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A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning – A Review

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” is a series of books for children chronicling the lives of the Baudelaire children after their parents are killed in a fire that burnt down their home. The first book in the series, which I’ll be reviewing here, is called the Bad Beginning and it isn’t very long.
The author begins the book by warning us that this is a very sad story about 3 extremely unlucky children and that from the very first page they keep finding themselves in misfortune. He goes on to say that if you don’t like unhappy tales you should put the book down at once and find something more pleasant to read. I liked that a lot because it does get you overly excited to see exactly what he means.
The children: Violet, Klaus and Sunny, are each brilliant in their own ways. Violet, the oldest, is 14 years old and has the gift of inventing and mechanics. Klaus is 12 years old, the only boy, and is an avid reader who remembers a lot off what he read. Sunny’s age isn’t quite revealed in this book but I’d guess she’s just over 1 year old because she’s described as have 4 teeth and a fondness of biting things.
After the children’s parents die, their will is discovered in which their parents, perhaps, in what my own father once told me (a story for another post), what was an attempt to maintain consistency and normalcy in their lives, had decreed that the child would stay with their closet living relative.
Unfortunately for the children, this turns out to be an uncle of theirs called Count Olaf who, from the very second they move into this house, makes it very clear he only wants the children for the fortune their parents left them. However, he can’t touch that money because it has been left on trust until the oldest child Violet turns, 21.
Count Olaf lives in a dilapidated mansion that is dirty, dusty and grimy. He immediately sets the children to cleaning it up and other such nonsense. In one particularly memorable incident, he leaves a note announcing that he’s about to have 10 people coming over from his theatre group for dinner and he wants the children to make dinner; never mind the kids don’t know how to cook or have never bought groceries. They however manage to get around their predicament and make some pasta. Count Olaf on the other hand was expecting beef and shouts at the children for not preparing it, despite have left no such instructions.
Count Olaf, whom we’ve already said is only interested in the children’s money, hatches a scheme in which he will marry Violet and become custodian of her fortune. I won’t tell you how it works, you’ll have to read the book to find out how he plans to pull it off and how the children discover his scheme and how he’s thwarted.
My first encounter with this series of books is actually through the movie based on the books. What I liked about the movie is exactly are same reasons I loved the books. First of all it’s about children, children who are gifted and gutsy and I’ve always loved reading about such children. Second there’s the fact that adults never seem to listen to them though what they’re saying is quite true and would have helped avoid a lot of trouble. Finally, there’s how the children figure their way out of each situation; it shows an initiative few children would have.
For a children’s book, I felt it was quite brilliantly written. Difficult words were explained right within the story meaning that if kids are reading it, their vocabulary improves. It also teaches the importance of reading, critical thinking and taking initiative. While I feel it would be a difficult book for adults to read and take too seriously, I think the way the Baudelaire got out of the marriage plot at the very end was extremely brilliant, whether you’re a kid or adult. In fact, being an adult would be an added benefit because you actually understand just how brilliant it was. It’s a series I’ll definitely be getting for my kids when I finally get them and I think you should too. Peace!!!