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Thank you so much for all your responses - I knew exactly who would be the
best people to ask.  So many of you went to so much time to really give me
a feel for the series that I feel almost an expert. :>}

And I learned cartloads - like Lemony Snicket is the author, not the
character  :>}

Anyway, below is a cut n paste of the responses which were mixed - easier
to summarise as many said similar things - and I will be reading the first
in the series asap to see if they will be appropriate for my kids.  (Series
with recurring characters are v-e-r-y big with my kids right now - have a
theory that the characters are the only stable things in some kids' lives.)

I'm sorry that the hit is so plain in presentation but the content gives
much food for thought.

In the meantime, I've come across a couple of books that kids who like
adventures might enjoy but will tell you about those in another post.

Thanks again,

The Series
There are 4 Lemony Snicket books in a series entitled A Series of
Unfortunate Events.  The 4 book titles are:
The Bad Beginning
The Reptile Room
The Wide Window
and The Miserable Mill

The Plot
The main characters are
> the three Baudelaire children who have been orphaned by a "terrible house
> fire" (as if there were any other kind...). They stand to inherit a
> but are constantly being threatened by the villain who disdains them and
> wants those big bucks.

It is the story of 3 orphaned siblings who have inherited a fortune that
their wicked relative,
Count Olaf, tries to steal deviously in each book while also trying to get
rid of the 3 children.  Snicket does a wonderful job of telling the story
with humor and suspense.  He also does something unique in that he teaches
vocabulary throughout the stories by using unusual words (for elementary
aged students anyway) that he defines with examples as well as in the
context of the story.

Different from Harry, in that the kids 3
siblings orphaned in a most tragic way, use their wits to avoid the
acts of the relative that they have been sent to live with

it's about 3 children who get in an awful mess--their
parents die and they are adopted by a horrible uncle who constantly schemes
to get their fortune. Even though they are all 3 bright and interesting
children, by the end of the book they are not able to save themselves and
book ends on a very bad note & leaves the reader feeling way off balance.

The main characters are very inventive and self-reliant which they have to
be since
their entire life is a series of misfortunes. They read like a melodrama,
but they are funny. In a way they remind me of Roald Dahl--some very evil

There are 5:  Bad Beginning, Reptile Room, Wide Window Miserable Mill and
Austere Academy.  The
series is called "A series of Unfortunate Events".  They follow the
travails of
three newly-orphaned children.  In fact, they become orphans in the first
chapter of the first book, because good things just do not happen to these
children.  Thus, the title.  They are shipped off to live with a distant
relative until the oldest one reaches her majority;  this relative is the
Count Olaf who tries to steal their fortune by trying to marry the oldest
girl.  They are narrowly saved by their own devices and Count Olaf escapes
threaten them anew in each book.

The Author
I have presumed from the beginning that the author was really a 'pen
name'...if you look at http://www.lemonysnicket.com/index.html (you get the
same page off of Harper Collin's site) you will find that this is basically
verified by the tone of the site...now just WHO is Lemony Snicket!???

His real name is Daniel Handler - my curiosity was piqued and I did a quick
search and found the following:

I LOVE those books! I used to work in a 5-6 building and talked about them
all the time!!
Now, I'm at a K-1 building. I miss talking to the kids about those books!!

The Reptile Room has d--n in it, but other than that I don't recall any
strong language.  I think
they are clever books and Reptile Room is especially amusing at times. If
you don't go into them expecting Harry Potter I don't think you will be
disappointed.  They are, again, clever, not brilliant, in my opinion

I would love to read them out loud to 5th or 6th graders. I especially
that gifted readers will especially appreciate the humor. They are just so

Because of the sophistication of the humor, I would recommend it
for 5th and above

Many of the members of the rec.arts.books.childrens newsgroup praise him
highly.  If you go to deja.com & look for newsgroup archives, you can
find their comments about his work.  I believe Lemony Snicket is a
pseudonym; he also writes under his given name -- that's also in the
newsgroup archives.

I think the books are more than dismal as in their basic plot.  I can't
imagine that elementary school age children would find them anything other
than wildly depressing.  They aim toward Roald Dahl style humor but miss
mark by a considerable distance.  In fact, distance yourself from them if

The Georgia Book Awards committee is reading one of the Lemony Snicket
books for consideration.  I tried reading it and was so depressed after
about 3 chapters that I couldn't finish it.  Nothing good happened to the
children in the part I read.  Maybe I didn't read far enough.  Harry Potter
grabbed me in the first chapter.

I have been reading the first of the Lemony Snicket books to my fifth
graders as a read-aloud. I thought that it might be too advanced for some
my less advanced students, but to my surprise, they all love it. So far,
there are six books in the series with seven more planned.

I have read all 4 and they are very entertaining. I recommend them highly

I found the books wonderfully refreshing not because they are happy and
positive, but because they are very different from a lot of the literature
children are reading.  In fact, the have a very sad side.

I didn't read the whole book but I was impressed with the part I did read.

I have to admit they are pretty weird but they are fun.
You have to count on the readers having a good sense of humor. If you read
the back of the book it says something like - if you like books that are
happy with happy endings this book is not for you. No kidding. Everything
that can happen does happen. Even when you think something good is going to
happen it turns sour. And of course the author's name is a pen name. I
they are fine for 4th and 5th graders and even older. A good sense of humor
is a must!

Children will love these and they will give their parents the willies,
there is very little pretty in these books.  The kids are very unlikely to
into an adult with any sense and have to save themselves.  If anyone is
nice to
the children, they usually get killed by Count Olaf.  There is a little bit
child abuse and a whole lot of nastiness by Count Olaf.  BUT  the author is
good that they are a fun set of books to read.  If he uses a word or a
which is probably new to the reader, he includes a deftly worded definition
explanation.  He warns you from the first page that you shouldn't read this
you like books with happy endings.

These are some fun books.  I am  in a junior high, have all 5, and
have some on reserve due to popularity.  He uses some pretty big
vocabulary words for middle grades, but always explains what he
means, which is a great way to build vocab.

Both were popular sellers and purchased for the school library.

I've read the first book by Lemony Snicket. I gave it to my daughter to
and she hated it

I liked them very much because they
> are tongue-in-cheek horror.  I have just begun loaning them out to
> and am anxious to see their reactions.  Bad Beginning was on Scholastic's
> book fair videotape and my 5th and 6th grade students were delightedly
> gushing "Ewww...gross...!!!" at the villain's ankle tattoo of an eye.
> some reason, that really caught their attention.

I have all five books by Lemony Snicket in my K-6 school and they are
ever in. One of my teachers has fallen in love with them and is eagerly
awaiting the 6th one that will be out in the spring.

I have read The Bad Beginnings by Lemony Snicket (first in a series) and
loved it. It is not Harry Potter but it is good. I booktalked it to sixth
graders and they were excited. It is easy reading for those who feel left
of the HP craze.

Supposedly, there will be 13 books--how fitting--written by Lemony Snicket
which I feel is a pseudonym.  I can't keep the first 5 on the shelf and the
hold list is at least five deep.  In fact, the kids are screaming for #6.
I recommend beginning with the Bad Beginning (#1) so that readers will be
able to put the characters in their proper perspective.

The books here are a hit. I read the first tale to 4th graders last year
and I can't keep them in the library

Lemony Snicket books are fine for 4th & 5th graders.  The first book of the
series is on our Battle of the Book list this year.

I just purchased the series and they don't stay on the shelves.  The series
is An Unfortunate Series of Events.  The NY Times Book Review had a recent,
favorable review.  I want to read them, but they're always on reserve

Other Comments
I introduced these books to a children's literature discussion group
librarians) and one librarian (and her 10-year-old son) especially loved
them. They already are planning a trip in March to go to Kansas City to
Mr. Snicket (a 8-hour drive). However, someone else heard that Mr. Snicket
never shows up and an editor kindly steps in. (We're pretty sure that Mr.
Snicket doesn't really exist!)

Scholastic has a great LS web page. I copied several things from it to
generate more interest and the kids are going crazy over all of the books.
My reserve list is a mile long. The villain in all the stories is the evil
Count Olaf who is trying to get the fortunes of the three Baudelaire
orphans. He has an eye tattooed on his left ankle. Just to be silly, on one
handout I jotted a little memo that "reading too many LS books could be
dangerous - just ask Mrs. Markey!". A Band-Aid company happened to recently
begin making clear Band-Aids with silly tattoo designs. I wore the eye
tattoo Band-Aid on my arm - the students went nuts! Not a good idea if you
like quiet library periods. Let me know if you buy the books and would like
to have some fun with the kids. I'll send you some Band-Aids.

I finished the first of the _A Series of Unfortunate Events_ books
last night and got about halfway through the second.  The next
Harry Potter?  No way!  I found their humor to be rather odd,
although amusing at times, but I suspect most of the funniest bits
will be over the kids' heads ("He taught them...to never, under any
circumstances, let the Virginian Wolfsnake near a typewriter.)

I read a portion of the first book and they
are cleverly written.  It's hard to describe...the author speaks directly
the reader as an author rather than a character, and he makes comments on
the characters themselves.  The premise sounds dismal...3 orphaned children
who live a miserable life but the books are well written and will appeal to
readers from 3rd or 4th grade upwards.  I have a 7th grade student reading

His books are a lot shorter that the Harry Potter books.

The best part of the book, I think, is that it builds a child's vocabulary
in a most interesting
way. The author uses "asides."

The book reminds me of Roald Dahl or maybe Jon Scieszka, with dark humor
ironic asides to the reader. It does not have the depth of plot or
or the magic that Rowling's books have. I did like the way the book looks,
the illustrations etc. I was under the impression that this was to be the
first in a series of books, and maybe things turn out all right in the
book, which would be an interesting publishing ploy....you have to read the
next book to get satisfaction. Hmmm. Would like to hear what others say. I
personally am suspending judgement until I've read at least another one by

I loved the first two; tolerated the 2nd two, because they were getting
formulaic; and loved the fifth because he had enough difference to make it
interesting again.  The adults are still stupid, cruel and useless, but my
has a healthy sense of real and imaginary, so I'm not worried about his
scarred for life by them.  I love them and have a group of teachers at my
reading them also.  The 7,8,9th graders are just starting to pick them up.
say, give it a shot.  They are awfully fun

Barbara Braxton
Teacher Librarian
Palmerston District Primary School

T. 02 6205 6162
F. 02 6205 7242
E. barbara@dynamite.com.au
W. http://www.palmdps.act.edu.au
"Together, we learn from each other."

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