Petalfrog’s #CBR5 #2: A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

I’ve long been a fan of the quirkier children’s books. Roald Dahl has always been my favorite. He has a way of putting kids in awful situations and bringing a wacky sense of humour and resilience to them. He introduces crazy situations, and the kids always pull through. So, when I saw the first in A Series of Unfortunate Events was on wicked sale on I jumped right on it.

This book certainly featured kids in an awful situation. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are three happy and life-loving kids. When their parents die tragically in a house fire, they are sent to live with their distant relative, the mean and somewhat sociopathic Count Olaf. The kids quickly realize Count Olaf is working on a plot to get to their extensive inheritance. The story is a quick read (167 pages), and I found my heart breaking for the kids throughout. Some of the situations were almost too upsetting (I am such a softie) for a kids’ book (I could see younger kids being really scared by Olaf and his meanness), and lacked the Roald Dahl wacky humour to balance things out. We’ve got some malnutrition, neglect, face-slapping, and some random (non-sexual) incest thrown in.

Overall, it’s a bizarre scenario and a sort of bizarre little story, and maybe I’m being entirely too prudish about the whole thing (I readily admit). I did feel really invested in the story and the kids, but when they triumphed (of course) at the end, I didn’t find myself wanting to cheer. Rather, I just felt a sense of relief that no more horribleness would happen to these sweet kids in this book (obviously more unfortunate stuff will happen in the rest of the series). I felt the book lacked the light airiness and whimsy required in a book where mean and bad stuff happens to kids. I just wound up wishing it was a Roald Dahl book instead…