In a series of 13 books, A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, on a journey fraught with peril as time and again they attempt to escape from the evil Count Olaf, who is after the family fortune. The Wide Window, book three in the series, chronicles the unlucky children’s placement with their second legal guardian, Aunt Josephine. (In case you were wondering, the first guardian is dead.) The orphans are placed in a (literally) precarious position- a rickety old house built on the side of a cliff overlooking the carnivorous leech-infested Lacrymose Lake. Aunt Josephine is a kind but misguided old woman with a plethora of irrational fears. To top it all off, Aunt Josephine has recently made friends with the suspicious sailor, “Captain Sham” (who is really Count Olaf in disguise). Alas, though the orphans can see through the ruse, both their guardian and lawyer prove to be remarkably stupid, playing right into Olaf’s spidery hands every time. Spoiler warning: The brave and resourceful children manage to get themselves out of several life-threatening situations, as well as reveal Captain Sham’s true identity, but are unable to save their newest guardian from a tragic fate. Oh, and the Count gets away scot-free. But never fear! There are 10 books to go!
Being myself a fan of the happy ending, I was surprised as a young reader to discover that I actually enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I eagerly plowed through all thirteen books in a relatively short amount of time. I started reading the series as a sort of challenge to the author. Children’s tragedies? Really? What an odd idea… children’s stories should be happy, should show the heroic being rewarded for their courage and the evil being punished for their wrong. But the world doesn’t always work that way, and neither do Lemony Snicket’s stories. But these books are more than fairytales gone wrong. The reader is drawn into the series because of its uncanny connection to reality- and at the end, feels almost as if he has become a character in the grand adventure of the Baudelaires. The Wide Window is typical of the earlier books in the series, written with a simple and somewhat predictable plot, but also containing clues that point to the end of the story and leave you hungry for more. The books are an easy read for upper elementary students, but even adults can appreciate the irony and cleverness of Lemony Snicket as he masterfully strings the series together in a captivatingly cohesive tale.
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