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The Bad Beginning

If you’ve ever watched the film A Series of Unfortunate Events without reading the books, you may have wondered if there was actually ever a real book at all. The film is quite bleak and disturbing—though my husband and I enjoyed it very much—and perhaps a bit too dark for younger children; however, it’s no darker than, say, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, or Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. The difference is that rather than being made through animation, the movie is live action.

It turns out that the books are still as darkly enjoyable as the film, though they’re even bleaker, with less funny moments. Though orphans Violent, Klaus, and Sunny remain quite resourceful in the books, they seem even more so in the film since we get to see them take on even more challenges (such as on the train tracks). To be honest, however, I’ve only just started reading the series and have completed the first novel, so it’s possible that later books in the series could still include that scene as well as others.

Like so many films, the movie portrays all three of the orphans as older than they are; though I believe their ages are mentioned, in the book they still seem quite younger than their actor counterparts. They also establish a deeper relationship with the judge, their neighbor, in the book than they do in the film—going as far as to visit her in her house and using her library to help them learn of Olaf’s evil plot. The actors and actresses in the novel are also more sinister; in the film, they just seem silly and even stupid, fawning over the Count and doing his bidding without thought. In the book, they openly spy on the children and mirror the Count’s own open disdain for them.

The Bad Beginning, book one in the series, is a thin, quick read, and is perfect for middle school readers who want a fast-paced mystery/adventure to climb into. I would definitely recommend this book for kids who have a hard time reading, since it’s not challenging and offers the reward of a compelling, unique story to escape into—particularly for middle school boys, but also girls. I wouldn’t, however, recommend it for elementary children, as they may not understand the dark humor of the story, and younger children especially could become frightened while reading the book.