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 1396
by Lemony Snicket

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Dear Reader,

I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible

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Dear Reader,

I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

Editorial Reviews
The Bad Beginning is actually a great beginning. It's the first book in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, a wonderfully different and disastrous children's story starring three highly unlucky siblings. In this first book, readers are introduced to the unfortunate Baudelaire children -- 14-year-old Violet, 12-year-old Klaus, and their infant sister, Sunny -- when they learn they've just been orphaned by a terrible house fire.

The executor of the Baudelaire estate -- a phlegm-plagued banker named Mr. Poe -- sends the children to live with a distant relative: a conniving and dastardly villain named Count Olaf, who has designs on the Baudelaire fortune. Count Olaf uses the children as slave labor, provides horrid accommodations for them, and makes them cook huge meals for him and his acting troupe, a bunch of odd-looking, renegade good-for-nothings. When the children are commandeered to appear in Count Olaf's new play, they grow suspicious and soon learn that the play is not the innocent performance it seems but rather a scheme cooked up by Olaf to help him gain control of the children's millions.

All this bad luck does provide for both great fun and great learning opportunities, however. Violet is a budding McGyver whose inventions help the children in their quest, Klaus possesses a great deal of book smarts, and Sunny -- whose only real ability is an incredibly strong bite -- provides moral support and frequent comedy relief. Then there are the many amusing word definitions, colloquialisms, clichés, hackneyed phrases, and other snippets of language provided by the narrator (a character in his own right) that can't help but expand readers' vocabularies. Though the Baudelaire children suffer myriad hardships and setbacks, in the end they do manage to outsmart and expose Olaf's devious ways. But of course, with luck like theirs, it's a given that Olaf will escape and return to torment them again some day. If only misery was always this much fun. (Beth Amos)

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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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Bad Beginning 4.5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 1396 reviews.
greeninoakpark More than 1 year ago
I bought the Lemony Snicket book 1 to get motivated to continue with my desire to write my own children's story. Surprisingly, I am hooked! I read through book one and couldn't wait to get book 2! I am now on the 4th in the series and look forward to reading each and every one! I won't miss a book! They are fun and great reading for ALL ages. So get started and enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first I didn't really like the series but then after I finished the first chapter I got hooked into the book on the nook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book even though I'm 39. I bought it for my 11 year old son and the cover didn't look too exciting to him. He had to have a book report book and this was the only one we had at home. I started reading the first page late one night and couldn't put it down. I read the first 3 chapters and finished it the next day. I was pretty good for a "kiddie" book. I'm ready to start the next one...the reptile room i believe it is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Series of Unfortunate Events The Bad Beginnning This story is about three children whose parents are killed in a fire, so they have to go live with their uncle, Count Olaf. When the three children¿s parents are killed in the fire, their dad¿s old friend, Mr. Poe, helps them. Mr. Poe gives them over to Count Olaf, and then they realize he¿s only after the family fortune. The three children try to catch the Count throughout the book. I recommend this book to everyone, because it keeps you on the edge of your seat. I liked this book because the children are smart. They were smart because when Count Olaf tried to marry the oldest child, Violet, they were reading laws about marriage. They made a plan to catch Count Olaf trying to marry Violet against her will. To catch Count Olaf is very smart because they read the law books and made plans. I liked this book because of the children¿s personalities. They were always happy when they were together doing anything. They were motivated when working on the plan to catch Count Olaf. They knew that they shouldn¿t be scared of Count Olaf because they had each other. I liked this book because it leaves you with a cliffhanger. You don¿t know what is going to happen to the children when they leave Count Olaf. You wonder where Count Olaf disappeared to, and what is he going to do when he comes back. When you are reading this book you feel like you are in the children¿s shoes, and still keeps you on the edge of your seat. Reading this book leaves you with a cliffhanger to let you know there is another a story.
Cinnamon-A More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It's about three brilliant kids who try to get away from their mean, evil relative. This is breath taking and a beautiful work of art.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read the frist two books and watched the movie (books 1-3). It is awesome.
LiteracyMaven More than 1 year ago
This book begins a long series that entices the reader at every turn. The characters are truly overblown and, therefore, incredibly fun to read about. It harks back to the 1930's movie serials with the heroes placed in the most threatening and in turn ridiculous situations. The beauty of the book is that while it is thrilling it is not gory or frightening in any real way. The book begins the chronicles of the three orphaned Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and baby Sunny,each with unusual skills, who would be right at home with the kids from the Addams family or the cartoons of Edward Gorey. They are trying survive so that they can find the out why their parents were killed. Every page is a high level language lesson. Words are used and then explained in context so the reader is exposed to incredible amounts of vocabulary in the most painless way possible. These books are a delight to read and so engaging that both girls and boys can't wait to read them. Even the author, Lemony Snicket, is part of the fun as the books are "mysteriously" written and given to Daniel Hendler to be share with the world. In the first book they are placed in the custody of their "Uncle" a nefarious character with a telltale tattoo on his ankle....and the fun begins. Do your child aged 9+ a favor and invite him or her into the world of Lemony Snicket.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading the sad tales. If you dont like sad books, dont read these ones.
huntertheman More than 1 year ago
Book Reveiw This book Unfortunate Events is a great book. It is written by Lemony Snicket. It is a fiction book and adventure book. I thinki this book is a good short book for 5 and 6 graders. It has 162 pages in it so, it is not a very long story. It is full of idea's from the baudelaire children. The name's of the baudelair's are Sunny, Klause, and Violet. I give this book a 5 star for it's rating. It has alot of adventure and when u start reading it you want to keep reading it. This book is about 3 children that's parent's died in a fire at there house. The 3 children, Klause, Sunny, and Violet are very smart children that know how to build very big and hard inventions, like building a raft to survive on water. The baudelair family only had 1 friend that would offer to watch the kids when there parents died. His name is Count Olaf. He is the most meanest person you will ever meet in your life. He hates the children but keeps them for only 1 reason. The children have to sleep in a room that is the size of a closet and no view of the city. They have to make there own food and drinks. Count Olaf has an evil crew and he is the leader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The bad beginning is a great beginning to the series. It is full of excitement action and mystery. If you arent someone who likes fiction than you will still love this series. Even though it may get a little confusing along the way. Lemony Snicket really describes the pain and dissapointment the bauldelaires are dealling with.A series of unfortunate events is one of the best series you will ever read and i mean it. Lemony Snicket deserves a thumbs up!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best bookkk!!!!!!its the bomb digetty.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the serie of unfortunate events they are awesome and i want the special edition even though i read the origanal one lol I CANT WAIT TO READ IT ive read like all the books and i started to read them AT THE END OF SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!! AND IM ELEVEN YEARS OLD!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. I am proud to say that i'm hooked to fantasy books now. Before, I refused to read any book that looked like fantasy. I opened the book thinking it be the most boring book ever not knowing that I, later that day would not get off the couch until I finished the book. I really liked the plot. I enjoyed the part when Klaus figured out the evil plan. I am on book 7 now and I will not stop reading until I finish the series. Who knows? Maybe you'll read the series!?!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The series of unfortunate event follows the lives of the Bauldelair orphans. They became orphans when their parents died in a mysterious fire, leaving them an enormous fortune. Now Violet the eldest, and the inventor of the family, Klaus,the middle child and book worm, and Sunny, the youngest one with a passion for bitting, must go to live with there closest relative (who they don't at all know) Count Olaf. They don't get the greatest first impression of him, and he only gets worse. Does Count Olaf really care about the kids, or is he just after the money? I highly recomend this amazing series that will take on a journy and make you feel like your part of the story. I will admit that i became obbsessed with this book just like Klaus.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is Very Finely Described with Vindictive, Fairly Dreadful people. If you lived in a Village Full of Demons, I wouldn't read this book, I would Valliantly Flee to a Distant land. If you were a Vile, Famous Delinquent, I guess you could read this book, but it is a Veering Flimsy Drive down to the road of justice. If you are a member of an organization that is for a noble cause, then this could be a Valuable, Fine Device to use for information. If you'd excuse me, I need to go Vacuum the Fairly Dusty carpet.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
After already having seen the movie, I decided to invest in reading the books. Bk #1, THE BAD BEGINNING, only took me an hour to finish, and it was an enjoyable--if dark--read.

The Baudelaire children--Violet, Klaus, and Sunny--are left orphaned after a mysterious fire destroys their home and kills their parents. Taken into custody by Mr. Poe, the executor of their parent's estate, they learn that their parent's will states that they must be cared for by a relative. The closest relative, unbeknownest to the children, is Count Olaf, an actor and leader of a theatre troupe who lives in a dilapitated house on the other side of town.

Things, of course, only go from bad to worse after the children move into Count Olaf's home, which is strangely covered inside and out with drawings and representations of a strange-looking eye. Count Olaf even has a tattoo of the same image on his ankle. As the Count hatches a scheme to gain control of the Baudelaire fortune, which the children are not privy to until Violet comes of age, the children are alternately scared of their new "parent" and determined to find a way out of their dreadful situation.

I enjoyed this walk on the dark side, and plan on reading Book #2 in the series later today. That said, however, I think it depends on your child and his or her maturity as to whether this would be a good read for them or not. Although the reading material is suitable for around 8 years old and up, the book IS dark-natured, and might scare some children. If they've already seen the movie, they might be prepared for its darkness--if the movie depiction scared them, then hold off on the book for awhile.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read all the series and loved them. But the very end, the 13th, was very surprising! Any way great book you guys should definitly read them!!!
caitlyn10 More than 1 year ago
Lemony Snickets is a good author of writing the Series of Unfortunate Events. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are three orphans who lost their parents in a fire that burned their whole mansion down to the ground. Then Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire experience their mom's first cousins brother's second cousins uncle and then there is the evil Count Olaf that made them do a whole bunch of bad chores and made them cook dinner for his acting troupe. It is a good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i was in fifth grade i read the first book and it was not bad. I decided to get the next book in the series and it was good. I read all the books in the series in 3 weeks. I went up to my teacher and told her about the books. She recommended the books to everybody in the fifth grade. So i recommend these books to everybody between the ages 9-12. Hope you enjoy as i did. Remember, this book has a message!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would highly recomend this book i read this book in third grade i loved all the action these book were the only ones i read in grade school <3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Series of Unfortunate Events Talk about bad luck! The lives of Violet, Klause, and Sunny Baudelaire turn upside down when they receive news that their parents have died in a terrible fire. Mr. Poe, their new caretaker, sends them to live with a forgotten family member, Count Olaf. When they first meet him, they soon learn that he is after their million dollar fortune. I would highly recommend this book. Its full of exciting action.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i loved this book but it is also very sad one part brakes my heart. count olaf should have been arrested inthe begging of the book not at the end. i do not want to give away any more of the book but you should read it. you should also read the rest of the series if you do not want to cry. i almost did in the middle of book 1. this book is a 5 star book. from unknown ( sorry for not saying my name.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never thought that I would even lay a finger on this series because of the weird covers but I am so glad that I read the overview! I read this series called The Secret Series and I loved it! The thing that I loved the most about it was that the author talked to the reader and he put his thoughts and feelings in the story. When I saw the dear reader part in the overview I knew that I would love this series because the auther talks to the reader. I was sooo right!!! I ended up loving the first book and am trying to get the second!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read this whole series and it is by far one of the greatest kids book series I'v ever read. I highly suggest it. You will fall in love with the suspense, sadness, and trickery of these books. I hope whoever reads this series next loves it as much as I did. Such a great read for all ages!;-) ^&bull;^
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So good I want to read book 2#! I like books happy endings but for a book with a sad ending it's really good!