In 2003, Simon & Schuster launched the Spiderwick Chronicles, ushering middle-grade readers into the magical, mysterious, and potentially menacing world of faerie. Created by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, the series centers on the three Grace siblings who, in the attic of their ramshackle ancestral home, Spiderwick Estate, find a handmade field guide to a fantastical realm that exists parallel to their own—and surprisingly close by.

It’s a world that young readers across the globe have been eagerly exploring for two decades, bringing Spiderwick’s worldwide in-print tally to more than 21 million copies, published in more than 30 languages.

S&S is celebrating the 20th anniversary with new editions of its eight installments, released this week in hardcover, paperback, and a boxed set. Three of the books were initially published in the spinoff Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles and have been folded into the original five-book series. The novels feature new jackets and covers designed and illustrated by DiTerlizzi.

As the series enters its third decade, fans will also have the chance to experience the Spiderwick adventures on television, when Disney+ launches an eight-episode, live-action series on a date yet to be announced. (The series’ capers previously played out in a 2008 feature film, The Spiderwick Chronicles, produced by Nickelodeon Movies and distributed by Paramount Pictures.)

Longtime friends and folklore devotees, DiTerlizzi and Black also expanded the Spiderwick universe in three companion volumes that spotlight the series’ eclectic nonhuman cast: Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You and The Spiderwick Notebook for Fantastical Observations (both 2005) and The Care and Feeding of Sprites (2006), all released by S&S.

The authors are currently revising Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide, adding backmatter that ties into the three most recent Spiderwick installments. The updated edition will be published next fall.

Setting the Spiderwick Scene

DiTerlizzi dates his interest in things fantastical to his adolescent years. “I grew up on Golden Nature Guides, Dungeons and Dragons, and the fantastic book Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee,” he recalled. “I spent a summer, when I was around 12, making a guidebook to dragons, monsters, and other creatures that inhabited an imaginary island. I filled a school binder with information about these creatures—and the concept never really left me.”

The idea resurfaced after DiTerlizzi earned a Caldecott Honor for his art in The Spider and the Fly (S&S, 2002), based on Mary Howitt’s 1829 cautionary poem of a fly’s risky entanglement with her predator. When the book’s editor, Kevin Lewis, asked DiTerlizzi what project he’d like to tackle next, the artist thought back to his home-crafted fantastical guidebook.

“I think I reverted to what 10- or 12-year-old me would have wanted—a story about goblins, dragons, and creatures from folklore, told through a scientific lens,” DiTerlizzi said. “Kevin was interested in the idea, and Holly, who was about to publish her first book, helped me to research the folklore, which she knows so well. And at some point, we realized that there was more to this book than just a field guide.”

When it was suggested that the book include a story featuring modern-day kids as the discoverers of the field guide “so that the siblings’ life would feel grounded in reality—and in turn the faerie realm would seem much more real,” DiTerlizzi added, “it was as though a lightbulb went off!” And The Spiderwick Chronicles began to take shape.

An Ongoing Collaborative Front

DiTerlizzi and Black’s bond as collaborators has obviously withstood the test of time. Frequent communication is essential to their working relationship, DiTerlizzi reported. “Our collaborations always begin with many conversations, and there is a lot of back-and-forth. Holly and I talk out every story—in detail.”

And should a clash of opinions occur, the duo relies on an egalitarian tactic. From the beginning, we always said if we could not agree on a way to do something, we’d come up with a third way to do it,” Black explained. “The exciting thing is that it lets us create things that neither of us would have never been able to think of alone.”

The Spiderwick creators experienced a new kind of collaboration when the TV adaptation of The Spiderwick Chronicles began rolling. DiTerlizzi and Black (who are among the TV series’ executive producers) had the opportunity to sit in on sessions in the writers’ room, where they talked at length with the project’s show runner, Aron Eli Coleite, and the writing team.

“We discussed how we could retain elements of the books, and Aron shared what he thought would work best for the TV series,” DiTerlizzi noted. “Holly and I realized that, in this collaboration, we had to give them a sense of ownership of the project, and to let some things go. Yet we knew we really wanted to preserve the stories’ big themes—and the folklore. You can add new things to folklore, but you can’t change the rules that have been in place for centuries, and Aron and the others were very respectful of that.”

With S&S’s anniversary reissues of Spiderwick Chronicles roughly coinciding with the TV adaptation, the book creators had a chance to link the two—and to bridge past and present in the look of the anniversary books.

“The jackets feature the new Spiderwick logo I designed for the Disney+ TV show,” DiTerlizzi explained. “For the cover art, I wanted to go back to the classic-style paintings of the original Spiderwick books,” rather than retain the covers he had redesigned for the 10th-anniversary editions.

“When we started the 20th-anniversary editions, I shared with Holly and Kevin century-old fairytale books from the Golden Age of Illustration—the Victorian and Edwardian eras,” he recalled. “I knew I didn’t want to replicate those examples, but I wanted our books to feel similar in texture and design, which is why we decided to use deckled pages.”

DiTerlizzi finds this new Spiderwick chapter “very exciting to see. This new incarnation of the Spiderwick books is pretty special to me.” And Black is both amazed and pleased that the original Spiderwick fans may well be introducing their own children to the series—or will soon. “It’s bonkers to meet 30-year-olds who remember reading the books at 10!” Black said. “It’s humbling—and a reminder that I’m getting old! But here’s the thing: when you create something, you really, really hope it will live on.”

And that is precisely what the Spiderwick annals are doing.