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The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 8, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 372 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7-In this fifth entry in the saga of the three Baudelaire children, the siblings are sent to a boarding school where they are tormented because they are orphans. There is the usual array of stupid/evil adults including the ridiculous Vice Principal Nero, who mimics everything that Klaus and Violet say and employs baby Sunny as his secretary because she is too young to attend class. Brown-nosing brats like Carmelita Spats make the children's lives even more miserable. The ending is a cliff-hanger as the evil Count Olaf, disguised as Coach Genghis, the new gym teacher, drives off with the orphans' only friends. In these days of Harry Potter, this book is a pesky nuisance, with little plot to drive it, situations that fall short of being interesting or off-the-wall, and cardboard characters. The author strains to be eccentric and his constant interruptions in the narrative to define a word or phrase are jarring at best.
Ann Cook, Winter Park Public Library, FL
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1120 (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (August 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0064408639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0064408639
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (372 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brett Benner VINE VOICE on July 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to admit as much as I've enjoyed these books, by the fourth I was getting a little bored. The structure would stay the same, the victims names would just change. I was so glad then to find the fifth book expanding and bringing in new characters who look like they could be around in future books. Mr Poe packs Violet, Klaus , and Sunny off to a horrible boarding school that has ridiculous rules. Of course you wait to see when the evil Count Olaf will rear his head, but the distraction in the book comes from the addition of two children the same age as Violet and Klaus who become their friends. It gives the series new places to go and breaks the normal story outlines. It's also the longest so far but for me it read the fastest. If you've liked the other books in the series you can be sure you'll like this one as well.
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A Kid's Review on August 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I love the ways Lemony describes the Orphan House, and the violin concert! He has a beautiful way of weaving together mystery and sadness at the same time. I think he should write more volumes as well as other books. Count Olaf's treachery is so real; you can almost feel him taking revenge.If you think all grown-ups should be sensible, and not listen to the children until the last minute; and if you like happy endings; and if you hate child abuse; and if you dispise a terrible man--this is not the book for you. (-:
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Format: Hardcover
I have read all the Series of Unfortunate Events books. They are all very good! But I am scared of Count Olaf. He always creeps up and tries to kidnap the Baudelaire orphans, and no one believes them when they say he is in disguise, so they have to stop him themselves. I am glad the Baudelaire orphans are so resourceful and brave, because I would be *very* frightened of Count Olaf. Oh oh oh! Isn't that him there in those fake mutton-chop whiskers and the cowboy hat? Look OUT, Baudelaire orphans! Look out! Oh, I must close the book now and go lie down for a bit to recover from the fright he always gives me.
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Format: Hardcover
The lives of the three Baudelaire orphans - fourteen-year-old Violent, twelve-year-old Klause, and baby Sunny - continue along their miserable path in The Austere Academy, the fifth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Their latest home is at Prufrock Preparatory School, headed by the nasty Vice Principal Nero, who gives dreaful six-hour violin recitals nightly. Forced to live in a miserable shack, the children only encounter one bright spot - they make friends with two other orphans. But nothing good lasts long if you are the Baudelaires - Count Olaf is in disguise at the school, planning to steal their fortune. I highly reccomend this addition to the series. It is one of the most delightful - eh, miserable - so far.
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Format: Hardcover
The Austere Academy, fifth in A Series of Unfortunate Events, will not disappoint fans of the books. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are stuck at a nightmarish boarding school, where they are made to live in a shack that includes territorial crabs, a strange tan fungus, and truly hideous wallpaper. Added to this are incredibly dull classes and a headmaster who cannot play the violin but insists on doing so anyway...for six hours a night at an all-school concert. If only these were the worst of the Baudelaires' problems, they could finally consider themselves lucky. But, alas, the fiendish Count Olaf has tracked them down yet again. Once again the Baudelaires must try to discover his evil plan in time to save themselves and their fortune. Along the way there are more clues about Lemony Snicket's mysterious lady love, the charming and beautiful but unfortunately deceased Beatrice...A great read, but be warned that the ending is a cliffhanger that will leave you feeling very impatient to get your hands on the next volume!
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A Kid's Review on May 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Austere Academy is the fifth book in "A Series of Unfortunate Events" by Lemony Snicket. This grimly hilarious children's novel will entertain and intrigue readers looking for a fun book to read. In each book in this series it is fun to meet the different villains, and discover Count Olaf's new disguises. In the Austere Academy Sunny, Klaus, and Violet Baudelaire are shipped off to a boarding school,which has the motto Memento Mori(remember, you will die)! During their stay the Baudelaires encounter snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, six-hour violin recitals by the evil vice-principal Nero who thinks that he is a genius, Special Orphan Running Exercises(S.O.R.E.), and the metric system. I recommend this exquisite book to everyone!
I also recommend: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, The Miserable Mill, The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village, the Harry Potter series, and the Orphan Train Quartet.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read the first book "The Bad Beginning" and this book. Mr. Snicket has definitely improved as he goes along. While in the first book I was sometimes annoyed by his pedantic asides, in this one they made me laugh!
The narrator's story is often more interesting than that of the Baudelaire orphans. He gives out hints about himself, making me wonder how on earth, for example, Mr. Snicket came to be chased by a group of torch-bearing villagers, or why (from the first book) he is not allowed within five miles of my town. Why is he compelled to research the siblings and share their story with the world? We're given to know in this book that the tale is told at a distant remove in the future, although between Gothic elements and modern-day conveniences (computers and cars are mentioned but not television?) it's hard to say exactly where, or when, the story takes place.
The orphans' situation is dismal but in a hilarious way. They are made to live in a tin shack inhabited by little toe-biting crabs and drippy tan fungus! Sunny (a baby!) is to do administrative assistant (a.k.a. secretarial) work and, when she runs out of staples, must make her own! And, lest we forget, Count Olaf returns to make their lives miserable, in a ridiculous disguise that only the Beaudelaire orphans can see through.
The Beaudelaire orphans meet some new friends in this book, the Quagmire triplets--two of them anyway, since the third, well, it's too sad to tell, read the book. In a world of menacing, incompetent, or annoying adults, these clever, kind children win the day...until the unhappy (but still funny) cliffhanger ending which leads us in to Book the Sixth, "The Ersatz Elevator."
While the first book didn't enchant me, this one was great fun and I plan to pick up as many of the series as I can! I'm looking forward to reading Book the Seventh, "The Vile Village" and all the rest of the Beaudelaire orphans' adventures that I've missed.
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