Following the release of Ted in 2001, Tony DiTerlizzi took on side jobs, including illustrating the covers of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Bernie Magruder book series and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales. The following year, he painted the covers for Bruce Colville’s Magic Shop series and provided a new cover and illustrations for Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, before releasing an updated version of a classic tale that would win him a major literary award.
Based on the 1829 poem by Mary Howitt, The Spider and the Fly was a departure from DiTerlizzi’s earlier children’s books. In this retelling, he was illustrating a classic tale instead of his own, and it was painted in shades of black and grey instead of the bright palettes in Jimmy Zangwow and Ted. On the transition in styles from Ted to The Spider and the Fly, DiTerlizzi notes, “I listen to what the story is telling me — the mood and the tone and the emotional feelings that I get, and wonder how I can capture that and augment that with my artwork. With The Spider and the Fly, I immediately thought of the work of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams. I tried to emulate that look with black and white, so it feels like a classic old story that’s been around a long time, but also hearkens to the silent film era.”
DiTerlizzi’s illustrations in The Spider and the Fly thrilled readers and critics alike. The book put DiTerlizzi on the New York Times bestseller list and won him a Caldecott Honor Award, which recognizes the “most distinguished American picture book for children.” But just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any better — they did. The Spiderwick Chronicles was about to be released, and DiTerlizzi’s life would never be the same.