Into the Book


A Series of Unfotunate Events: The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket

I’d heard so much about these books that I decided to pick up the first one for a few dollars at a book fair last week. Despite having seen the film a few years ago, I was unsure about the series. What actually decided me was an article on novel writing by Lemony Snicket that was so well-written and so funny that it left me wanting to see more of his writing.

Even though it is a childrens’ book, I enjoyed it immensely, reading the entire story in one sitting. Perhaps I could almost say because it is a childrens’ book, as that is no doubt why it is so simple and clean. Adult books, in my experience, lack one or both of these qualities.

I was not disappointed in the humor — the seemingly tragic tale had me giggling out loud multiple times. You might wonder, as I did, what is so funny about three sweet, kind, smart children who are suddenly orphaned and then subjected to a sequence of terrible adventures? The short answer is — Lemony Snicket’s writing. He has a way with words that manages to cast the most bleak situation in a hilarious light. And the situations he comes up with are so unusual and unique that they are comical in and of themselves.

There is no swearing, no immorality, no disrespect of parents, no violence, or any other objectionable content. However, there are several things — most of the book, in fact — that might be disturbing to some children. Count Olaf, the children’s guardian, is the most horrible guardian anyone could ever imagine, poking the children into a dark, bare attic and feeding them on nothing but cold porridge, striking them, and even trying to force a marriage on the oldest girl, Violet. His associates might be unsettling to some — a man with a hook for a hand, one person who looks like neither a man nor a woman, and so forth. It would really depend on the person reading, so parents should carefully consider their child before allowing the book.

The family relations are refreshing. The children have only fond, respectful memories of their parents, and they love each other devotedly. The two older children are willing to give their freedom, fortune and happiness to save the life of their baby sister.

I didn’t entirely appreciate the way that all the adults in the story (well, all the live ones anyway) were portrayed as either evil or stupid. As is often the case in modern stories, the children were the only sensible people in the book. However, the children do take proper steps in their attempt to receive justice — rather than trying to handle the situation themselves, they first go to other adults for help. Unfortunately, no one listens to them, and they are forced to take things into their own hands. In the end, their solutions are clever and inventive, and when the thick-headed adults finally realize what’s really going on, they step up and make things right.

To sum up, the book is well-written, enjoyable, and clean, but parents are cautioned to beware of potentially disturbing elements. I for one, plan on picking up the rest of the series when I get a chance, and am eager to find out the fate of these poor children, and to enjoy more of Lemony Snicket’s delightful style.
Grace Pennington is a homeschool graduate, a prolific writer, and the oldest of nine kids. She's partial to Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, and Daniel Schwabauer, but will consider almost any book. Most of all, she loves Jesus and desires to live her life for Him.


  1. This is a great series, and one I thoroughly enjoyed (even though I wasn't expecting to). Clever, extremely funny, and well-written. The movie was good - and Jim Carrey is THE Count Olaf, in my opinion - but I still prefer the books overall.

    I love how (as you noted) the siblings are loyal and devoted to one another. They love each other, help each other, and work together - rather than squabbling and acting like self-centered ninnyhammers, which is pretty much the normal pattern of behavior for children in modern fiction.

    Cracking review, Grace. Glad you enjoyed the books, too. :D

    1. I couldn't agree more. :D Yes, Jim Carrey is so Count Olaf. I need to read the rest of the books...

      Thanks for your comment!

    2. They're all good, but The Miserable Mill and The Ersatz Elevator are two of my favs. :)

  2. My sister and I read this series as it came out years ago, it still stands out as a series that we enjoyed immensely and occasionally still reference when joking around.

    Great review, Grace, thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Mike! I'm glad you liked the review.

  3. I read the entire series twice and loved every minute of it. Great series.


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