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    HarperCollins, 1999

    When their (rich) parents are killed in a fire, three children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny become orphans. Their banker takes them to live with him, briefly, while he searches for a family member to take over their care. Living with the banker is horrible, but their distant cousin, Count Olaf, is far worse. Count Olaf plans on leaving the children alive only as long as it takes for him to get his hands on their parents' money. Unfortunately for him, the banker doesn't intend to give up any of the money--until Violet reaches eighteen. But Count Olaf thinks up a way around this objection.

    Author Lemony Snicket will delight young readers who tire of happily-ever-after stories and want something a little more gruesome, a little more horrible. Count Olaf is horrible, but even the 'good' characters like Justice Strauss are caught up in their own self, neglecting to look out after the helpless. As with any good fairy story, the young children never stop working for their own solutions, certainly not depending on the good will of others to save them. But everything they do seems only to land them in worse trouble.

    A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS: THE BAD BEGINNING is a cute story, filled with author intrusions as he explains words, warns of worse things to come, and generally has a good time with the story. Snicket somehow manages to use this device to increase, rather than reduce suspense as readers try to guess what horrible twist the children must face next. I'd guess this book would be appreciated best by readers in the 4th-5th grades. Even older readers (and adults) will have fun with it, however.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 9/16/06

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