Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
In what seems like my never-ending quest to read some children's books that I've always wanted to read, I checked out the first three books in Lemony Snicket's (Daniel Handler) A Series of Unfortunate Events series.
In the first book, The Bad Beginning , Snicket lets us know from the very beginning that this not a book with a happy ending and that truly unfortunate things happen to the Baudelaire siblings: Violet, Klaus, and Baby Sunny. And indeed he keeps his promise when the siblings are orphaned early on in the book. The banker, Mr. Poe takes is the executioner of the Baudelaire estate and is in charge of placing the orphans with a family member. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of family members, and the orphans are placed with the murderous Count Olaf who is intent on receiving the Baudelaire fortune. It's up to the orphans to stop him, but as you can imagine, just when things are looking good for the children, they're hit with yet another misfortune.
In the second book, The Reptile Room, the children are placed with the very kind and very generous Uncle Monty who has a very impressive collection of reptiles. Things are going very well, for the children who believe their luck is improving until Count Olaf makes an appearance and commits a terrible crime. The children are once again left without a guardian at the book's end, and things look bleaker than ever.
In the third book, The Wide Window, the children are sent to live with a distant cousin whom they call, Aunt Josephine. She lives in a rickety house that is precariously dangling over a lake filled with killer leeches. Aunt Josephine is terrified of everything, from telephones to stoves, but she does love grammar. The children are forced to eat horrendously cold meals and their grammar is constantly corrected, even poor Sunny, who is just a baby. At least they all agree that it's better than living with Count Olaf. But lo and behold, Count Olaf finds them, and due to more unfortunate events, the children are left homeless and without a guardian.
Alright...so my apologies in advance to all of you Lemony Snicket fans. It's not that I DIDN'T like the books, but seriously, can't you give the poor kids a break? I don't even want to read the rest of the books because I'm not sure I can handle all of the misfortune. I know, I know...the kids are SUPPOSED to suffer misfortune. Snicket told me this in the beginning and continued to tell me throughout the book, but I didn't listen to his advice and kept reading even when he told me I shouldn't if I wanted things to turn out well.
That aside, as a cynic, I did enjoy the humor in the book. I love Snicket's tounge-in-cheek style and tidbits of advice, like this one from Book 3: "If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats."
I also love the way he defines vocabulary words that may be a little difficult for readers. Take this instance from Book 1:
"But one type of book that practically no one likes to read is a book about the law. Books about the law are notorious for being very long, very dull, and very difficult to read. This is one reason many lawyers make heaps of money. The money is an incentive - the word 'incentive' here means 'an offered reward to persuade you to do something you don't want to do - to read long, dull, and difficult books.'"
The books themselves are repetitive, and the characters are flat and predictable, but I know that many kids and parents enjoy them. The three I did read were short and fast-paced, but I don't know if I'd read them to very young children. If I couldn't handle the sadness, I'm not sure young children would be able to. But I never said I was brave...
Other books in the series:
Book 4: The Miserable Mill
Book 5: The Austere Academy
Book 6: The Ersatz Elevator
Book 7: The Vile Village
Book 8: The Hostile Hospital
Book 9: The Carnivorous Carnival
Book 10: The Slippery Slope
Book 11: The Grim Grotto
Book 12: The Penultimate Peril
Book 13: The End