The Barnes & Noble Review
Misery loves company. If you doubt the truth behind this aphorism, just delve into Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, which follows the hair-raising adventures of the unlucky Baudelaire orphans. In the seventh book in this series, The Vile Village, the beleaguered Baudelaires are branded as murderers, as they strive to survive and rescue their kidnapped friends, the two surviving Quagmire triplets.
After crossing miles of flat, desolate land, the Baudelaires end up in a village that is led by a tribal council of elders and governed by thousands of crows, who fly back and forth from one end of the town to the other. Forced to perform all the village chores, the children soon come across evidence that their friends, the Quagmires, are being hidden somewhere in town. Violet's inventing skills and Klaus's recall of all he has read will be put to their greatest tests yet, as they solve the puzzles hidden in a series of mysterious communications from the Quagmires. And little Sunny, whose vocabulary is growing along with the sharpness of her teeth, plays a more pivotal role than ever before.
The village becomes even more ominous when the children learn of its bazillion rules -- the breaking of any of which is punished by being burned at the stake. When a man believed to be Olaf is found murdered, the Baudelaire children are fingered for the crime and imprisoned. When Count Olaf appears in yet another of his adult-fooling disguises and informs the children that he has come to realize he only needs one of them alive to carry out his plans for stealing their family fortune, the future looks grim indeed. The children must use their wits and God-given talents to escape, and given what we know about their abominable luck, it's a given that getting out of one scrape merely means getting into another. Lucky for us that the Baudelaires are so unlucky. (Beth Amos)
If you have not become acquainted with the Baudelaire children, now is the time to change that. Violet, Klause and Sunny are orphans who lost their parents in a horrible fire and have since been shuffled from one eccentric relative to another, each time having to leave when the evil Count Olaf finds them and tries to kill them. In the seventh book in the "A Series of Unfortunate Events" series, the children have finally run out of relatives and are sent to the village of V.F.D. to be raised by the entire village ("it takes a village to raise a child"). However, the townspeople believe that a child should be seen and not heard and should be at work and not at play so the children are put to work immediately. It turns out that V.F.D. means Village of Fowl Devotees and crows are EVERYWHERE. To make things worse, they are still not safe from Count Olaf, who has hatched another evil plan to get the money left to them by their parents. Don't let the tragic summary fool you. This book is actually a humorous and highly entertaining novel. The orphans are extremely intelligent and escape from the various traps in ingenious ways. The author tells the story slowly and with many ventures off the topic but this only heightens the humor (and often gives a good vocabulary lesson.) This book, like the other books in the series, is highly recommended. 2001, Harper Collins,
A Series of Unfortunate Events chronicles the perilous adventures of the Baudelaire children, thirteen-year-old Violet, twelve-year-old Klaus, and toddler Sunny. They were orphaned when their wealthy parents died in a tragic accident. Their parents' bank places them with a series of totally unsuitable guardians, from whom they must always make their escape. The evil Count Olaf lusts after their inheritance and continually tries to capture them. In every book in the series, he appears in a disguise that no adult can penetrate, yet the children always know it is he. In The Vile Village, Mr. Poe sends the Baudelaires to a village called V. F. D. The children know those initials have a dire significance for their friends, and they go willingly enough, only to find themselves in more trouble. The village council assigns them to work with the handyman, Hector, to do all the chores in the village. He is a kind man, but the village rules are impossible to follow. Then the Baudelaires discover mysterious messages from Isadora, and the village captures someone the new female police chief announces is Count Olafbut who actually is an unfortunate fellow named Jacques. When Jacques is found dead the next morning, Detective Dupin arrives, but he is really Olaf. Naturally none of the adults except perhaps Hector believe the children, and they end up being murder suspects. Books in this series are reminiscent of Victorian melodrama. They are full of anachronisms, and the people and events are completely outlandishreaders must suspend disbelief and go along for the ride. Younger teens with a lively sense of the ridiculous will appreciate the preposterous plots and predicaments, and older teensmight enjoy the wordplay as evidenced in some of the characters' names. For others, a small dose of Snicket will go a long way. Reading the books in orderbeginning with The Bad Beginning (HarperTrophy, 1999), The Reptile Room (1999), The Wide Window (2000), The Miserable Mill (2000), and The Austere Academy (2000)is preferred, but one will not feel lost by starting with any. Libraries already owning the series in their children's departments will not need an additional set, except perhaps for larger facilities. Middle schools with generous budgets also might want to acquire the books. VOYA CODES:3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects;For the YA with a special interest in the subject;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, HarperCollins, 272p. PLB $9.95. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer:Kat KanVOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-The resourceful, likable, but extremely unlucky orphans Violet, Klaus, and baby Sunny continue to flee from the clutches of the fortune-hunting, disguise-wearing Count Olaf. Also, they need to discover the whereabouts of their kidnapped friends, Duncan and Isadora Quagmire, based on the puzzling clue "V.F.D." In Elevator, the three Baudelaires go to live in the penthouse of the trend-following Jerome and Esm Squalor, who adopt the children because orphans are "in." Despite the Baudelaires' resourcefulness, both Olaf and the Quagmires elude the grasp of the authorities due to the obtuseness of adults who, until it is too late, deny that terrible things can happen. In Village, the Baudelaires travel to V.F.D., a village that adopts the orphans based on the aphorism, "it takes a village to raise a child." They uncover the whereabouts of the Quagmires, but, as in the earlier books, they find neither respite nor peace from Count Olaf's machinations. Despite Snicket's artful turning of clich s on their well-worn heads, Elevator sometimes belabors the fallacy of fads at the expense of plot. Nonetheless, the satiric treatment of adults' insistence upon decorum at the expense of truth is simultaneously satisfying and unsettling, as are the deft slams at slant journalism in Village. Arch literary allusions enhance the stories for readers on different levels. Despite Snicket's perpetual caveats to "put this book down and pick up another one," the Baudelaires are dynamic characters who inspire loyalty to the inevitable end of the series.-Farida S. Dowler, formerly at Bellevue Regional Library, WA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don't read is often as important as what you do read. For instance, if you are walking in the mountains, and you don't read the sign that says "Beware of Cliff" because you are busy reading a joke book instead, you may suddenly find yourself walking on air rather than on a sturdy bed of rocks. If you are baking a pie for your friends, and you read an article entitled "How to Build a Chair" instead of a cookbook, your pie will probably end up tasting like wood and nails instead of like crust and fruity filling. And if you insist on reading this book instead of something more cheerful, you will most certainly find yourself moaning in despair instead of wriggling in delight, so if you have any sense at all you will put this book down and pick up another one. I know of a book, for instance, called The Littlest Elf, which tells the story of a teensy-weensy little man who scurries around Fairyland having all sorts of adorable adventures, and you can see at once that you should probably read The Littlest Elf and wriggle over the lovely things that happened to this imaginary creature in a made-up place, instead of reading this book and moaning over the terrible things that happened to the three Baudelaire orphans in the village where I am now typing these very words. The misery, woe, and treachery contained in the pages of this book are so dreadful that it is important that you don't read any more of it than you already have.
The Baudelaire orphans, at the time this story begins, were certainly wishing that they weren't reading the newspaper that was in front of their eyes. A newspaper, as I'm sure you know, is a collection of supposedly true stories written down by writers who either saw them happen or talked to people who did. These writers are called journalists, and like telephone operators, butchers, ballerinas, and people who clean up after horses, journalists can sometimes make mistakes. This was certainly the case with the front page of the morning edition of The Daily Punctilio, which the Baudelaire children were reading in the office of Mr. Poe. "twins captured by count omar," the headline read, and the three siblings looked at one another in amazement over the mistakes that The Daily Punctilio's journalists had made.
"'Duncan and Isadora Quagmire,'" Violet read out loud, "'twin children who are the only known surviving members of the Quagmire family, have been kidnapped by the notorious Count Omar. Omar is wanted by the police for a variety of dreadful crimes, and is easily recognized by his one long eyebrow, and the tattoo of an eye on his left ankle. Omar has also kidnapped Esme Squalor, the city's sixth most important financial advisor, for reasons unknown.' Ugh!" The word "Ugh!" was not in the newspaper, of course, but was something Violet uttered herself as a way of saying she was too disgusted to read any further. "If I invented something as sloppily as this newspaper writes its stories," she said, "it would fall apart immediately." Violet, who at fourteen was the eldest Baudelaire child, was an excellent inventor, and spent a great deal of time with her hair tied up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes as she thought of new mechanical devices.
"And if I read books as sloppily," Klaus said, "I wouldn't remember one single fact." Klaus, the middle Baudelaire, had read more books than just about anyone his own age, which was almost thirteen. At many crucial moments, his sisters had relied on him to remember a helpful fact from a book he had read years before.
"Krechin!" Sunny said. Sunny, the youngest Baudelaire, was a baby scarcely larger than a watermelon. Like many infants, Sunny often said words that were difficult to understand, like "Krechin!" which meant something along the lines of "And if I used my four big teeth to bite something as sloppily, I wouldn't even leave one toothmark!"
Violet moved the paper closer to one of the reading lamps Mr. Poe had in his office, and began to count the errors that had appeared in the few sentences she had read. "For one thing," she said, "the Quagmires aren't twins. They're triplets. The fact that their brother perished in the fire that killed their parents doesn't change their birth identity."
"Of course it doesn't," Klaus agreed. "And they were kidnapped by Count Olaf, not Omar. It's difficult enough that Olaf is always in disguise, but now the newspaper has disguised his name, too."
"Em!" Sunny added, and her siblings nodded. The youngest Baudelaire was talking about the part of the article that mentioned Esme Squalor. Esme and her husband, Jerome, had recently been the Baudelaires' guardians, and the children had seen with their own eyes that Esme had not been kidnapped by Count Olaf. Esme had secretly helped Olaf with his evil scheme, and had escaped with him at the last minute.
"And 'for reasons unknown' is the biggest mistake of all," Violet said glumly. "The reasons aren't unknown. We know them. We know the reasons Esme, Count Olaf, and all of Olaf's associates have done so many terrible things. It's because they're terrible people." Violet put down The Daily Punctilio, looked around Mr. Poe's office, and joined her siblings in a sad, deep sigh. The Baudelaire orphans were sighing not only for the things they had read, but for the things they hadn't read. The article had not mentioned that both the Quagmires and the Baudelaires had lost their parents in terrible fires, and that both sets of parents had left enormous fortunes behind, and that Count Olaf had cooked up all of his evil plans just to get ahold of these fortunes for himself...