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VINE VOICEon October 19, 2003
I went back and forth about whether I should get this book to read with my 7 year old second grader. I kept telling myself I should wait till she was older, but found the book at a good price, so I bought it. I worried it would be too depressing and scary for her, but it did not turn out that way at all. The book is written from a narrators point of view, so the personal feelings of the characters are never fully exposed and explored. You know that the three orphans are sad about their parents death, but the book doesn't wallow in their grief and make it painful to read. If you can imagine Vincent Price reading the book, that tends to make it a little more lighthearted. The bad guy of the book, Count Olaf, is an awful brute who is outright cruel to the children at times, but again the book doesn't have the children suffering without end. Instead it makes them more resilient to foil the Counts plans and triumph over him. My daughter was EAGER to read these books. That was the best thing about it all. We have tried classics, Pippi Longstocking, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Charlottes Web, but as great as they are, they lack The Bad Beginnings level of excitement, mystery and wondering what will happen next. I enjoyed the book myself and will continue to read the rest of the series, in hopes they are as entertaining as this one. I can see if you have a very sensitive child, this would not be the book for them until they are older. Some kids my daughters age are scared of Harry Potter movies, so this book would be too much for them. If your youngster isn't living in a sheltered world where everything is wonderful and bad things don't happen, and they can understand the difference between a made up story and a real one, then they just might enjoy this new type of childrens adventure stories.
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on May 1, 2000
If you like the part of Harry Potter when he's living under the stairs of the Dursley household, before the happy bit where he gets accepted to Wizard school, then you'll enjoy these books.
The Baudelaire orphans are nice and smart. But boy are they unlucky. The book opens with the Baudelaire parents dying in a fire and the orphans having to find a relative to look after them. Although there is a huge family fortune, they can't get it until Violet, the oldest at 14, turns 18. But this doesn't stop the dastardly (and there isn't really any other word to describe him) Count Olaf, a horrible and distant relative, and his nasty henchmen/women/things from trying to get their hands (or hooks) on it. And as far as Olaf is concerened, the Baudelaires are expendable, a word which here means "not needed after Count Olaf gets his hands on the money".
Just one word of warning--when the author says if you like cheerful books or happy endings, stop reading now, he means it. But if you like miserable scary books with unhappy endings, keep reading! And you'll learn lots of horrible words with depressing or unfortunate meanings as well.
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on January 2, 2000
I'm in 5th grade and I thought the book is great. It felt like I was in the book and I was Baudelaire child. I read the book in one whole day because I couldn't stop. The next day I read the sequel. I recommend this book to all.
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VINE VOICEon February 15, 2001
I came to this series as a result of an interview with the author that I read in Publishers Weekly. Intrigued, I ordered the first three books. I loved them. They are purportedly children's books but the author has a wicked sense of humor, and includes references that only adults would recognize. (For example, two of the three children are named Sunny and Klaus. Gee, that makes me think about some real-life wicked goings-on.)
Aside from everything else, these children actually come alive; they're inventive, clever and resourceful. They also suffer at the hands of their wonderfully conceived evil uncle Count Olaf.
I've passed these books along to a number of children who gobbled them up as avidly as I did--which proves that a good book knows no age barriers. This series is pure pleasure.
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on May 21, 2001
If you are the type of person who blames everyone but yourself for the evils of the world, by all means DON'T read these books. However, if you have a healthy sense of reality and humor (or want to raise children who will!) then read and enjoy these delightful tales.
Lemony Snicket writes for all those kids who know that adults aren't always on their side. His stories are funny, a little creepy and always interesting. The Baudelaire children are the best of what boy and girl heros in books should be and the adults, well, the adults might just be portrayed a little too accurately for some grown-ups to handle. As most children know, adults don't always do what's right, aren't always to be trusted and don't always believe what a child tells them. Reading some of the negative reviews here, some adults would prefer that children not know this. Silly grown-ups, your children already know far more than you understand.
My daughter and I have read book the first and are rapidly demolishing book the second. They are smart books the way Roald Dahl books are smart. The author explains a lot of words or phrases, but not, in my opinion, in a "dumbing down" way. Many of the explainations are useful even for adults who know what the words already mean... for example, the explaination of "literal" vs. "figurative" in book the first.
Enjoy the books and read them along with your kids. You'll be amazed at how much this writing stikes a chord with them!
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on April 17, 2001
Lemony Snicket's childrens' books collectively entitled _A Series of Unfortunate Events_ have received a certain amount of notice. I decided to give them a try. The schtick is that the books all involve unpleasant things happening to our heroes, a virtuous and intelligent trio of siblings, and that the endings are all unhappy. So it is with the first book, _The Bad Beginning_.
I admit to not being overwhelmed by the first book: I think it's the weakest of the series. But it's still worth reading, and note that the succeeding books get quite a lot better. I should add that my 11 year old daughter, after some hesitation ("Why would I want to read books about terrible things happening to kids?") tried them, and has become quite addicted.
The book opens with the three children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, alone at the beach when they learn that their house has been burned down and their parents have died. Things get worse as they are shuffled from the unpleasant home of their parents' executor, a banker named Poe, to the even more unpleasant home of their new guardian, a distant relative named Count Olaf. The Count covets the considerable fortune which is held in trust for the children. Eventually he concocts a diabolical scheme to gain control of the money, but at the last moment he is foiled (in a very unlikely fashion). This sounds like a happy ending, but Snicket pastes on a bit of a downer at the end to keep to his promise.
This book is interesting and a decent read, but in the end it was mostly gimmick. The writing was funny in spots, but not quite funny enough, and a bit precious. And the plotting wasn't really sufficiently inspired. Moreover, I was not able to forget the implausibility of the whole setup -- which I think more inspiration in the writing and plotting might have managed. Happily, the writing, at least, is better, funnier, archer, in the other books: or perhaps one simply becomes attuned to the voice. One of the great ongoing delights is the hints of his "personal life", apparently at least as unhappy as that of the Baudelaire children, that the author insinuates into the books. If _The Bad Beginning_ is not a complete success, it is an introduction to a so far quite satisfying series of stories.
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on June 30, 2004
Dear Amazon.com Readers,
While exploring the children's section of my local Barnes And Noble, searching for a Christmas present for a five-year-old friend of mine, I stumbled upon The Bad Beginning: Rare Edition (essentially the same book with added notes from the esteemed Mr. Snicket in the back). I quickly picked up the book, made my purchases, and headed home, nearly getting run over by an SUV driven by a woman talking on a cell phone AND putting on makeup at the same time.
When I got home, it occured to me that Nicholas' mother was rather protective and it might be a good idea for me to read the book first.
I was enthralled, a word which here means "distracted from everything else until the book was finished". =) All joking aside, I would not advise you to give this book to your children unless you know they are intelligent enough to distinguish fantasy from reality. The book features many lessons that it would behoove many young children to learn, such as how to deal with deaths in the family, abuse, as well as a large variety of other topics. I have read many reviews from overprotective parents as well as whiny pre-teen children who bemoan that this series is such a far cry from their sugar-coated "Fuzzy Bunny Learns To Share"-style books. Yes, this series is not for small children, nor is it for any adult who cannot enjoy a tragic comedy. But I highly reccomend this book to anyone intelligent enough to appreciate it. I am 16, and I cannot wait until I have my own children so that I can sit down and read them these stories...
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on January 17, 2000
My 5th grade daughter and I looked forward to each evening when together we would enjoy this witty and very different book. Truly a book that must be shared and read out loud for its greatest effect! My daughter especially enjoyed how the author would introduce a more difficult vocabulary word and then explain its meaning in an interesting fashion. Though not a book for young children or those who scare easily, certainly a wonderful read for those who love surprise, irony and humor and not your typical, predictable endings.
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on March 19, 2001
I purchased this book for my son (11). He gobbled it down in a day, and proceeded to books 2 and 3 in the next two days. I also read each of these books after he'd finished with them. The rapid series of unfortunate events makes this a real page-turner. I've heard no requests for extra TV time for the past three days. What better way to make reading a habit, vs. a forced exercise?
I don't think these books are NEARLY as frightening as say, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. While they may not be appropriate for children 8 and under, I think children above that age can appreciate this kind of outlandish misfortune for what it is.
Unlike other readers, I appreciated the author's explanations of unfamiliar words and phrases, and wish that more children's books would introduce unfamiliar vocabulary in this way. While this may be distracting for adults, and it's true that children could just as easily look the words up in a dictionary, how many children will actually stop to do so? My son was more likely to ask me the meaning of words after reading this book, vs. "barreling on through."
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on April 4, 2000
These books are sure to capture the attention of any reader. They are both funny and well-written, with fast-moving plots and memorable characters. Believe the description, though. If depressing events fill you with dismay and may cause you to lock yourself away for days following your reading of this book, perhaps you'd better abstain. Otherwise, these books belong on bookshelves beside Harry Potter, A Little Princess, Oliver Twist, and the Narnia Chronicles. Of course bad things happen to orphans. That's the purpose of their existence in the world of books. Come on now. Isn't it refreshing to have an author be honest about it for once?
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