Amber (10) and I have been listening to the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket in the car this summer. So far, we’ve heard #1 through #6 and we’ve just started the 7th. I have to say I’ve been enjoying them and of course she has or we wouldn’t keep borrowing new ones from the library.

I’m not going to go into the plot for each one. Suffice it to say that three young orphans go from guardian to guardian, always pursued by the evil Count Olaf in various disguises. He is after their fortune, of course, and though the kids tell person after person, the adults never believe the children and they never see through Olaf’s assumed identities until the last chapter when it becomes obvious and Olaf gets away anyway.

I can certainly see the appeal for kids. What kid hasn’t felt like they are surrounded by adults who often don’t see or don’t understand the most obvious things? I’m sure all kids have experienced a time when they’ve tried to tell a grown-up something only to be ignored. The Baudelaire orphans live with that all the time. The adults never believe them. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are basically on their own, trying to outsmart a felon and protect each other. Some well-meaning adults do try to provide for the children the best they can, but they are always incompetent. The three can only rely on each other.

Mr. Poe especially gets on my nerves. He’s a banker and family friend who is in charge of seeing that the Baudelaire’s are placed with a guardian and following up to make sure everything is going okay. He’s a pompous idiot, too busy to oversee the Baudelaire’s affairs appropriately, more concerned with his job as a banker than with them it seems. And of course, time and again he sees that Count Olaf really has found the children, but in the next story, he simply dismisses their concern as paranoia again. That’s the thing, he’s a continuing character, but he never, ever learns to have any trust in the Violet or Klaus. I’ll give him a pass on not understanding Sunny, since she is an infant and most of what she says is unintelligible. Oh, and Mr. Poe’s coughing fits are just disgusting, way more effective on audio than they would be on the page.

I will say this, though, these books are definitely vocabulary builders for kids. Not only do they introduce new words, like ersatz, nefarious and pandemonium, they also provide a definition, although in some cases it’s more amusing and related to the specific book than the general definition you would find in a dictionary. At least kids are becoming familiar with the words. And Amber’s always been one to stop me during stories and ask what words that are new to her mean, a habit I definitely try to encourage.

As far as the audio versions go, Amber prefers the full cast recording that we heard for one of them, I forget which one. I however tend to prefer one narrator, although I do have to say the Tim Curry does a much better job than the author, whose voice for certain characters can be almost ear-piercingly shrill.

We’ve still got about half the series left to listen to. I’m sure with driving back and forth to school, along with a couple of weekend trips we’ve got planned for this fall, we’ll have plenty of listening time. I have to admit, I’m looking forward to seeing how the series ends.


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