The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

As I mentioned previously, I am a sucker for nicely packaged and well illustrated books. Recently, I was slightly burned out from reading “serious” works and decided I need a lighter touch. I was tempted by a children’s series of all things. Largely because of their packaging and illustrations. The series was the awkwardly titled The Series of Unfortunate Events Series. A series about the three Baudelaire children who are orphaned by a house fire. The fire begins a series of unfortunate events (hence the title) for the children. The books have a sort of tongue in cheek macabre tone. Supposedly dark and cruel but not too much as they are written for children ten and up.

The first book, The Bad Beginning, lays out the story line and covers their first adventure. This adventure involves being adopted by their Uncle, Count Olaf, who treats them very poorly and who is scheming to get his hands on their fortune. I won’t spoil the plot any further for those of you who want to read the series.

It is difficult to judge a book like this, as I do not have any children nor am I particularly familiar with books written for children. Perhaps, parents and their children would approach the books differently and thus come to a different conclusion. To me the book seemed rather light and flat for the most part. It certainly has none of the depth and interest of Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia. I suspect that the author did not intend anything but a light hearted story in the guise of a dark one. After all the books are short, easy to read, and relatively inexpensive.

The one unique feature in the books are the author’s use of explanations for the bigger words used in the book. Here is an example:

The three Baudelaire children lived in an enormous mansion at the heart of a dirty and busy city, and occasionally their parents gave them permission to take a rickety trolley – the word “rickety,” you probably know, here means “unsteady” or “likely to collapse” – alone to the seashore where they would spend the day as a sort of vacation as long as they were home for dinner.

I found these explanations tiresome and disruptive but perhaps parents and children might find them useful.

The characters are interesting but rather one dimensional. They seem more caricatures rather than real characters you could sympathise with or root for and against. The story was not so much predictable as plodding. I didn’t feel compelled to keep reading.

Overall, I must say I found the package neater than the content. The books are nicely designed beautifully illustrated. They seem like a fun idea but they come across just a tad too flat for me. If I were a parent I might check them out at the library rather than buy them new. That way you can see if you or your children are interested without investing anything more than time.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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11 Comments

  • I have read all of the Lemony Snicket books so far. I am awaiting the release of THE SLIPPERY SLOPE (June 2003). I have based a website on it. Check it out: http://www.matmice.com/home/lemonysnicketfan. I am also working on an unoficial Lemony Snicket game. If you want, e-mail me at thesnicketrapper@hotmail.com. I am proud to say that I have hooked about 15 people (who hate to read or never read the books)on this series. I am going to see Lemony Snicket as he goes on tour in the USA this summer! Got to go.

    -Dylan (age 11)

  • I have read all of the Lemony Snicket books so far. I am awaiting the release of THE SLIPPERY SLOPE (June 2003). I have based a website on it. Check it out: http://www.matmice.com/home/lemonysnicketfan. I am also working on an unoficial Lemony Snicket game. If you want, e-mail me at thesnicketrapper@hotmail.com. I am proud to say that I have hooked about 15 people (who hate to read or never read the books)on this series. I am going to see Lemony Snicket as he goes on tour in the USA this summer! Got to go.

    -Dylan (age 11)

  • I hate everyone, and the trading in Everett, MA is great. my next target is benjamin Decoste , who also is in everett, and his brother, Nathanial I will capyure him to go to the trading olaf, thank you, and i use Bens e-mail too

  • While I agree that the explanations create some tedious lag, most of them are somewhat comical.Then what do I know, I’m just a crazy hormonal 13 year old right. By the you are an a#s that wouldn’t Know a good book if itbit you on the crotch

  • While I agree that the explanations create some tedious lag, most of them are somewhat comical.Then what do I know, I’m just a crazy hormonal 13 year old right. By the you are an a#s that wouldn’t Know a good book if itbit you on the crotch

  • While I agree that the explanations create some tedious lag, most of them are somewhat comical.Then what do I know, I’m just a crazy hormonal 13 year old right. By the you are an a#s that wouldn’t Know a good book if itbit you on the crotch

  • While I agree that the explanations create some tedious lag, most of them are somewhat comical.Then what do I know, I’m just a crazy hormonal 13 year old right. By the you are an a#s that wouldn’t Know a good book if itbit you on the crotch

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