Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Gr 4-6-This series chronicles the unfortunate lives of the Baudelaire children: Violet, 14; Klaus, 12; and the infant, Sunny. In Bad Beginning, their parents and possessions perish in a fire, and the orphans must use their talents to survive as their lives move from one disastrous event to another. Surrounded by dim-witted though well-meaning adults, the Baudelaires find themselves in the care of their evil relative, Count Olaf, a disreputable actor whose main concern is getting his hands on the children's fortune. When Olaf holds Sunny hostage to force Violet to marry him, it takes all of the siblings' resourcefulness to outwit him. Violet's inventive genius, Klaus's forte for research, and Sunny's gift for biting the bad guys at opportune moments save the day. However, the evil Count escapes, only to return in The Reptile Room just as the children are settling into a far more pleasant life with their new guardian, Uncle Monty, who is promptly murdered by Olaf and his cohorts. Though the villain escapes again, and beloved Uncle Monty is dead, the children are safe...for now. While the misfortunes hover on the edge of being ridiculous, Snicket's energetic blend of humor, dramatic irony, and literary flair makes it all perfectly believable. The writing, peppered with fairly sophisticated vocabulary and phrases, may seem daunting, but the inclusion of Snicket's perceptive definitions of difficult words makes these books challenging to older readers and excellent for reading aloud.-Linda Bindner, formerly at Athens Clarke County Library, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
"If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book." So cautions Snicket, the exceedingly well-mannered narrator of these two witty mock-gothic novels featuring the misadventures of 14-year-old Violet, 12-year-old Klaus and infant Sunny Baudelaire. From the first, things look unfortunate indeed for the trio: a fire destroys their home, killing their parents along with it; the executor of their parents' estate, the obtuse Mr. Poe (with a son, Edgar), ignores whatever the children have to say; and their new guardian, Count Olaf, is determined to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune. But by using their individual gifts (Violet's for inventing, Klaus's for reading and researching and baby Sunny's for biting) the three enterprising children thwart the Count's planÄfor now. The author uses formal, Latinate language and intrusive commentary to hilarious effect, even for readers unfamiliar with the literary conventions he parodies. The peril in which he places the Baudelaires may be frightening (Count Olaf actually follows through on his threats of violence on several occasions), but the author paints the satire with such broad strokes that most readers will view it from a safe distance. Luckily for fans, the woes of the Baudelaires are far from over; readers eager for more misfortune can turn to The Reptile Room, for an even more suspenseful tale. Exquisitely detailed drawings of Gothic gargoyles and mischievous eyes echo the contents of this elegantly designed hardcover. Age 9-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Gr. 4^-7. Alas, the poor Beaudelaire children! Violet, Klaus, and baby sister Sunny suffer all sorts of misfortunes, beginning when their parents die in a fire and they become wards of a distant cousin, evil Count Olaf. Author "Lemony Snicket" (a pseudonym, perhaps?) points out in an opening note, "It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing," and then proceeds to recount the story with relish aplenty. In The Reptile Room, it momentarily seems like the children might have a chance for happiness when they go to live with a kind reptile expert. Needless to say, Count Olaf makes certain their happiness doesn't last. The droll humor, reminiscent of Edwin Gorey's, will be lost on some children; others may not enjoy the old-fashioned storytelling style that frequently addresses the reader directly and includes many definitions of terms. But plenty of children will laugh at the over-the-top satire; hiss at the creepy, nefarious villains; and root for the intelligent, courageous, unfortunate Beaudelaire orphans. --Susan Dove Lempke
Horn Book Review
Three orphans are sent to live with evil Count Olaf, who desperately plots to secure their inheritance. In the second volume, the children find happiness with a kindly herpetologist uncle until Olaf appears to cause more trouble. Related by a (per)snickety narrator, the books' unbelievable plot turns and one-dimensional characters parody bygone dime novels, but stylistic flourishes keep the stories entertaining. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.