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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events"

For this review, I'm not writing about just a single book, but a series of books instead.  I read all 13 books in Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events."  This series is geared toward children ages 10+ and grades 5 and up.



First off, let me start by talking genre.  This book falls into several different genres, including Absurdist Fiction, Children's Fiction, Children's Fantasy, Gothic Literature and Black Comedy.  These are the wildly fantastic tales of the Baudelaire children, whom you are warned on the very first page do not have a happy tale.  What ensues is a wildly funny, yet dark tale of three children and their bad luck in life, how they keep themselves in good spirits and a close knit feeling of family.  The villain in the story, Count Olaf, is as ridiculous as he is scary, and you will find yourself constantly cheering for the Baudelaires as they repeatedly escape his clutches through means of sheer ingenuity.

It has many good life lessons for children, such as teamwork, family bonds, and the importance of constantly expanding one's mind.  Throughout the book, they continually have to work together to solve riddles, escape sticky situations and escape Count Olaf's deadly but ridiculous traps.  Their family values always remain strong, even through trying and stressful situations, and even when they get frustrated with one another, they are able to recognize their bond and apologize.

Each of the Baudelaire children has a favorite pastime or study that they engage in, for Violet, it is her love of inventing and all things mechanical, for Klaus it is his love of researching and reading, and as Sunny comes of age(so to speak), she displays remarkable culinary talent.  Through these studies, they are always able to find a solution to even the hardest problem, and even as an adult, I am often left wondering what they're next move will be.  It encourages children to explore their interests and how to use them in a variety of situations in their lives.

The story, as I said is ridiculous, funny, dark and scary and yet leaves you hungering to read more!  The best part of the books, however, is coming from my viewpoint as a Mom.  Throughout the book, the author continually uses very large words or tricky idioms that most children at this age are either just getting a grasp on or are getting close to. Instead of leaving your child to have to either look it up in a dictionary or try to figure out what it means themselves (which you have to admit with many idioms it is rather difficult to discern their meaning if you weren't familiar with them),  the author is kind enough to include in text definitions.  These definitions not only include what the word/phrase means in this particular context, but also what it might mean if you used it in a different situation.   Here are a couple of examples:

I find this to be excellent for several reasons,
1- it expands your child's vocabulary by not only making it accessible but also providing extra contextual situations for your child to further understand the definition.
2- it does a great job building suspense throughout the story
3-It's just a fun read.

My negative point about the book was that at certain points it seems to be rambling and I found myself wanting to skip over these sections entirely... which might not be good for a budding attention span.
All in all, a great series.  One that I look forward to introducing my children to... when they get to be the right age, of course.

Beware though, there isn't really a certain happy ending...

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