The three unluckiest children in the world and their greedy relative, Count Olaf, return for another misfortunate adventure in The Reptile Room, the second book in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Baudelaire children survived their first encounter with the dastardly and scheming Olaf, but the Count doesn't give up easily. Nor does the Baudelaire luck ever seem to improve.
At first it seems as if 14-year-old Violet, 12-year-old Klaus, and their baby sister, Sunny, have finally had a turn of good luck when they meet their newest guardian. Dr. Montgomery, or Uncle Monty as he prefers to be called, is a herpetologist. One whole room in his house is filled with snakes of all kinds, including some very deadly specimens. But despite his slithery interests, Uncle Monty is a fun-loving and generous caretaker who treats the Baudelaire orphans with love, respect, and kindness. But as anyone who's read the first book in this series knows, good fortune won't stay long with the Baudelaires. For starters Count Olaf returns, disguised in a manner that doesn't fool the kids for a minute -- though they can't seem to convince any adults. Then Uncle Monty dies (supposedly after being bitten by one of his highly poisonous snakes) although the kids are convinced he was murdered by Olaf. And of course, Olaf and his sideshow cronies have dreamed up yet another plan to get their hands on the Baudelaire fortune.
The plot has holes big enough to drive a truck through and more than a few contrivances come into play. Nonetheless, there is something irresistibly alluring about all the bad luck and mayhem that befalls these fast-thinking children, who use their inventiveness, book smarts, and bite-ability to survive. Equally engaging is the mysterious narrator, Snicket, who taunts, tempts, and teases his way through the tale, revealing intriguing snippets of his own life and providing an ongoing lesson in the nuances of language. (Beth Amos)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book." So cautions Snicket, the exceedingly well-mannered narrator of these two witty mock-gothic novels featuring the misadventures of 14-year-old Violet, 12-year-old Klaus and infant Sunny Baudelaire. From the first, things look unfortunate indeed for the trio: a fire destroys their home, killing their parents along with it; the executor of their parents' estate, the obtuse Mr. Poe (with a son, Edgar), ignores whatever the children have to say; and their new guardian, Count Olaf, is determined to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune. But by using their individual gifts (Violet's for inventing, Klaus's for reading and researching and baby Sunny's for biting) the three enterprising children thwart the Count's plan--for now. The author uses formal, Latinate language and intrusive commentary to hilarious effect, even for readers unfamiliar with the literary conventions he parodies. The peril in which he places the Baudelaires may be frightening (Count Olaf actually follows through on his threats of violence on several occasions), but the author paints the satire with such broad strokes that most readers will view it from a safe distance. Luckily for fans, the woes of the Baudelaires are far from over; readers eager for more misfortune can turn to The Reptile Room, for an even more suspenseful tale. Exquisitely detailed drawings of Gothic gargoyles and mischievous eyes echo the contents of this elegantly designed hardcover. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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
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.
From the Publisher
"Luckily for fans, the woes of the Baudelaires are far from over: readers eager for more misfortune can turn to The Reptile Room, for an even more suspenseful tale." -Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt
A Series of Unfortunate Events #2: The Reptile Room
The stretch of road that leads out of the city, past Hazy Harbor and into the town of Tedia, is perhaps the most unpleasant in the world. It is called Lousy Lane. Lousy Lane runs through fields that are a sickly gray color, in which a handful of scraggly trees produce apples so sour that one only has to look at them to feel ill. Lousy Lane traverses the Grim River, a body of water that is nine-tenths mud and that contains extremely unnerving fish, and it encircles a horseradish factory, so the entire area smells bitter and strong.
I am sorry to tell you that this story begins with the Baudelaire orphans traveling along this most displeasing road, and that from this moment on, the story only gets worse. Of all the people in the world who have miserable lives-and, as I′m sure you know, there are quite a few-the Baudelaire youngsters take the cake, a phrase which here means that more horrible things have happened to them than just about anybody. Their misfortune began with an enormous fire that destroyed their home and killed both their loving parents, which is enough sadness to last anyone a lifetime, but in the case of these three children it was only the bad beginning. After the fire, the siblings were sent to live with a distant relative named Count Olaf, a terrible and greedy man.
The Baudelaire parents had left behind an enormous fortune, which would go to the children when Violet came of age, and Count Olaf was so obsessed with getting his filthy hands on the money that he hatched a devious planthat gives me nightmares to this day. He was caught just in time, but he escaped and vowed to get ahold of the Baudelaire fortune sometime in the future. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny still had nightmares about Count Olaf′s shiny, shiny eyes, and about his one scraggly eyebrow, and most of all about the tattoo of an eye he had on his ankle. It seemed like that eye was watching the Baudelaire orphans wherever they went.
So I must tell you that if you have opened this book in the hope of finding out that the children lived happily ever after, you might as well shut it and read something else. Because Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, sitting in a small, cramped car and staring out the windows at Lousy Lane, were heading toward even more misery and woe. The Grim River and the horseradish factory were only the first of a sequence of tragic and unpleasant episodes that bring a frown to my face and a tear to my eye whenever I think about them.
The driver of the car was Mr. Poe, a family friend who worked at a bank and always had a cough. He was in charge of overseeing the orphans′ affairs, so it was he who decided that the children would be placed in the care of a distant relative in the country after all the unpleasantness with Count Olaf.
"I′m sorry if you′re uncomfortable," Mr. Poe said, coughing into a white handkerchief, "but this new car of mine doesn′t fit too many people. We couldn′t even fit any of your suitcases. In a week or so I′ll drive back here and bring them to you."
"Thank you," said Violet, who at fourteen was the oldest of the Baudelaire children. Anyone who knew Violet well could see that her mind was not really on what Mr. Poe was saying, because her long hair was tied up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes. Violet was an inventor, and when she was thinking up inventions she liked to tie her hair up this way. It helped her think clearly about the various gears, wires, and ropes involved in most of her creations."After living so long in the city," Mr. Poe continued, "I think you will find the countryside to be a pleasant change. Oh, here is the turn. We′re almost there."
"Good," Klaus said quietly. Klaus, like many people on car rides, was very bored, and he was sad not to have a book with him. Klaus loved to read, and at approximately twelve years of age had read more books than many people read in their whole lives. Sometimes he read well into the night, and in the morning could be found fast asleep, with a book in his hand and his glasses still on.
"I think you′ll like Dr. Montgomery, too," Mr. Poe said. "He has traveled a great deal, so he has plenty of stories to tell. I′ve heard his house is filled with things he′s brought from all the places he′s been."
"Bax!" Sunny shrieked. Sunny, the youngest of the Baudelaire orphans, often talked like this, as infants tend to do. In fact, besides biting things with her four very sharp teeth, speaking in fragments was how Sunny spent most of her time. It was often difficult to tell what she meant to say. At this moment she probably meant something along the lines of "I′m nervous about meeting a new relative." All three children were.
"How exactly is Dr. Montgomery related to us?" Klaus asked.
"Dr. Montgomery is-let me see-your late father′s cousin′s wife′s brother. I think that′s right. He′s a scientist of some sort, and receives a great deal of money from the government."
As a banker, Mr. Poe was always interested in money.
"What should we call him?" Klaus asked.
"You should call him Dr. Montgomery," Mr. Poe replied, "unless he tells you to call him Montgomery. Both his first and last names are Montgomery, so it doesn′t really make much difference."
"His name is Montgomery Montgomery?" Klaus said, smiling.
"Yes, and I′m sure he′s very sensitive about that, so don′t ridicule him," Mr. Poe said, coughing again into his handkerchief. "′Ridicule′ means ′tease.′"
Klaus sighed. "I know what ′ridicule′ means," he said. He did not add that of course he also knew not to make fun of someone′s name. Occasionally, people thought that because the orphans were unforunate, they were also dim-witted.
Copyright C 1999 Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events #2: The Reptile Room. Copyright (c) by Lemony Snicket . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.