Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #1
Genres: Children's, Fiction, Middle Grade, Mystery & Detective
Published by Scholastic Press on September 30, 1999
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I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.
In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.
It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.
With all due respect,
I read the first three Series of Unfortunate Events a long time ago, and I absolutely adore the movie. If you haven’t seen it, it’s very whimsical, atmospheric, charming, and of course, filled with unfortunate events. The first book of the series, The Bad Beginning, is a delightful tale that reads lightning fast, and though written for middle grade, is clever enough for older readers.
The story follows the Baudelaire children who become the Baudelaire orphans within the first few parents, when their parents are killed in a fire that burns their house to the ground. As stated in their parents will, the children are sent to live with the most convenient relative, a man named Count Olaf, who turns out to be after the children’s sizable fortune. Fortunately, he the money is locked down until Violet (the oldest Baudelaire) comes of age, but that doesn’t stop Olaf from trying to get at it. No one believes the children when the speak of Olaf’s poor treatment of them, and his plans to steal their fortune, so the three Baudelaires must find a way to thwart him themselves.
This is a very fun start to the series; sure, misfortune abounds, but the storytelling is so whimsical. It’s great for young readers too, because the author uses great vocab and explains or defines the word, but in a way that feels natural to the story, not like you’re reading a schoolbook or a dictionary. All three children have characteristics that identify them (Violet’s an inventor, Klaus is a reader, Sunny bites things) which makes them somewhat simple, but also gives a nice foundation for their characters, since, again, this is for middle grade or even a little younger.
Olaf is really despicable. He’s pretty funny in the movie, since he’s played by Jim Carrey (the only part I’ve liked him in), but in the book he’s just awful. He’s a great villain to love to hate, and it makes the reader immediately sympathize with the Baudelaires, who are charming. The other adults aren’t necessarily idiots, but they are certainly naive about Olaf. That was a little annoying, though I suppose there are plenty of times when a child knows or believes something and adults brush whatever it is aside.
Also, the binding for these are lovely; the paper is thick and there are adorable and whimsical sketches at the beginning of each chapter, drawn by Brett Helquist.
All in all, I loved this book, and I can’t wait to keep reading about the Baudelaire’s misfortune.