Some kids grew up on Harry Potter. Others grew up on Narnia or the Hobbit, maybe Little House on the Prairie or Magic Tree-house books. Me? I grew up on A Series of Unfortunate Events.
I first started reading the series in 3rd grade, when my small private school library only had Book 9, “The Carnivorous Carnival”. In my two years at that school I managed to read every book in the library, but I didn’t remember any of the others as much as I did that one. If you have never read A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, it is a story about three children with extraordinary talents who live a happy life until their parents are killed in a strange and mysterious fire. Throughout the story the children are sent from relative to relative as they try to escape from Count Olaf, an evil man who desperately wants their fortune, and solve the mystery of their parent’s death.
If you have read this book series, then you will understand my saying that these books are not written like a normal children’s book. At all. Lemony Snicket (in real life known as Daniel Handler) writes in a way that is strange and dark and funny, using difficult vocabulary and complete utter nonsense to make the books humorous, while in reality A Series of Unfortunate Events is as grizzly as its title.
“Books about law are notorious for being very long, very dull, and very difficult to read. This is one reason many lawyers make heaps of money. 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.” – Lemony Snicket, “The Bad Beginning”
“If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats.” – Lemony Snicket, “The Wide Window”
Its thirteen books are filled with hundreds of terrible things happening to three innocent children who have never done anything to deserve so much misfortune. They watch friends get taken away and family members die, only to be sucked back into their vicious cycle with more questions than answers, and yet Daniel Handler’s writing makes you completely forget you are reading a depressing book at all.
The reason I am writing this post is because I owe a lot to Mr. Daniel Handler and his books because they have taught me so much. I think that reading these books has turned me into the writer I am today and also made me what I call a “realistic optimist”. Unlike many other books we read as children, A Series of Unfortunate Events teaches us that life doesn’t always have a happy ending.
“If you enjoy books with happy endings then you are better off reading some other book.” – Lemony Snicket, “The Bad Beginning”
In fact, there are rarely any happy endings. Bad things can happen to good people and good things can happen to bad people. Grown-ups will believe that children are silly and wrong even when they may be telling the truth. Most importantly, these books teach us that not all questions to be answered. I have read these books over and over again and also All the Wrong Questions, Lemony Snicket’s new addition to series, and no matter how many times I read the books I leave them with more questions then answers. And that is what is so great about them. It’s this idea that life is one great big mystery and that strange and unfortunate things happen, but we can get through it as long as we stick with the people that love us and keep moving forward.
“Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.” – Lemony Snicket “The Beatrice Letters”