A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Many brainy, geeky rabbit holes, including Zeno's Paradox, poetry, history, philosophy, and whatever else occurs to the narrator as he pursues his investigation. The author makes a lot of coy, cryptic references to history, literature, food, awful events, etc . -- but fills in all the details in a large reference section at the end of the book.
Ultimately, Poison for Breakfast is a clever illustration by example of how to selectively present events (and what to leave out) in order to tell the story you want to tell -- which may or may not have anything to do with what actually happened. Budding storytellers will do well to study its craft, especially those who find themselves duped by Snicket's sleight-of-tale.
Positive Role Models
Narrator Lemony Snicket is something of a trickster; also much given to contemplating death and doom, carrying on odd but illuminating conversations, and doing the unexpected for no apparent reason. Thus, while urgently solving his own murder-in-the-making, he communes with long-dead figures, goes for an impromptu swim, etc. As an author, he drops more than one hint along the way that the (extremely) selective presentation of what actually happens is a vital part of the storyteller's craft, and the wise reader will take note.
Peripheral characters include Buddhist sages and Holocaust survivors.
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Violence & Scariness
Mr. Snicket's belief that he has had poison for. breakfast, and his efforts to avert doom are the premise of the story and lend urgency to unfolding events. He reflects a lot on death, including past atrocities in history.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
"Kissing is a common thing to see in parks, and this chapter contains more about kissing in a few pages, so if you are made uncomfortable by such things, you have now been warned."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Poison for Breakfast is a bit of a departure for brilliant, quirky, perennial looker on the dark side author Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events), who looks up from his normal morning meal to see the note "You had poison for breakfast." What follows, in theory, is the author's urgent quest -- ingredient by ingredient -- to find the source of the poison before it has time to do its work, in a meandering shaggy dog story that exists mostly in the author's head. What actually follows is an exercise in the craft of storytelling, particularly the revealing of some facts along the way and the careful concealment of others, as well as a lot of philosophical rumination (especially about death and mortality) and a library's worth of references in the afterword. There's not much of a story here, but Snicket fans will appreciate a chance to delve a bit deeper into the author's thoughts.
Is It Any Good?
Red herrings, rabbit holes, and shaggy dogs are out in force in Lemony Snicket's meandering exploration of how his seemingly harmless morning meal is out to kill him, and what he can do about it. There are tricks, snares, delusions, and seemingly pointless wanderings, plus meditations on history, art, literature, storytelling, philosophy... When the detective/narrator does his big reveal, some readers will respond with delight, others with outrage, still others with bewilderment (a recurring theme in itself). Meanwhile, stealthily, the author delivers a master class in strategic omission of important facts as a storytelling tool -- and how it can be used to completely hornswoggle the audience.
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