Daily Archives: November 5, 2006

Respecting Snicket

My fellow educators, a word referring to those who attempt to instruct children, do not care much for the works of Lemony Snicket. Oh, they tolerate the books, may even have read one or two or three (enough to get the gist I’m told), understand that children like them, but do they consider them serious works of literature for children? From my experience, not really.

Now I’m sure neither Mr. Snicket nor his representative Daniel Handler will lose any sleep over this, the former being far more likely to be moping about Beatrice and the latter busily playing the accordian. However, as an educator who much admires The Series of Unfortunate Events, here’s my small effort to get more of my colleagues to give them another look.

Now first of all, let me say that I certainly don’t expect everyone to like these books. Snicket warns his readers at the very start that, “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.” Not only are these not for those who would go for works like Loney M. Setnick’s The Pony Party!, but they are also not for kids who are looking for books of true sadness, like the wonderful Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.

No, these are for those who enjoy the irony of that first sentence, adore the snarkiness of Roald Dahl, relish the language play of Lewis Carroll, can’t get enough of books with endless puzzles and clues, and delight in the macabre works of Edward Gorey. They are for readers who can tolerate ambiguity, dangling story threads, unresolved questions, even “The Great Unknown.”

Some years I’ve had whole posses of Snicket fans in my classroom. There was a group that would spend recess after recess, no matter how gorgeous the weather, busily studying the books for clues. Not this year though. The End sat on display in my classroom for days untouched until a former student came in, saw it, and begged me to lend it to her (which I did, of course). Other former students have come in to puzzle over that final book, the enigmatic Beatrice Letters, and to speculate what, if anything, is going to happen next.

For while adult readers are expressing satisfaction with the end of The End, my young Snicket fans are not. And while adult fans find the numerous dangling questions in keeping with the moral that “life is like that,” the child fans I know are waiting for more. Not only am I too, but I’m confident there will be more.

I mean, Snicket and company (e.g. HarperCollins) have been masterful at playing with his fans, really playing with them. There was, for example, the wonderful website that they created for the then nameless twelfth book, providing daily puzzles that bit by bit revealed the book’s title as The Penultimate Peril.

Oh sure, I accept that The Unfortunate Events are at an end. But Mr. Snicket is still out there seeking answers just as we readers are. Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid is evidently coming in May and Mr. Snicket’s representative, Daniel Handler, has clearly indicated that we can expect more from him in the future.

“I already find your interest on such topics [more books] to be quite unhealthy. But I do admit that Mr. Snicket has expressed interest in some other cases that may have some overlap with the Baudelaires. But I don’t think you should read them and so I think you should forget that I ever said that.” (In this Toronto Star article.)

“I’m sure we will hear more from Mr. Snicket.” (At the end of this NPR interview.)


I’ll wait.

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