A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
When last we saw our intrepid heroes, Sunny had been kidnapped by the dastardly Count Olaf, and Violet and Klaus were careening down a mountainside in a carnival caravan toward certain doom, a phrase which here means "a hair-raising last-minute escape depending on either Violet's talent for invention or Klaus's talent for research, or Sunny's talent for biting, or all three."
After making a drag chute out of a hammock and brakes out of sticky kitchen condiments, they set out to rescue Sunny. Along with the usual terrifying dangers and death-defying adventures, they encounter someone they thought was dead, someone else they would rather not have seen again, and snow gnats. More of their parents' history is revealed, Count Olaf meets up with some evil allies, and Sunny is growing up.
Is it any good?
Children read this story, like its nine predecessors, as a rip-roaring adventure story. The author has a seemingly inexhaustible ability to come up with unusual and creative dangers and adventures to put the siblings through, and as Saturday morning serials showed a generation ago, children have an inexhaustible appetite for thrills and melodrama. This entry in the series is a bit longer than most of the others and has more exposition and less action than some, but the author keeps it rolling along well enough to keep most young readers turning the pages.
For adults, this is witty and literary tongue-in-cheek silliness. Few children will get the allusions, such as Count Olaf's girlfriend being named after a book by J.D. Salinger, or the author's hilarious explanation of a famous Robert Frost poem: "The poet found that the road less traveled was peaceful but quite lonely, and he was probably a bit nervous as he went along, because if anything happened on the road less traveled, the other travelers would be on the road more frequently traveled and so couldn't hear him as he cried for help. Sure enough, that poet is now dead." Both children and adults can appreciate the production values of the series, though: The hardcover editions hardly cost more than paperbacks, and with their rough-cut pages, endpapers, and well-matched illustrations, they are pleasurable physical objects as well as enjoyable stories.