The three Baudelaire children are cultivated, considerate, and quite clever, but they are also very unlucky. During a visit to the beach, they receive news that their parents have perished in a fire, they are now orphans, and they are to live with an uncle they have never met. In their new home they must all share one bed, wear itchy clothing, eat cold porridge, and do the bidding of Count Olaf, their greedy and repulsive uncle, who plots to steal their family fortune. Now They must figure out Count Olaf’s plot and stop him themselves because adults never believe them.

The characterization of each of the three Baudelaire children is quite delightful, with Violet as the engineer, Klaus as the biologist, and Sunny as the infant biter. Even Violet’s right-handedness, which is introduced in the first chapter, plays a role throughout as a tightly knitted plot device. You love the Baudelaire children because they are polite, resourceful, and take care of each other, but most of all, they love to read.

Though Snicket presents an unfortunate story, he does so with wit and humor. Unfortunately (no pun intended), the jokes run their course early, so that the warnings against further reading and the frequent interruptions to define vocabulary words become just that, interruptions that disrupt the flow instead of enhancing the story. I also find it personally difficult to empathize with children who grew up with luxury and privilege as one of the wealthiest families in the city, although the author provides an abundance of reasons to like them.

Recommended for parents with young children looking for examples of smart children role models!

“All his life, Klaus had believed that if you read enough books, you could solve any problem, but now he wasn’t so sure.”