I know that I’ve been posting some book reviews of new releases lately, but now I want to take the time and publish a review of a series that I’ve only recently discovered that is “The Series of Unfortunate Events” written by Daniel Handler under the pen name Lemony Snicket.
First published in 1999, the series features 13 books, all but the last one featuring alliterative titles such as “The Bad Beginning”, “The Ersatz Elevator” and “The Slippery Slope”. While ultimately fun and a little frightening, “The Series of Unfortunate Events” teaches kids new vocabulary and useful English skills while still entertaining them.
The series, narrated by Lemony Snicket, follows three orphans, Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire (named after the French poet Charles Baudelaire) after losing their parents in a terrible fire that also destroyed their mansion and leaving them with only the Baudelaire fortune and each other.
Their first guardian in the first book, “The Bad Beginning” is a man by the name of Count Olaf, who treats them terribly and eventually they get taken away from him. However, he follows them no matter where they go, trying to concoct ways to steal their fortune. This may sound like a “Swiper, no swiping” kind of deal, but rest assured that Count Olaf is a truly terrifying and maniacal character.
Some recurring themes in the series include literary names of each of their new guardians or friends they meet, the mysterious V.F.D that the children search for the meaning of, and Lemony Snicket’s dedications to a dead, beloved Beatrice in each book.
Once kids have finished the series, you can allow them to take in their “Beloved Count Olaf” by renting the Lemony Snicket movie for them.
While the undertone of the series is rather dark, Handler, or Snicket, adds just the right amount of macabre humor to the books. The dedication to Beatrice at the beginning of each book, while at times a little depressing, can be pretty funny. Take this one for instance, “No one could extinguish my love, or your house.”
Snicket also adds fake, humorous definitions to words readers may not know about, such as defining “adversity” as “Count Olaf”. However, there is plenty of social commentary throughout the series, where Handler seems to be making a comment on things like moral relativity and mob psychology.
My older grandkids absolutely adore this series and I can’t say that I blame them. While the series tends to fall under the children’s fiction genre, Handler also geared it towards adults a little bit, in that you won’t walk away from the series going, “that was stupid”. This series, in my opinion, should remain a classic for a very long time and should be one that you and your children enjoy.