Published: September 30, 1999
Page Count: 162 pages
Source: McKay's Used Bookstore
Series: Series of Unfortunate Events, #1
In this first book, readers are introduced to the unfortunate Baudelaire children -- 14-year-old Violet, 12-year-old Klaus, and their infant sister, Sunny -- when they learn they've just been orphaned by a terrible house fire.
The executor of the Baudelaire estate -- a phlegm-plagued banker named Mr. Poe - sends the children to live with a distant relative: a conniving and dastardly villain named Count Olaf, who has designs on the Baudelaire fortune. Count Olaf uses the children as slave labor, provides horrid accommodations for them, and makes them cook huge meals for him and his acting troupe, a bunch of odd-looking, renegade good-for-nothings. When the children are commandeered to appear in Count Olaf's new play, they grow suspicious and soon learn that the play is not the innocent performance it seems but rather a scheme cooked up by Olaf to help him gain control of the children's millions.
All this bad luck does provide for both great fun and great learning opportunities, however. Violet is a budding McGyver whose inventions help the children in their quest, Klaus possesses a great deal of book smarts, and Sunny -- whose only real ability is an incredibly strong bite -- provides moral support and frequent comedy relief. Then there are the many amusing word definitions, colloquialisms, clichés, hackneyed phrases, and other snippets of language provided by the narrator (a character in his own right) that can't help but expand readers' vocabularies. Though the Baudelaire children suffer myriad hardships and setbacks, in the end they do manage to outsmart and expose Olaf's devious ways. But of course, with luck like theirs, it's a given that Olaf will escape and return to torment them again some day. If only misery was always this much fun.
In this tale of grief and despair, Lemony Snicket (A.K.A. Daniel Handler) captivated me into the story and invested me into the characters and the wickedness of a person that is Count Olaf.
The writing style is probably the best middle grade writing style. When “big words” appear in the book, Snicket takes time to explain to the reader the definition of that word. The style in which Lemony Snicket writes the book is filled with sorrow and sadness, but for some reason, it’s so much fun to read about and I seriously couldn’t put it down.
Count Olaf is one of my favorite villains of all time. His comebacks to anybody he talks to is very entertaining, and the way that the Baudelaire children try to escape from his cruel ways are very powerful. They had me cheering them on!
And the whole ending of the book had me on the edge of my seat. I hate it when a book has an unrealistic ending because the author needed a way for the problem to be solved. I just knew that that strategy would be used in this book, but I was so wrong. This would be a great book to go back and re-read to understand the foreshadowing that slipped under my nose while I read it.
And the illustrations in the book were fantastic. I’m not sure who drew the pictures (I probably should have looked that up), but they did a great job and really represented the story amazingly.
Overall, THE BAD BEGINNING was an excellent middle-grade with misfortune, funny dialogue, and a wonderful ending that was very realistic. This series is going to be great!
M Y R A T I N G: