The Wide Window: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3

Common Sense Media says

The least subtle book thus far in the series.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The children steal a sailboat from evil Olaf, then set out in a storm.


Though presented as farce, Olaf's violence is real. He pushes Aunt Josephine to her watery grave, for example, and menaces the children almost nonstop. Olaf's return, especially his confrontation with the children at sea, involving an attack by a school

Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Snicket's ability to pile crisis upon catastrophe upon bum luck without the story collapsing under the weight of its relentless misfortune is brilliant, and a surefire attention-catcher.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Welcome back the luckless Baudelaire brood, three orphans who all too often feel "the chill of doom fall over their hearts." Lemony Snicket's highly polished and tragically comic series finds the children once again frustrating the awful Olaf's schemes to steal their fortune, after he has cruelly dealt with their latest ill-qualified caregiver.

Is it any good?


This is the least subtle book thus far in Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Rather than let ideas of right and wrong quietly percolate up through his story, as he has in the previous two volumes, he spells them out as though his audience is dimwitted. "They understood that Aunt Josephine was more concerned with grammatical mistakes than with saving the lives of three children. They understood that she was so wrapped up in her own fears that she had not given a thought to what might have happened to them." Snicket gets preachy and his readers get a lecture.

Nevertheless, THE WIDE WINDOW has plenty going for it, including some of the most exciting scenes in the series so far. High drama is produced by a small sailboat in the middle of a hurricane, a gratifying example of code-breaking, a heart-stopping attack by a swarm of leeches, and the treacherous plots hatched by Olaf that must be artfully countered one after the other by the children. And there is the pleasingly black humor that is Snicket's earmark, served up by the grave narrator.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about tone and the darkly humorous appeal of the books in the series. Why do readers find the adventures of the Baudelaire orphans funny although they're constantly plagued by misfortune?

Book details

Author:Lemony Snicket
Illustrator:Brett Helquist
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:January 1, 1999
Number of pages:210

This review of The Wide Window: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3 was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written bySuddenlySeymour April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


I am a HUGE Lemony Snicket fan and I DEFINETELY recommend this book, it is hilarious, but a little bit predictable.
Kid, 10 years old June 16, 2014

The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events) book 3 REVIEW

After Count Olaf got away from the crime scene of Uncle Monty's murder, the Baudelaire orphans went to live with their Aunt Josephine in a resort town. Since it wasn't summer and the resort wasn't open, they were pretty much the only ones there. Count Olaf once again attempted to steal their their fortune in a sailor disguise. He called himself Captain Sham and despite the orphans' warnings, Josephine fell in love with them. Then when they were alone, the count forced Josephine to write a suicide letter concluding that the children were to live with Capt. Sham (Count Olaf).
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 9 years old June 4, 2014


What other families should know
Educational value
Great role models


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Essential School Tools