Title: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events)Author: Lemony Snicket
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: September 30th, 1999
Genre: Junior Fiction, Fantasy
In a month it will have been eleven years since I first read this book, and I just re-read it today. It’s still wonderful, although books are never quite as magical as they were when I was younger. Oddly enough, I was first interested in this book when I saw one of the illustrations, which shows a baby captured in a hanging birdcage. Ten-year-old me was asking a friend what they were reading, and they let me flip through their book. I thought that it looked interesting and unlike anything I ever saw before, saw I decided to ask for it for Christmas. In retrospect, it’s a bit strange that I thought hanging babies equals a good book, but whatever. Years later, I told this friend how she was the one who got me into the series, and she told me that she actually hated those books. Reading reviews, a lot of people have wondered how kids could possibly have liked The Bad Beginning. I can honestly say that I loved this series and continued with it until the last book, which came out when I was sixteen. I also had a lot of friends who were big fans as well. As promised in the opening paragraph, this series is full of unhappiness and misery. But I appreciated Snicket’s dark humour from the start, which is essential if you are going to enjoy this series. I liked how Snicket addressed the reader and I enjoyed his humorous explanations of words. As it becomes clear later in the series, Lemony Snicket is actually connected to the Baudelaires and their world, although the reader doesn’t fully understand exactly how he is connected until the final volume. This was one of the things that made this book feel very original and unlike anything I’d ever read at the time. At the time, I was in elementary school and wasn’t good at any of the things that were ‘important’ at my school. Mainly sports, art, public speaking and math. At my grade school, being good at English wasn’t seen as important, so I loved reading about kids who get out of sticky situations through reading and using their heads. I liked the references to poetry (which is seen in the names of many characters, but the references are more apparent in the later books.) This series taught me about anagrams and how to send secret messages using poems. I thought all of this was fun and even refreshing, compared to what I usually read. Throughout the series, Snicket often provides explanations of bigger words. For example, “The money is an incentive - the word ‘incentive’ here means ‘an offered reward to persuade you to do something you don't want to do - to read long, dull, and difficult books.’” Reading The Bad Beginning as a young adult, I could see why some children would feel like they are being talked down to with these definitions. However, I feel that now that I’m older I’m always underestimating child readers and assuming they won’t ‘get’ certain things. Since I read this book first as a child I can tell you that I understood that these definitions were intended to be humorous and were often meant to be ridiculous. If you find something like this annoying, then don’t read these books. Snicket does a lot of telling and not a lot of showing, and the series starts stronger than it ends. If you don’t want to read a book where bad things happen to good people, then listen to the warnings the author gives and don’t read this book. That being said, I think these books are very clever and unique. They attract a certain type of person, but The Bad Beginning is a short book that’s worth reading. This is the book where all the trouble begins, and is perfect for anyone who enjoys quirky stories about intelligent children.
“They didn't understand it, but like so many unfortunate events in life, just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it isn't so.”