Reading Backwards

Book reviews by your favorite Git.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (1-3)

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By “Lemony Snickett”
Look, a boxed set! @Amazon.com

Rating: Good
Read: June/July 2005

These books are the way good childrens’ fiction SHOULD be. They don’t talk down, they are whimsical, clever, amusing, and honest.


Our three heroes, the Baudelaire children, are truly admirable: Violet is a girl who likes mechanical things. Claus is a boy who loves to read and learn. And Sunny, their baby sister, is just as clever and resourceful as her older sibs, despite the fact that she cannot yet talk, and so makes baby noises and teethes on things. Violet is a model for the girls of today, who are growing up in a tech-heavy world. The boys have been playing technocrats for far too long, and Violet is just the sort of girl who can beat them at their own games. Claus proves that ‘tough’ and smart are not mutually exclusive- or, rather, that you don’t have to give up your masculinity when you admit that you enjoy reading. Sunny is the most wonderful depiction of a young child I have ever seen. Her name suits her to a ‘T’ and I cannot wait for her to start talking.

At first my conditioning kicked in and I was amazed- there is a lot of death, threat, danger, peril, and sheer unconscionable acts in here!! But then I remembered- children are aware of these things anyway. And it is far better for a book to be honest about them than to disregard them. The Seris of Unfortunate Events puts power back into the hands of children, who have always had too little when it comes to their well-being. The Baudelaires’ parents have died, and they are now being passed from relative to relative in search of a good home, while the malicious Count Olaf tries to get his hands on the sizeable monies that Violet will inherit control of when she turns 18. More people die, weapons are drawn, and the children often have only their minds and whatever seemingly useless objects are at hand to help them escape. Because they are well-read, and clever, they always manage to scrape through by the edge of their teeth, sometimes with the help of obscure laws translated into laymans terms.

And, as in the greatest of childrens’ fiction, the ‘good’ adults are often not very clever. The man in charge of their money is a very nice fellow, but he never believes the children when they present him with evidence that Count Olaf is still after them. He cannot help- so they will just have to do it themselves.

And that is what these books are about: Taking matters into your own hands and using what you have to improve the situation.

My absolute favorite part (aside from Sunny’s love of biting things), however, is the narrative. Snickett speaks directly to his audience. He throws in little tidbits about his own life (such a well-travelled man, he is…) and illustrates every concept that may be new to a children in such amusing ways that even adults will laugh and know EXACTLY what he’s talking about. For instance, a phrase like “Back at the ranch.” Adults take it for granted, but literally-minded children might not- and Snickett takes a nice chunk of space to explain it. And, throughout, ‘big words’ are used, and defined. Such as: “And the children were alone with their nemesis, a word which here means ‘the worst enemy you could imagine.'” And so on. Completely my kind of writing.

Three cheers to Lemony Snickett!! Someday, this series will adorn the shelves of my children.

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Written by Shen

July 20, 2005 at 1:37 am

Posted in fantasy, kids, series

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