The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1)
I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.
In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.
It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.
With all due respect,
My thoughts on this book:
Up until now, the three Baudelaire children have lived a fairly lavish life. Until a raging fire burns through their home with their parents inside. Their deaths are suspicious and nobody really knows how the fire started in the first place. Now they have nothing left and Mr. Poe must find a relative that’s willing to take on the responsibility of caring for them.
“Mr. Poe opened his mouth to say something, but erupted into a brief fit of coughing. “I have made arrangements,” he said finally, “for you to be raised by a distant relative of yours who lives on the other side of town. His name is Count Olaf.”
When the children are delivered to their new caretaker (Count Olaf), their hope is that their life will take a turn for the better. However, it seems that Count Olaf’s only interest is gaining their family fortune and the Baudelaire children must find a way to protect themselves from his nasty schemes.
There were comical parts in the book and surely the whole story isn’t just bad events happening to the children. I felt that there were positive aspects too. I personally admired how the children stood together and had each other’s back. They’re intelligent kids–effective problem solvers–and make the best out of the predicament they’re in. Also, there are many important messages about family, trust, embracing what you have and making the best of it. For me, the biggest takeaway was that justice and life in general don’t always work in our favor as the adults who are supposed to be the protectors make one mistake after another in this book. It’s enough to drive one mad and reminded me of how crazy things can get when deranged people have power and control over others, especially children.
I enjoyed the writing and thought it was really easy to follow. We loved the illustrations, but found ourselves wanting more because there aren’t that many and mainly just at the beginning of each chapter. There are frequent new vocabulary words introduced for children to learn and I appreciated the addition of them with thorough explanations.
“It is very useful, when one is young, to learn the difference between “literally” and “figuratively.” If something happens literally, it actually happens; if something happens figuratively, it feels like it is happening.
If you are literally jumping for joy, for instance, it means you are leaping in the air because you are very happy. If you are figuratively jumping for joy, it means you are so happy that you could jump for joy, but are saving your energy for other matters.”
The ending is left wide-open for the second book, The Reptile Room. I’m really looking forward to starting the next book and reading this whole series. My plan is to read them all with my kids before we start the Netflix series.
- Age Range: 8 – 12 years
- Grade Level: 5 and up
- Paperback: 162 pages
- Publisher: Scholastic (2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0439206472
- ISBN-13: 978-0439206471