Series of Unfortunate Events

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In the very first book of this engaging series, author Lemony Snicket warns readers that "if you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only there is no happy ending, there is no happy beginning, and very few happy things in the middle." And if you're okay with that fact, then suddenly you're off, following the unfortunate but resourceful Baudelaire orphans through book after book of trial and tragedy. Of course, the journey is not without its rewards, and all is not quite so dismal and dreary as it first appears. Against the gray and misty framework of these story gleam the real gems, the Baudelaire orphans themselves. Violet, the inventor is the eldest at fourteen, followed by the thoughtful, well-read twelve-year old Klaus, and Sunny, the baby, whose primary talent is the ability to bite on and through most things. What makes this series stand out against a host of other children's books is the fact that this lonely trio of siblings works together like a well-oiled machine, each using their special talent to help get themselves out of the "unfortunate" circumstances that follow them from book to book. If trapped in a tower, Violet will invent a gadget to help them escape, if trying to outwit their enemy, Klaus is able to find a book to get the information they need, and if something or someone stands in their way, Sunny will try to bite through it. The effect is that of the Boxcar children dropped into a modern yet zany Charles Dickens scene. Another appealing aspect of the series is that it attempts to incorporate more complex and higher-level vocabulary into the conversations of the characters, but, instead of acting merely as a "go and look it up" tool, one of the characters or the narrator will usually explain it, to the benefit of the reader. While you would think these would create a stilted dialogue, this actually works here and saves the reader the frustration of running to the dictionary, or (gasp!) skipping over a word that they don't understand. On a more cautionary note about vocabulary, however, on p. 94 of the second book the evil Count Olaf does utter a more unacceptable version of "darn" which quite offends the children, and is pointed out by the author as being a highly unacceptable word to use. However, this is the only questionable language I have found through Book 4. All in all, these are very original, frequently funny, and highly entertaining. While reviewing them, I didn't want to stop reading, and read the first four cover to cover! - Jess

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