The Bad Beginning: Book the First (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
  • The Bad Beginning: Book the First (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
  • The Bad Beginning: Book the First (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
  • The Bad Beginning: Book the First (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
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The Bad Beginning: Book the First (A Series of Unfortunate Events)

4.5 1395
by Lemony Snicket

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Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky.

In the first two books alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their

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Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky.

In the first two books alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, a lumpy bed, a deadly serpent, a large brass reading lamp, a long knife, and a terrible odour.

In the tradition of great storytellers, from Dickens to Dahl, comes an exquisitely dark comedy that is both literary and irreverent, hilarious and deftly crafted. Never before has a tale of three likeable and unfortunate children been quite so enchanting, or quite so uproariously unhappy.

Ages 10+

Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
The arch-sounding narrator may seem witty and explanatorybut do not be fooled. This book is filled with disaster and mystery and long knives and poisonous snakes and itchy clothing....Unlike the good snake doctorthis series promises to have a longproductive life. —Christian Science Monitor
Publishers Weekly
Tim Curry, whose appropriately unctuous and sometimes slimy delivery are a hallmark of the audiobook versions of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events titles, is thankfully up to his old tricks. Curry returns on the 11th installment, The Grim Grotto, to play Snicket, Count Olaf and all the gang with welcome flair. The enhanced CD features word games, photos and artwork when played on a personal computer. Curry also returns as the linchpin on a new, multivoice recording of The Bad Beginning, the first book in the series, which ties in to the feature film release of Paramount/Nickelodeon/Dreamwork's Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Audio books are a fabulous family solution to travel boredom. Highly recommended are Lemony Snicket's "Series of Unfortunate Events." These satirical melodramas relate the adventures of the three gifted Baudelaire orphans as they battle the evil Count Olaf who means to destroy them and gain their fortune. This series, one of children's books' newer reading phenomena, has subtle humor, Roald Dahl-like pathos, and lots of action. The narrator of the book is so good that he qualifies as a character; he is chummy at times, entertaining at others, and periodically, amicably intrusive as he defines words and terms. These qualities translate fabulously in tapes. Tim Curry reads the first two books, The Bad Beginning and The Reptile Room. He over dramatizes, just as the series style seems to demand; he gives the villain a sinister, sibilant voice and the children's clueless protector, a phlegmy lawyer, is almost disgusting in Curry's rendition. There are two cassettes, unabridged. 2001, Listening Library, $18.00. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
Library Journal
Gr 4-6-This series chronicles the unfortunate lives of the Baudelaire children: Violet, 14; Klaus, 12; and the infant, Sunny. In Bad Beginning, their parents and possessions perish in a fire, and the orphans must use their talents to survive as their lives move from one disastrous event to another. Surrounded by dim-witted though well-meaning adults, the Baudelaires find themselves in the care of their evil relative, Count Olaf, a disreputable actor whose main concern is getting his hands on the children's fortune. When Olaf holds Sunny hostage to force Violet to marry him, it takes all of the siblings' resourcefulness to outwit him. Violet's inventive genius, Klaus's forte for research, and Sunny's gift for biting the bad guys at opportune moments save the day. However, the evil Count escapes, only to return in The Reptile Room just as the children are settling into a far more pleasant life with their new guardian, Uncle Monty, who is promptly murdered by Olaf and his cohorts. Though the villain escapes again, and beloved Uncle Monty is dead, the children are safe...for now. While the misfortunes hover on the edge of being ridiculous, Snicket's energetic blend of humor, dramatic irony, and literary flair makes it all perfectly believable. The writing, peppered with fairly sophisticated vocabulary and phrases, may seem daunting, but the inclusion of Snicket's perceptive definitions of difficult words makes these books challenging to older readers and excellent for reading aloud.-Linda Bindner, formerly at Athens Clarke County Library, GA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who "is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed." The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

From the Publisher
"Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations.  Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun." -Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.73(d)
1010L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle. This is because not very many happy things happened in the lives of the three Baudelaire youngsters. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire were intelligent children, and they were charming, and resourceful, and had pleasant facial features, but they were extremely unlucky, and most everything that happened to them was rife with misfortune, misery, and despair. I'm sorry to tell you this, but that is how the story goes.

Their misfortune began one day at Briny Beach. The three Baudelaire children lived with their parents in an enormous mansion at the heart of a dirty and busy city, and occasionally their parents gave them permission to take a rickety trolley-the word "rickety," you probably know, here means "unsteady" or "likely to collapse"-alone to the seashore, where they would spend the day as a sort of vacation as long as they were home for dinner. This particular morning it was gray and cloudy, which didn't bother the Baudelaire youngsters one bit. When it was hot and sunny, Briny Beach was crowded with tourists and it was impossible to find a good place to lay one's blanket. On gray and cloudy days, the Baudelaires had the beach to themselves to do what they liked.

Violet Baudelaire, the eldest, liked to skip rocks. Like most fourteen-year-olds, she was right-handed, so the rocks skipped farther across the murky water when Violet used her right hand than when she used her left. As she skipped rocks, she was looking out at the horizon and thinking about an invention she wanted to build. Anyone who knew Violet well could tell she was thinking hard, because her long hair was tied up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes. Violet had a real knack for inventing and building strange devices, so her brain was often filled with images of pulleys, levers, and gears, and she never wanted to be distracted by something as trivial as her hair. This morning she was thinking about how to construct a device that could retrieve a rock after you had skipped it into the ocean.

Klaus Baudelaire, the middle child, and the only boy, liked to examine creatures in tidepools. Klaus was a little older than twelve and wore glasses, which made him look intelligent. He was intelligent. The Baudelaire parents had an enormous library in their mansion, a room filled with thousands of books on nearly every subject. Being only twelve, Klaus of course had not read all of the books in the Baudelaire library, but he had read a great many of them and had retained a lot of the information from his readings. He knew how to tell an alligator from a crocodile. He knew who killed Julius Caesar. And he knew much about the tiny, slimy animals found at Briny Beach, which he was examining now.

Sunny Baudelaire, the youngest, liked to bite things. She was an infant, and very small for her age, scarcely larger than a boot. What she lacked in size, however, she made up for with the size and sharpness of her four teeth. Sunny was at an age where one mostly speaks in a series of unintelligible shrieks. Except when she used the few actual words in her vocabulary, like "bottle," "mommy," and "bite," most people had trouble understanding what it was that Sunny was saying. For instance, this morning she was saying "Gack!" over and over, which probably meant, "Look at that mysterious figure emerging from the fog!"

Sure enough, in the distance along the misty shore of Briny Beach there could be seen a tall figure striding toward the Baudelaire children. Sunny had already been staring and shrieking at the figure for some time when Klaus looked up from the spiny crab he was examining, and saw it too. He reached over and touched Violet's arm, bringing her out of her inventing thoughts.

"Look at that," Klaus said, and pointed toward the figure. It was drawing closer, and the children could see a few details. It was about the size of an adult, except its head was tall, and rather square.

"What do you think it is?" Violet asked.

"I don't know," Klaus said, squinting at it, "but it seems to be moving right toward us."

"We're alone on the beach," Violet said, a little nervously. "There's nobody else it could be moving toward." She felt the slender, smooth stone in her left hand, which she had been about to try to skip as far as she could. She had a sudden thought to throw it at the figure, because it seemed so frightening.

"It only seems scary," Klaus said, as if reading his sister's thoughts, "because of all the mist."

This was true. As the figure reached them, the children saw with relief that it was not anybody frightening at all, but somebody they knew: Mr. Poe. Mr. Poe was a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Baudelaire's whom the children had met many times at dinner parties. One of the things Violet, Klaus, and Sunny really liked about their parents was that they didn't send their children away when they had company over, but allowed them to join the adults at the dinner table and participate in the conversation as long as they helped clear the table. The children remembered Mr. Poe because he always had a cold and was constantly excusing himself from the table to have a fit of coughing in the next room.

Mr. Poe took off his top hat, which had made his head look large and square in the fog, and stood for a moment, coughing loudly into a white handkerchief. Violet and Klaus moved forward to shake his hand and say how do you do.

"How do you do?" said Violet.

"How do you do?" said Klaus.

"Odo yow!" said Sunny.

"Fine, thank you," said Mr. Poe, but he looked very sad. For a few seconds nobody said anything, and the children wondered what Mr. Poe was doing there at Briny Beach, when he should have been at the bank in the city, where he worked. He was not dressed for the beach.

"It's a nice day," Violet said finally, making conversation. Sunny made a noise that sounded like an angry bird, and Klaus picked her up and held her.

"Yes, it is a nice day," Mr. Poe said absently, staring out at the empty beach. "I'm afraid I have some very bad news for you children."

The three Baudelaire siblings looked at him. Violet, with some embarrassment, felt the stone in her left hand and was glad she had not thrown it at Mr. Poe.

"Your parents," Mr. Poe said, "have perished in a terrible fire."

The children didn't say anything.

"They perished," Mr. Poe said, "in a fire which destroyed the entire house. I'm very, very sorry to tell you this, my dears."

Violet took her eyes off Mr. Poe and stared out at the ocean. Mr. Poe had never called the Baudelaire children "my dears" before. She understood the words he was saying but thought he must be joking, playing a terrible joke on her and her brother and sister.

"'Perished,'" Mr. Poe said, "means 'killed.'"

"We know what the word 'perished' means," Klaus said, crossly. He did know what the word "perished" meant, but he was still having trouble understanding exactly what it was that Mr. Poe had said. It seemed to him that Mr. Poe must somehow have misspoken.

"The fire department arrived, of course," Mr. Poe said, "but they were too late. The entire house was engulfed in fire. It burned to the ground."

Klaus pictured all the books in the library, going up in flames. Now he'd never read all of them.Mr. Poe coughed several times into his handkerchief before continuing. "I was sent to retrieve you here, and to take you to my home, where you'll stay for some time while we figure things out. I am the executor of your parents' estate. That means I will be handling their enormous fortune and figuring out where you children will go. When Violet comes of age, the fortune will be yours, but the bank will take charge of it until you are old enough."

Although he said he was the executor, Violet felt like Mr. Poe was the executioner. He had simply walked down the beach to them and changed their lives forever.

"Come with me," Mr. Poe said, and held out his hand. In order to take it, Violet had to drop the stone she was holding. Klaus took Violet's other hand, and Sunny took Klaus's other hand, and in that manner the three Baudelaire children-the Baudelaire orphans, now-were led away from the beach and from their previous lives.

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