Fortunately for young readers, Lemony Snicket has dedicated his life to informing readers of all the misfortunes that plagued the three Baudelaire orphans -- the unluckiest children to ever live. In The Wide Window, the third book in the series, the Baudelaire children are sent to stay with a distant aunt who lives on a cliff's edge overhanging the aptly named Lake Lachrymose, a foreboding body of water serviced by the Fickle Ferry and filled with sharp-toothed leeches who have deadly appetites.
Of course, the tale wouldn't be complete without the presence of the evilly scheming Count Olaf and one or more of his twisted sidekicks trying to get their hands on the children, or more accurately, on the children's fortune. Once again Olaf is in disguise, though the children recognize him immediately thanks to his unibrow and the bright, evil shine in his eyes. The tell-tale eye tattoo on his ankle seems to be missing, however, since Olaf's disguise this time is as a peg-legged sea captain.
The childrens' newest guardian, Aunt Josephine, is a master of phobias and an expert on grammar. She's frightened of tons of things -- some of them reasonable, such as the deadly leeches in Lachrymose Lake who took the life of her husband, and some of them not so reasonable, such as her fear of using the telephone. One thing she isn't afraid of, however, is correcting improper grammar. And as the Baudelaire children get several impromptu lessons on proper usage, so do readers. In fact, it's Josephine's obsession with language that helps the children uncover Count Olaf's latest scheme.
These stories require a hefty suspension of belief on occasion, but that's part of what makes them so much fun. Illustrator Brett Helquist adds to the pleasure by bringing the characters to life in drawings that often exhibit touches of the same wry humor found in the narrator's voice. (Beth Amos)
Author Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) reads volumes three and four of his Series of Unfortunate Events saga. A snappy, techno tune by a group called the Gothic Archies serves as toe-tapping introduction to Handler's chipper performance of his humorously melodramatic tales. The first two audiobooks in the series, performed by British actor Tim Curry, were released by Listening Library in March. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A long car trip with children can bring either agony or joy. In our family travels, audio books have made all the difference. An endless trip flies by with a gripping story and we remember some vacations not only for destinations, but for the stories we heard en route. 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 author reads the two newest tapesWide Window and The Miserable Mill in the "Series of Unfortunate Events." His reading is slightly less dramatic than Tim Curry of the first two books in the series, but still involving. Children will love both. There are three cassettes, unabridged. 2001, Harper Children's Audio, $20.00. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-This is "Book the Third" in a series about the wealthy and clever but unfortunate Baudelaire children who were orphaned in a tragic fire. Pursued by the evil Count Olaf, who murdered their parents and their last caregiver, 14-year-old Violet, 12-year-old Klaus, and baby Sunny are sent to elderly Aunt Josephine, a strange, fearful widow and grammarian. She lives in a house built on precarious stilts on the side of a hill overlooking Lake Lachrymose, inhabited by killer leeches. Of course, Count Olaf tracks them down and, disguised as a sailboat captain, fools Aunt Josephine-at least for a while. Olaf is ultimately exposed but not before he pushes Aunt Josephine into the leech-infested waters. So, the Baudelaires must find a new caregiver, who will be revealed to readers in "Book the Fourth." The writing is tongue-in-cheek John Bellairs, E. Nesbit, or Edward Eager with a little Norton Juster thrown in. The style is similar to the many books with old houses and rocky shores in Maine or Great Britain including the Edward Goreyesque illustrations. Unfortunately, the book misses the mark. The narrator is humorous but intrusive, explaining words and providing many obvious clues that surface later. Aunt Josephine's constant correction of vocabulary and grammar, while at first humorous, becomes annoying. The book is really not bad; it just tries too hard and there are so many similar books that are much better.-Marlene Gawron, Orange County Library, Orlando, FL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
A Series of Unfortunate Events #3: The Wide Window
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 plan thatgives 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 unfortunate, they were also dim-witted.
Copyright C 1999 Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events #3: The Wide Window. Copyright (c) by Lemony Snicket . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.