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A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
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The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 25, 1999

1,676 customer reviews

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The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1) + The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events #2) + The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Make no mistake. The Bad Beginning begins badly for the three Baudelaire children, and then gets worse. Their misfortunes begin one gray day on Briny Beach when Mr. Poe tells them that their parents perished in a fire that destroyed their whole house. "It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed," laments the personable (occasionally pedantic) narrator, who tells the story as if his readers are gathered around an armchair on pillows. But of course what follows is dreadful. The children thought it was bad when the well-meaning Poes bought them grotesque-colored clothing that itched. But when they are ushered to the dilapidated doorstep of the miserable, thin, unshaven, shiny-eyed, money-grubbing Count Olaf, they know that they--and their family fortune--are in real trouble. Still, they could never have anticipated how much trouble. While it's true that the events that unfold in Lemony Snicket's novels are bleak, and things never turn out as you'd hope, these delightful, funny, linguistically playful books are reminiscent of Roald Dahl (remember James and the Giant Peach and his horrid spinster aunts), Charles Dickens (the orphaned Pip in Great Expectations without the mysterious benefactor), and Edward Gorey (The Gashlycrumb Tinies). There is no question that young readers will want to read the continuing unlucky adventures of the Baudelaire children in The Reptile Room and The Wide Window. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson

From Publishers Weekly

"If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book." So cautions Snicket, the exceedingly well-mannered narrator of these two witty mock-gothic novels featuring the misadventures of 14-year-old Violet, 12-year-old Klaus and infant Sunny Baudelaire. From the first, things look unfortunate indeed for the trio: a fire destroys their home, killing their parents along with it; the executor of their parents' estate, the obtuse Mr. Poe (with a son, Edgar), ignores whatever the children have to say; and their new guardian, Count Olaf, is determined to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune. But by using their individual gifts (Violet's for inventing, Klaus's for reading and researching and baby Sunny's for biting) the three enterprising children thwart the Count's planAfor now. The author uses formal, Latinate language and intrusive commentary to hilarious effect, even for readers unfamiliar with the literary conventions he parodies. The peril in which he places the Baudelaires may be frightening (Count Olaf actually follows through on his threats of violence on several occasions), but the author paints the satire with such broad strokes that most readers will view it from a safe distance. Luckily for fans, the woes of the Baudelaires are far from over; readers eager for more misfortune can turn to The Reptile Room, for an even more suspenseful tale. Exquisitely detailed drawings of Gothic gargoyles and mischievous eyes echo the contents of this elegantly designed hardcover. Age 9-up. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1010L (What's this?)
  • Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 162 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (August 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006075589X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060755898
  • ASIN: 0064407667
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,676 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lemony Snicket claims he was nowhere near the scene of the crime. He is the author of several other unpleasant stories, including those in the bestselling A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Lump of Coal.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

208 of 224 people found the following review helpful By Jadecat VINE VOICE on October 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I went back and forth about whether I should get this book to read with my 7 year old second grader. I kept telling myself I should wait till she was older, but found the book at a good price, so I bought it. I worried it would be too depressing and scary for her, but it did not turn out that way at all. The book is written from a narrators point of view, so the personal feelings of the characters are never fully exposed and explored. You know that the three orphans are sad about their parents death, but the book doesn't wallow in their grief and make it painful to read. If you can imagine Vincent Price reading the book, that tends to make it a little more lighthearted. The bad guy of the book, Count Olaf, is an awful brute who is outright cruel to the children at times, but again the book doesn't have the children suffering without end. Instead it makes them more resilient to foil the Counts plans and triumph over him. My daughter was EAGER to read these books. That was the best thing about it all. We have tried classics, Pippi Longstocking, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Charlottes Web, but as great as they are, they lack The Bad Beginnings level of excitement, mystery and wondering what will happen next. I enjoyed the book myself and will continue to read the rest of the series, in hopes they are as entertaining as this one. I can see if you have a very sensitive child, this would not be the book for them until they are older. Some kids my daughters age are scared of Harry Potter movies, so this book would be too much for them. If your youngster isn't living in a sheltered world where everything is wonderful and bad things don't happen, and they can understand the difference between a made up story and a real one, then they just might enjoy this new type of childrens adventure stories.
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83 of 93 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you like the part of Harry Potter when he's living under the stairs of the Dursley household, before the happy bit where he gets accepted to Wizard school, then you'll enjoy these books.
The Baudelaire orphans are nice and smart. But boy are they unlucky. The book opens with the Baudelaire parents dying in a fire and the orphans having to find a relative to look after them. Although there is a huge family fortune, they can't get it until Violet, the oldest at 14, turns 18. But this doesn't stop the dastardly (and there isn't really any other word to describe him) Count Olaf, a horrible and distant relative, and his nasty henchmen/women/things from trying to get their hands (or hooks) on it. And as far as Olaf is concerened, the Baudelaires are expendable, a word which here means "not needed after Count Olaf gets his hands on the money".
Just one word of warning--when the author says if you like cheerful books or happy endings, stop reading now, he means it. But if you like miserable scary books with unhappy endings, keep reading! And you'll learn lots of horrible words with depressing or unfortunate meanings as well.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm in 5th grade and I thought the book is great. It felt like I was in the book and I was Baudelaire child. I read the book in one whole day because I couldn't stop. The next day I read the sequel. I recommend this book to all.
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49 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Vale-Allen VINE VOICE on February 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I came to this series as a result of an interview with the author that I read in Publishers Weekly. Intrigued, I ordered the first three books. I loved them. They are purportedly children's books but the author has a wicked sense of humor, and includes references that only adults would recognize. (For example, two of the three children are named Sunny and Klaus. Gee, that makes me think about some real-life wicked goings-on.)
Aside from everything else, these children actually come alive; they're inventive, clever and resourceful. They also suffer at the hands of their wonderfully conceived evil uncle Count Olaf.
I've passed these books along to a number of children who gobbled them up as avidly as I did--which proves that a good book knows no age barriers. This series is pure pleasure.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you are the type of person who blames everyone but yourself for the evils of the world, by all means DON'T read these books. However, if you have a healthy sense of reality and humor (or want to raise children who will!) then read and enjoy these delightful tales.
Lemony Snicket writes for all those kids who know that adults aren't always on their side. His stories are funny, a little creepy and always interesting. The Baudelaire children are the best of what boy and girl heros in books should be and the adults, well, the adults might just be portrayed a little too accurately for some grown-ups to handle. As most children know, adults don't always do what's right, aren't always to be trusted and don't always believe what a child tells them. Reading some of the negative reviews here, some adults would prefer that children not know this. Silly grown-ups, your children already know far more than you understand.
My daughter and I have read book the first and are rapidly demolishing book the second. They are smart books the way Roald Dahl books are smart. The author explains a lot of words or phrases, but not, in my opinion, in a "dumbing down" way. Many of the explainations are useful even for adults who know what the words already mean... for example, the explaination of "literal" vs. "figurative" in book the first.
Enjoy the books and read them along with your kids. You'll be amazed at how much this writing stikes a chord with them!
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