It's not every day that one begins the afternoon attending a fencing match and, by evening, is engaged in full-on conflict with shape-shifters, goblins and dwarves. Unfortunately for the Grace children Mallory, the fencer, and her twin brothers Jared and Simon such goings-on have become common since the children discovered the Spiderwick's Guide. The Ironwood Tree, the fourth and latest installment in The Spiderwick Chronicles, is yet another example of the wondrous things that happen when artist-and-author Tony DiTerlizzi (The Spider and the Fly, et al) and novelist Holly Black (Tithe: A Modern Faery Tale) decide to get together and create something fantastic.

In keeping with the preceding trio of Spiderwick books, The Ironwood Tree is told in a humorous, matter-of-fact tone, no matter what wild circumstances or frightening creatures pop up. So it doesn't seem all that strange that a typical day for the children might entail fending off otherworldly creatures intent on taking the Guide from them creatures that are willing to engage in all sorts of skullduggery should the children not comply. After all, being a kid can be pretty rough some days, whether it's ogres or mean schoolmates that bedevil us.

Mom is unaware of the bizarre goings-on, and the twins are loath to confide in her when they realize Mallory has been kidnapped shortly after trouncing her fencing opponent. The boys realize their sister is probably helpless at the hands of angry captors, so they set off to rescue her. Will they be able to help? Will the adults in their town believe what is happening? Can a scary situation be remedied? The Ironwood Tree will of course appeal to fans of the Spiderwick series, as well as admirers of fairy tales, whether the modern-day Lemony Snicket sort or those of the classic Snow White ilk. It's a book that's sweet in its understanding of what it's like to be a kid, and rife with deliciously suspenseful scenes.

Linda M. Castellitto has never met any goblins, but she has encountered a few ogres.

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