You cannot begin to imagine my elation when I opened up the Diamond in
the Window e-mail account, clicked on the new e-mail, and saw "My book
is free? Lock it up at once!" —Lemony Snicket.
Diana loved these books when she first
encountered them. LOVED. She got immediately the perfect silliness, the
excellent diabolical-ness (?), just everything about them. We went on
to enjoy The Unauthorized Autobiography (my favorite image is the cow
disguise) and The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming (a truly excellent
choice for those of you looking to purchase the perfect hanuka book for
a discerning 10 year old). There was even a brief, though somewhat
disappointing, visit to an opera for which he wrote the book.
And there was, too, the cherished (for me) moment when we were in Diana's 2nd grade parent-teacher conference, discussing her writing, which was a little…strange. Her teachers (who were both amazingly excellent both as teachers and as people) were puzzling over what was going on with it, when it came to me in a flash: she was channeling her version of Snicket. I told them this, and they said "That's not a good influence for her writing," and I said, in one of my very few moments of clarity as both a mother and a reader, "You don't choose your influences. They choose you." For those of you who have read the excellent Habit of Being, the letters of Flannery O'Connor, note this:
"Which brings me to the embarrassing subject of what I have not read and been influenced by. I hope nobody ever asks me in public. If so I intend to look dark and mutter "Henry James Henry James"—which will be the veriest lie, but no matter. I have not been influenced by the best people….The rest of what I read was Slop with a capital S. The Slop period was followed by the Edgar Allan Poe period which lasted for years and consisted chiefly in a volume called The Humerous Tales of E.A. Poe. These were might humerous…This is an influence I would rather not think about….But always the largest thing that looms up is The Humerous Tales of E.A. Poe. I think he wrote them all while drunk, too."
I find that so delightful.
So what occasioned this e-mail? The first book of the series, The Bad
Beginning, is now available online. So those young 'uns who weren't
around during the first round can get a delicious taste. No doubt, like
crack dealers, the publishers are hoping your child will become
addicted and you will be forced to purchase the supply from here on in.
Even so, there are only 13 books, and it's hard to think of more
satisfying contraband. You can find it here.
I had begged (maybe even badgered) Diana to write this post for me. I
told her: but you're the biggest fan! She said yes, then no, then
hemmed, then hawed, tried to get me to ask one of her friends, then
finally said what I think was really getting to her: Mommy, I'm not
From a child who is somewhat grudging in doling out the respect, this is really something.
So go, read, enjoy. You'll thank us.
7 thoughts on “Snicketiana, Hooray!”
My mother teaches 4th grade; more specifically, she teaches 4th grade reading. She is always reading children’s books in order to keep abreast of what the kids are reading. She introduced me to these treasures when I was in my 20’s, and I cannot WAIT until my 3yo is old enough to enjoy them. They are fantastic! I agree with Diana wholeheartedly. 🙂
I am embarrassed to say (averts eyes) that I have never read this series. I have a second grade daughter. Guess what? There is a big ol’ holiday coming up…I think I can rectify this!
I, too, love the Snicket.
And I totally agree that your influences choose you. Teachers should know that.
Can I ask though, is it too grim a story for little kids? My daughter is 8, a very good reader but kind of an anxious little soul. Would the Lemony Snicket characters and backstory freak her out, do you think?
Is it too grim? For some tender-hearted unironic souls, certainly. My friend’s son couldn’t bear it, because too many awful things happened to them. He’s a cery sweet boy, very smart, too tender-hearted to take it. Diana, however, sees it all in the humorous tone in which it’s meant, and so it’s no problem for her. It’s a very personal taste sort of thing. I would only run it by the good-reading 8-year-old if it seems her cup of tea.
I’m glad to have been reminded of these books! Some of my kids-book-reading friends recommended them very highly some years ago, before any of us had kids, and I meant to check them out but never did. I don’t have anyone quite old enough for them yet, but now might be the time to read them myself so I’ll know when they’re ready! (My oldest is of the more sensitive type, so they may never be his cup of tea. But my 4-year-old thinks that “The Stinky Cheese Man” is the funniest thing ever written, so I think he’ll enjoy the humor.)
I haven’t seen that quote before, by the way. I agree that wonderful, intelligent, clever writing can come from people influenced by all kinds of things. And you know, it may not be Henry James, but I’ve always loved Poe too.
I read The Bad Beginning to my 4th grade class at the start of the year. I inadvertently set off Snicketmania, and a bunch of kids are reading their way through the series.
Then, about a month ago, my class was publishing a book, and a group of kids wrote a blurb for the back. And I read it and went, “Huh, that sounds familiar…” and realized that it sounded JUST like Snicket.
It went something like, “Inside this book you will find personal narratives. In them, some people learned lessons. Some people got hurt. Someone was even filming a movie!” etc.
But my reaction was more, “That is awesome! My students are drawing on an author they know!”
I figure that if I can get the students to even BE influenced by an author, they’re in good shape. I don’t really care what that influence is.