THE BAD BEGINNING by Lemony Snicket


Age Range: 10 - 12
Featured vintage review selection (week of April 1, 2013)
Email this review
Note from Kirkus' Vintage Review Editor:

Lemony Snicket, the dastardly and beloved kid’s writer, publishes a new picture book, The Dark, this week. We’re glad to see him back. Picture books aren’t Mr. Snicket’s original form, however; he’s best known for his Series of Unfortunate Events books detailing the ill-fated Baudelaire kids: Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny. These sad little waifs are handed off to their relative Count Olaf after their parents die in a fire; Count Olaf is either “a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” Snicket opened up the dark possibilities for kid’s literature with his first Unfortunate Events book, The Bad Beginning, which we share with you this week.


The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-440766-7
Page count: 162pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999


ChildrenSWARM OF BEES by Lemony Snicket
by Lemony Snicket
ChildrenTHE BAD MOOD AND THE STICK by Lemony Snicket
by Lemony Snicket
ChildrenGOLDFISH GHOST by Lemony Snicket
by Lemony Snicket


ChildrenLOST AND FOUND by Obert Skye
by Obert Skye
ChildrenMS. RAPSCOTT'S GIRLS by Elise Primavera
by Elise Primavera
ChildrenA DREADFUL FAIRY BOOK by Jon Etter
by Jon Etter