A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning
“If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle.” So begins The Bad Beginning book one of Lemony Snicket’s overwhelmingly engrossing, not to mention incredibly successful, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Over thirteen quirky, beautifully illustrated chapter books, the reader follows the misadventures of the three Baudelaire siblings as they demonstrate the power of kindness and knowledge over greed, selfishness and willful ignorance.
The Bad Beginning introduces us to Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire; three children that occupy a world caught somewhere between old New York and Victorian England. Raised in a large mansion by loving, intelligent parents, the children face the darker side of human experience when they discover that their mother and father have perished in a mysterious fire that has also destroyed their beloved family home. Placed under the care of the villainous Count Olaf, the Baudelaires bring their individual talents together to protect one another and their large inheritance from the clutches of their greedy guardian.
Daniel Handler, the real life counterpart to the story’s shadowy author-narrator Lemony Snicket, refuses to patronize his young readers. Throughout his books the children grapple with weighty issues such as coping with grief, maintaining your principles in the face of adversity and achieving your goals while struggling with seemingly insurmountable challenges. Making use of cheeky, self-reflexive asides from Mr. Snicket, Handler likewise succeeds in making literary concepts such as the use of simile and metaphor accessible to the younger reader. Handler achieves all this in snappy, engaging prose filled with dark humor.
This original series has been translated in to over 40 different languages, selling many millions of copies with The Bad Beginning alone scooping up such literary accolades as the Colorado Children’s Book Award, the Nevada Young Readers Award and the Nene Award. While popular and critical acclaim is no bad thing for an author, it is not the reason you must immediately dash out/log on and snap up the first copy of The Bad Beginning you can lay your hands on. The truth is that these books are as entertaining and thought provoking for adult readers as they are for the many millions of children who have already worn out their beloved first copies.
Olive Mackintosh-Lowe, literary editorSEND YOUR REVIEWS