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The Bad Beginning
Posted 10/30/03

The Bad Beginning

By Amber Patton, 13, Y-PRESS

The Bad Beginning
Lemony Snicket
List price: $10.99 (Hardcover)

Reading level: Ages 9-12


Buy It Now

The Bad Beginning is a tragic tale about three children whose parents die in a fire and the horrible situations that happen to them afterward. Even though parts of the story are devastating, the children’s maze-like journey makes this book an entertaining read.

The Bad Beginning is told from the point of view of the author, Lemony Snicket, who has an unusual style: He makes bad situations seem humorous, although they have disastrous consequences.

The plot follows the adventures of the Baudelaire children: 14-year-old Violet, who takes responsibility for her siblings; 12-year-old Klaus, who loves to read books; and Sunny, an infant who likes to gnaw on everything.

Before the fire, the Baudelaire family was happy and lived in a big mansion. After the accident, Mr. Poe, the trustee of the children’s inheritance, has to make sure that the children are sent to live with a relative who can care for all three.

The children move in with their uncle, Count Olaf, who is an actor and a very mean person. Count Olaf makes them do dishes, cook meals and act in his plays. He even comes up with a disturbing plan to marry Violet so he can steal their fortune! He asks Violet, “Would it be so terrible to be my bride, to live in my house for the rest of your life?” Violet believes it would:

Violet imagined sleeping beside Count Olaf, and waking up each morning to look at this terrible man. She pictured wandering around the house, trying to avoid him all day, and cooking for his terrible friends at night, perhaps every night, for the rest of her life.

Snicket writes his books in a convincing way, although sometimes he intentionally misleads readers and sends their minds in all different directions.

The Bad Beginning is the first book in The Series of Unfortunate Events. The children’s adventures continue through eight other books.

Although The Bad Beginning is intended for readers ages 9 to 12, each chapter begins with an illustration. Some people might think 9-year-olds should avoid picture books, but the illustrations actually are a big part of the story.

For example, in Chapter 9 an illustration of a dangling cage helps readers imagine the tower where Sunny is being held.

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this unique book. Even readers ages 13 and up will wonder why the Baudelaire children just don’t go and live on their own. I would recommend The Bad Beginning to anyone who likes a good mystery or puzzling situations.

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