a fast read I was impatient for the story to be over. I also have an issue with were the story is going, meaning I don't like it going so big and bad that it really is turning into some sort of behemoth or a summer blockbuster. I should have seen this coming though, giants themselves are big. As a final thought I'll ruminate on Laurie. In particular Laurie's ability to convincingly lie. Nick is in awe of her ability to casually throw out comments and spin them into a believable yarn. Shouldn't we, as readers, be worried that this book is kind of glorifying the ability to lie to children? I'm usually not this hyper aware of stuff like this, anyone should read anything they want, I just thought that this might be sending the wrong message. Perhaps Nick's Dad is 100% right and Laurie is a bad influence on Nick. He might be finally interacting with the world...but is it in a good way? Is the the fabrication of false truths justified if they save Florida? We will have to see as I now crack open the final volume after a protracted wait.


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