The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events)

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9781405249577: The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
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There is nothing to be found in the pages of A Series of Unfortunate Events but misery and despair. You still have time to choose another international best-seller to read. But if you must know what unpleasantries befall the charming and clever Baudelaire children read on...Within the chapters of The Austere Academy the children face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E. and the metric system. With 5 million copies sold in the UK alone, one might consider Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events to make him one of the most successful children's authors of the past decade. We, however, consider these miserable so-called adventure stories and the Hollywood film starring Jim Carrey that accompanied the books for children as nothing more than a dreadful mistake.

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Review:

As the three Baudelaire orphans warily approach their new home--Prufrock Preparatory School--they can't help but notice the enormous stone arch bearing the school's motto Memento Mori, or "Remember you will die." This is not a cheerful greeting, and certainly marks an inauspicious beginning to a very bleak story. Of course, this is what we have come to expect from Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, the deliciously morbid set of books that began with The Bad Beginning and only got worse.

In The Austere Academy, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are at first optimistic--attending school is a welcome change for the book-loving trio, and the academy is allegedly safe from the dreaded Count Olaf, who is after their fortune. Hope dissipates quickly, however, when they meet Vice Principal Nero, a self-professed genius violinist who sneeringly imitates their every word. More dreadful still, he houses them in the tin Orphans Shack, crawling with toe-biting crabs and dripping with a mysterious tan fungus. A beam of light shines through the despair when the Baudelaires meet the Quagmires, two of three orphaned triplets who are no strangers to disaster and sympathize with their predicament. When Count Olaf appears on the scene disguised as Coach Genghis (covering his monobrow with a turban and his ankle tattoo with expensive running shoes), the Quagmires resolve to come to the aid of their new friends. Sadly, this proves to be a hideous mistake.

Snicket disarms us again with his playful juxtapositions--only he can compare bombs with strawberry shortcake (both are as dangerous to make as assumptions), muse on how babies adjust developmentally to the idea of curtains, or ponder why the Baudelaire orphans would not want to be stalks of celery despite their incessant bad luck as humans. We can't get enough of this splendid series of misadventures, and can only wager that swarms of young readers will be right next to us in line for the next installment. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson

About the Author:

Lemony Snicket has spent several eras researching the travails of the Baudelaire orphans. During his spare time, he gathers evidence and is considered something of an expert by leading authorities. Lemony Snicket published his first book in 1999 and has not had a good night's sleep since. To his horror and dismay, he has no wife or children, only enemies, associates, and the occasional loyal manservant. Lemony Snicket's extended family, if they were alive, would describe him as a distinguished scholar, an amateur connoisseur, and an outright gentleman.

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