Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The literacy continues

In "A Series of Unfortunate Events", a 13-book series by Lemony Snicket, in book three, "The Wide Window", we see the three unfortunate orphans remanded by Mr. Poe to their "aunt" Josephine who lives in a rickety house perched, ready to fall down the cliff at any moment, high atop a ledge overlooking Lake Lachrymose. Her husband, their non-uncle Ike, has recently perished in the lake - not because he went swimming too soon after eating but because of the infamous Lake Lachrymose Leeches. The children find Josephine, who is really the children's second cousin's sister-in-law, frightened of almost everything imaginable, from doorknobs exploding to not turning the stove on because it might catch something on fire. There is nothing "aunt" Josephine is not totally and unreasonably frightened of. The children ask her about her deceased husband Ike.

"Yes," she said, in a faraway voice, "he was my husband, but he was much more than that. He was my best friend, my partner in grammar, and the only person I knew who could whistle with crackers in his mouth."

Later, over cold cucumber soup, 13-year-old Violet asks her if perhaps it might now be better if Aunt Josephine simply sold the rickety house.

"Oh, I could never sell this house!" ... [here the reader, and the children also, one assumes, briefly think the reason is because Ike and Josephine had such happy memories in this house] ... "I am terrified of realtors!"

Ah, well. Do you care to know if the house collapses into the lake? Would you like to learn how the children battle the Lake Lachymose Leeches? As we all used to end our short book reports in junior high school, THEN YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO READ THE BOOK ! Then we would sit down and be happy with our C+ grade.

This series was made into a very VERY compressed movie starring Jim Carey as the terrible Count Olaf. As I recall, the very short part about the house and Aunt Josephine starred Meryl Streep.

The children try to keep their series of unfortunate events in perspective. As Lemony Snicket explains, this means if you have a pimple on your nose, for example, it is still much more inconsequential than getting eaten by a bear.

This series of books will not teach you perspective, since the children are ALWAYS being eaten by some bear or other.


  1. My sister, not Shakespeare, sent me one or two of these books for my daughter when she was younger, but my daughter disliked them intensely, so I haven't really read them.

  2. I don't know the books at all. Lemony Snicket wasn't part of either of my my sons' reading lists, so I thought I'd see if I could find an excerpt online. I trundled off to Google to ask the question. Unfortunately between leaving here and arriving at Google, Lemony Snicket had become Lemony Picket. That just about says it all, I think. Good old Google, though, knew what I meant, even with two Ts.

    Anyway, I shall away and read Book the First which appears to be available pretty much in its entirety.

  3. Half way through, and enjoying it.

  4. @Stephanie Barr - I would guess these are mid-school level, up to age 14 or 15. A bit over my reading level, but I looked up a lot of the words. Why did your daughter dislike them? (I didn't even know you had a daughter that old.) :) Anyway, I liked them a lot.

    @A. - Google is a life saver. What are you halfway through with? Google?

    Oh, the first book. Where everyone but the baby dies in a plane crash at the end. You will love it.

  5. My daughter, who's always read at a more advanced age, was 10-12. She's fifteen now and would sneer if I even brought them up - if only because she can't like anything I like. She also has a predilection for horror and the like I can't explain.

    At the time, she found the books terribly depressing and, I know, they perk up as you go, but she wasn't willing to wait. She didn't really care for Harry Potter, either. Just goes to show.

  6. Sometimes one just needs more life experiences rather than just being technically capable of reading something. I know I have gone back and re-read things I thought I hated long ago and found I understood it better and thus liked it better. Sometimes if you don't have anything in your life to relate something to, that something doesn't seem funny at all, for example. I have a huge book on the American Civil war which I could have read at age 11 or maybe even earlier. But I would have hated it because I would have had no collection of other memories and leanings to relate to it. I like to read it now. I'm talking only about my own experiences, of course.



Related Posts with Thumbnails