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

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

by Lemony Snicket


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The Bad Beginning: Book the First (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket


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 odor.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780064407663
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/25/1999
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 1,388
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.74(d)
Lexile: 1010L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Lemony Snicket had an unusual education which may or may not explain his ability to evade capture. He is the author of the 13 volumes in A Series of Unfortunate Events, several picture books including The Dark, and the books collectively titled All The Wrong Questions.

Brett Helquist's celebrated art has graced books from the charming Bedtime for Bear, which he also wrote, to the New York Times–bestselling A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket to the glorious picture book adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.


Snicket is something of a nomad. Handler lives in San Francisco, California.

Date of Birth:

February 28, 1970

Place of Birth:

Handler was born in San Francisco in 1970, and says Snicket's family has roots in a land that's now underwater.


Handler is a 1992 graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Read an Excerpt

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning Movie Tie-in Edition

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.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning Movie Tie-in Edition. Copyright © by Lemony Snicket. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Bad Beginning 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 630 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
At some point in life, we have problems that we have to face. For Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, this is where their tragedy begins. These children lost their parents in a terrible fire. Their house is completely destroyed. They have to live with Count Olaf. He is a mean, nasty, selfish person. He tries to make these children's lives miserable, and he will never stop until he does. As Mr. Poe takes the children away from him, Count Olaf wants to say a word to them. "I'll be back", he whispers slowly. Then he walks away into the fog.
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.
moises-lover More than 1 year ago
thesse books are awesome. I love lemony sincket's writing he is great. I have read the entire series and i loved them all. I like how there's alway 13 chapters and there is 13 books because 13 is a unlucky number. the only thing i don't like is Sunny the baby is a little annoying she can't talk can't walk so she is a little pointless as a character but as the books go on she starts to talk and walk so she gets a more involed but she still doesnt understand what is going on in there life or anything else and there is no way that she remembers her parents. so over all great book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dani17 More than 1 year ago
When I first saw this book I thought it looked interesting because there was an evil man on the cover. He looked like he was going to be very mean to three young children. The first sentence says it all. If you want a happy ending, this is not the book for you! This fiction book, by Lemony Snicket, takes place in a busy city on Briny Beach in a large mansion. The book is about three young children (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny) that have recently lost their parents in a car accident. They are now in the foster care system. Mr. Poe was their temporary foster parent. He was following their parent's wishes, by trying to find a relative for the children to live with. One day he located their third or fourth cousin, Count Olaf. Count Olaf did not like children, but took them in for their fortune. My favorite character in this book was Justice Strauss. Justice was Count Olaf's neighbor. She was very nice and always gave the children snacks to eat. She let them help her in the garden and also let them borrow her library books. After reading the book, I was shocked! I could not believe all the things that happened in the book. I hated the ending because it left a huge cliff hanger about where the children now live. The book was not what I expected it to be. I really liked this book because it was exiting and will make your palms sweat. The adventure of trying to get Sunny out of the tower without any of Count Olaf's partners hearing anything was scary! I would recommend this book for ages 10-13 years old. This book will make you happy, sad, mad, excited, but mostly shocked. This book is definitely four stars out of five. You should check this book out!
Anonymous 4 months ago
thanks for
Ahmed Mohamed More than 1 year ago
A Series of Unfortunate Events are my favorite books and series I have read all of them and I have the complete wreak and all the wrong question series the prequel series with 4 books by Lemony Snicket they are both fun to read and enjoyable.
Dutch More than 1 year ago
I love the whole concept and tone of the book, where an apologetic and erudite narrator regretfully informs of us of tragic events, urging us at every moment to put the book down and walk away. It’s incredibly clever and entertaining, and is a perfect fit for classrooms—the fantastic vocabulary, clearly defined in the text, and the carefully modulated edge of darkness make it fantastic for kids ready to read above level by difficultly but perhaps not yet by content. A great series start. For those who’ve seen the Netflix series—the first two episodes are a beautifully faithful reproduction of this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I began to read this, I couldn’t put it down. The tone and style that Lemony Snicket wrote in created a dark yet humorous vibe that I was fascinated in. My favorite types of books are those with tremendous plot twists and The Bad Beginning was permeated with these; from the beginning where the children, that have just lost their parents, are sent to a horrifying and wicked looking house to the end in the scene where the Sunny is held captive in a hanging cage and Violet is forced to marry Count Olaf. I also loved how Lemmony Snicket made the children extraordinarily smart while the adults seemed very dull and unhelpful especially towards the orphans. So the children had to solve every problem themselves because they had absolutely no help at all. I can’t wait to read the sequel to The Bad Beginning, it is by far one of the best mystery books that I have read.
DaniUter More than 1 year ago
If you want to read a book with a happy ending that all ties up neatly, this isn't the book for you. This story is about an evil Count, fires, dead parents and clever children; Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire. This is a very suspenseful novel and I can't find a reason why this book is categorized as a children's book when really, anyone of any age will enjoy this book! A true page-turner. Follow the Baudelaire children and their Series of Unfortunate Events.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
These books are incredibly well written. They are very sad, but they also make me feel better about my own life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
224perweek More than 1 year ago
Why did it take me so very long to finally read this book? I have no idea. It was great. I was a little put off by the possible idea of incest that this story refered to but I suppose being a childrens book the reader it was meant for would not see it in that way. Over all I liked it and can't wait to read more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book before the movie was made and I personally enjoyed the books more than the movie.  It's unfortunate tales of the Baudelaire made me feel better about my own life.
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
Heard about this after seeing a preview for the first book and my brother mentioned the books before. And so started the series, well the first 3 since those ones are based on the movies. So this one is a very good start. You have Violet, the inventor, Klaus the bookworm and Sunny the adorable biter as they go to live with one of many interesting, good and bad guardians throughout the series. This one here, is Count Olaf. The writing and pace was really good and adds a bit of mystery into the story as you journey along with the siblings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is probably one of the best books I have ever read, it is very creative and exciting. this book is about three children who seemed to be having a pretty great life until they get the news that their house had burnt down and killed their parents and burned everything in it too. The book shows how bad life is for the children and the challenges they have to overcome. This is the first book of the series but it set the tone for the books to come. My favorite part in  the story was when they struggled all day to fix a dinner for their new “parent” and his theatre crew before one of their performances, but they fixed the wrong thing and the “parent” slapped  Klaus the middle child, a boy across the face. I recommend this book to any age, that loves mystery and adventure books. the children in this book Violet, the oldest a girl, Klaus, the middle child a boy, Sunny, the youngest a infant girl. the three of them had a joyful and almost perfect life, but it was ruined by a fire that burned down their house and killed their parents, but that was just the beginning of the horror story life they were about to live. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Most people like books that have a conflict that is resolved, in this story The Series of Unfortunate Events there are many conflicts, some resolved, some not. In the beginning a rich, educated family that lives in a big mansion, is torn apart by tragedy. The Baudelaire children, Violet 14, Klaus 12, and Sunny a baby, take their usual afternoon walk on the beach where they  see a dark foggy figure coming towards them, getting closer at every step. Not knowing the news they are about to receive, this is the beginning of adventure of pain, guilt, and worry.       This book was a book with a gloomy, sad cover, which makes you think it will not be interesting, the author even says at the beginning if u don't like sad depressing books then don't read it. Even if its different from most books it has huge turning points that will keep you addicted.  This book has loads of adventure waiting to be read. These kids will have to learn more teamwork than ever imagined, I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to read something different.       Someone who wants to read and follow a series that will leave you worried until you get your hands on the next book.  The Bad Beginning is the beginning of thirteen terrific books, and gladly lives up to the title, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Bad Beginning . So if you want a worried adventure that follows with cliffhanger after cliffhanger, read this book if u want something more than a sad beginning to a happy ending. With this book the issue of conflicts not getting resolved doesn't bother me, but to some people it could possibly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like the end when Count Oaf's friend turns off the lights at the play where count Oaf was going to get their fortune by marrying their daughter. And then they escape and everyone chases them.