But this isn't one of them.
This one almost wrote itself.
It was easy to write it, because I had so much grief with this box set.
So, read on, it will help you decide whether your kid needs to read this popular book set.
The answer may surprise you.
In the process, you will also feel the agony that Read Aloud Dad felt when considering whether to purchase this 13-book hardcover set.
Never before have I racked my brains as much about a book purchase, as in the case of this collection.
There were days when I was 100% sure I wanted to buy it and other days when I thought that I couldn't expose my kids to such a collection of dark tales.
Back and forth ... forth and back, week in and week out.
Until I was ... a complete wreck.
There was no way of knowing whether this seemingly depressively-themed mega-selling book set was going to be a hit or a miss one day with my kids, so I simply decided to skip it.
Yet, something was eating me.
Why the raving reviews from many readers?
But even that wasn't the principal cause of my doubt.
Another question started swirling through my mind.
Why did I find the idea of this dark, moody book set so appealing - even though the principal theme of the stories seemed such a downer?
A struggle ensued and soon I knew I would never order this book set.
Happiness Is Overrated
In order to have great happiness you have to have great pain and unhappiness - otherwise how would you know when you're happy?
Thinking ahead about my kids reading this book set in some 5-6 years, I wasn't sure about the effect it would have on them.
Even if they adored it one day, I wasn't so sure whether that would be good news.
I was imagining the day: "Dad, we adore this super-depressive and chilling collection of kidnapping, blackmail and murder stories!"
Should a parent be happy?
I was imagining myself explaining the situation to my wife: "Honey, at least the kids are reading!"
Obviously, every parent would be shouting with excitement if their kid loved a book set with .... take a seat ... 3243 pages, 13 books, enough tongue-in-cheek humour to last an entire year.
Plus, author Lemony Snicket frequently explains complex words and metaphors in detail.
Many reviewers complain that this habit of the author wass overkill, while others loved that he took time to discretely explain complex words he uses to young readers.
I love the idea.
There is no better way of expanding your vocabulary than learning new words AND their meanings at the same time.
Check out below an example from the second book in the series - "The Reptile Room: Or, Murder! (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2)":
"Klaus smiled for an answer and began to read out loud from the book he was holding. "'The Mamba du Mal,'" he read, '"is one of the deadliest snakes in the hemisphere, noted for its strangulatory grip, used in conjunction with its deadly venom, giving all of its victims a tenebrous hue, which is ghastly to behold.'"
"Strangulatory? Conjunction? Tenebrous? Hue?" Violet repeated. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I didn't either," Klaus admitted, "until I looked up some of the words. 'Strangulatory' means 'having to do with strangling.' 'In conjunction' means 'together.' 'Tenebrous' means 'dark.' And 'hue' means 'color.' So the Mamba du Mai is noted for strangling people while it bites them, leaving their corpses dark with bruises."
I noticed that I was on the edge of my seat whenever I read any quote or description from the book.
It seemed entertaining and good fun.
But appearances are one thing. What were we talking about, precisely?
Well, this series tracks the troubled lives of three very unlucky children: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents' demise in an arsonous house fire.
The children are now entrusted to the care of their distant cousin Count Olaf, who doesn't wait long before he starts to abuse them and openly plots to embezzle their inheritance.
After the Baudelaire trio is removed from his care by their parents' estate executor, the Count begins to doggedly hunt the children down, bringing about the serial slaughter and demise of a multitude of characters.
(BTW, Sunny is such a young child that she talks in a manner that only her siblings can understand. She has some genuine pearls of wisdom, such as "Pietrisycamollaviadelrechiotemexity". What does it mean, you ask? It simply translates as: the state or condition of not having the faintest idea what's going on.)
I was having a bad case of mixed feelings.
There is a warning with every book. It didn't help.
Here is the warning accompanying the "The Reptile Room":
If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I'm afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether.
The story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don't be fooled.
If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.
In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the reappearance of a person they'd hoped never to see again.
I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.
With all due respect,
Irresistibly depressive stuff.
Couple that with the publisher's tagline for the entire book set The Complete Wreck (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-13): "Some boxes should never be opened. For the first time, the complete A Series of Unfortunate Events – is available in one awful package!".
I was done for.
Cool it was, yet we wouldn't be needing it. Too dark.
I was putting this book set aside, forever.
This depressive dark drama wasn't the stuff I wanted my twins to read when they were 10 years old.
There was no real need to expose my kids to such darkness, just because it was a bestselling book set!
Finally, I was completely sure that I didn't want to order this book set.
And that was it.
Then 40 days later ... BANG.
It hit me.
Weeds Are Flowers Too
Imagination grows by exercise.
W. Somerset Maugham
Finally, something managed to reach my brain through my thick skull.
Don't ask me how.
Don't ask me why.
I just knew.
The Complete Wreck (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-13) was exactly what my kids would be needing at that tender age.
A light entertaining mix of misery, mishaps, misfortune and tragedy.
In a book.
That's life and that's what they will be wanting to read about.
A parent cannot spoonfeed his/her children only with sugary stories about "The Good Life".
The Sound of Music is OK, but not every day ... forever.
Life is not that.
We want our kids to grow, not remain infants.
Hence, we need our kids to read about the other side of the positive aspects of life, so that they can value the good even more.
If every book I gave my kids to read was about Mahatma Gandhi, they would probably stop reading altogether.
Finally, I knew that The Complete Wreck (A Series of Unfortunate Events 1-13) would become a proud addition to our home library.
This beautiful collection of thirteen books in a huge, elaborately illustrated, shrink–wrapped box was just the perfect dose of dark humour for my twins.
Children need books to learn about good and evil.
It might as well be from good books with fantastic melancholic illustrations by Brett Helquist.
My doubts evaporated - I ordered this book set with a big smile.
Finally, I was convinced that I was doing the right thing.
As regards the contents, the series includes thirteen novels as follows:
2. The Reptile Room (1999)
3. The Wide Window (2000)
4. The Miserable Mill (2000)
5. The Austere Academy (2000)
6. The Ersatz Elevator (2001)
7. The Vile Village (2001)
8. The Hostile Hospital (2001)
9. The Carnivorous Carnival (2002)
10 The Slippery Slope (2003)
11. The Grim Grotto (2004)
12. The Penultimate Peril (2005)
13. The End (2006)
Instead of a conclusion I leave you with the wise - yet dangerous - words of Lemony Snicket.
Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another.
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The Complete Wreck (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-13) is available from bookstores in the US, Canada and UK:
- Author: Lemony Snicket
- Illustrator: Brett Helquist
- Pages: 3243 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins
- ISBN-13: 9780061119064
- Edition: Hardcover
- Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 7.7 x 5.2 inches
- Source: Purchased by Read Aloud Dad
VERDICT: SNAP IT UP!