‘Spiderwick Chronicles’ author enjoys revisiting children’s books

Tony DiTerlizzi

Bestselling author and illustrator, Tony DiTerlizzi is best known for “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” the award-winning middle-grade series he created with fellow Amherst resident Holly Black. But those works are just part of the trove of children’s books DiTerlizzi has created — which includes a retelling of the “Star Wars’’ trilogy as a picture book. “Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi” is on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum through May 28.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

DITERLIZZI: When I’m writing I can’t read anything. I usually put all my books aside, and they begin to pile up. When I switch to art and illustration I can pick them up, so right now I’m deep on my catch-up list. I just finished “Landscape with Invisible Hand” by M.T. Anderson. I love his stuff. He and I are like brothers in nerd-dom. He wrote “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation,” which won the National Book Award some years ago. That’s a wonderful story, but I love his science fiction, which is why I picked up his newest.


BOOKS: Is that typical of your reading?

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DITERLIZZI: I read all over the place. I read a lot of children’s books and middle-grade novels. I will venture into young adult too. I’ve also picked up a bunch of biographies. I haven’t started “Drawn from Life,” the autobiography I have by Ernest Shephard [the illustrator for “Winnie-the-Pooh”] yet. I already dove into “Empire of Imagination” about Gary Gygax, who created Dungeons & Dragons. I’m always fascinated by world builders who create unique visions from the popular culture of their childhood.

BOOKS: Which books from your childhood do you reread the most?

DITERLIZZI: At the top of the list is Richard Adams’s “Watership Down.” It had an incredible impact on me when I read it in middle school. To me there’s a connection between “Watership Down” and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” They are both big quest stories, and the protagonists are small, insignificant characters. And when you are a kid that’s how you feel a lot of the time.

BOOKS: What do you read that is the furthest afield from your work?


DITERLIZZI: I’m a crazy Chuck Palahniuk fan. He’s such a great storyteller. The last one I read was “Damned.” It’s like “The Breakfast Club” in Dante’s “Inferno.’’ After the movie of “Fight Club” came out, I thought I had to read this guy. You see the movie, and you’re like, “I didn’t know this was a book.” That’s how I was with Roald Dahl. I loved Gene Wilder’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,’’ and I remember the librarian going, “Well he wrote a lot of other books.” Off I went.

BOOKS: Why should adult readers pick up kid’s books?

DITERLIZZI: I think the best of them work on many levels. It’s like the lyrics to your favorite song, and how you can take aspects of them and make them applicable to what you are going through. When I return to these books I see an allegorical story through the lens of an adult that I didn’t see as a kid. The Pooh books are great that way. I remember my mom reading them to me and laughing at stuff. I didn’t know what she was laughing at until I read them to my daughter.

BOOKS: What are the highlights in your book collection?

DITERLIZZI: I have a first edition of “The Phantom Toll Booth” signed by Norton Juster, who lives here in Amherst. That means more because I know him. I don’t seek signatures for my books, but if it’s someone I know or am going to spend time with I’ll hunt down an early edition [to have them sign]. I got to spend a couple of days with George R.R. Martin. So I got a first edition of “A Song of Ice and Fire” so he could sign it. I have no fancy pants “Harry Potter,” which I kick myself for because I was at book shows and conference where they were handing out copies of it.

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