Such an enjoyable series. Such a good book. The thing I have to say I liked most about this series is that while it may be silly, it was never stupid. It never dumbed down. It never patronised. It was an intelligent if convoluted and ridiculous adventure. It has to be one of the first books I’ve read in a long time that was truly a family book. It can be read by adults to children, by children themselves, by teenagers. It had such a wide range with something for everyone of every age. It plays a silly story sincerely and thus stays true to the characters and emotional reality, making it genuinely sad in the midst of funny events.

I also love it because it is a book about literacy. It is a book in which reading is almost always the key, whether to escape from danger or to save the day. Reading is presented as crucial to survival, something which makes your world larger and better. It contains references to all sorts of novels and poems, all this rich vocabulary, sometimes explained clearly and sometimes explained humourously. It is a book about the joy and importance of reading, and books and learning can be seen as a character in and of itself, which goes on the adventure with the Baudelaires, comforting them, guiding them, saving them. What a wonderful message to give to children!

I also love it for being so dour. This is a coming-of-age story in a lot of ways, in which the children learn and grow and become able to take care of themselves and each other. They learn to rely on themselves and realise that they are capable of things they never knew they could be. But the process is long, grim, and upsetting. They come to understand that the world is full of treachery. They realise that their parents did not teach them everything they knew about the dangers of the world. They are repeatedly let down by people who should be caring for them. The stupidity of those around them frequently leads to even worse things happening. The world is a dark place, filled with evil and stupid people. And this is the central truth about the Baudelaires’ world that never changes, never backs off, never cops out. One of the major themes of the book is that children should not be ‘sheltered’ from the world by either blandness, ignorance, or lies, but taught that the world is such a place and how to survive in it. The final book has the Baudelaires in a Paradise scene, accepting an apple from a snake, as they agree that it is better to know that there is both good and bad in the world rather than dwell in ignorance.

Despite it’s dourness, it is so enjoyable to read. Honestly, an excellent books to give to kids